Barbara Mandrell Biography

25 December 1948, Houston, Texas, USA. Raised in Oceanside, near Los Angeles, California, Mandrell comes from a musical family: her father, Irby, sang and played guitar and her mother, Mary, played piano and taught music. At the age of 12, Mandrell demonstrated the steel guitar at a national convention and then worked in Las Vegas with Joe Maphis and Tex Ritter. By her teens, she also played saxophone, guitar, banjo and bass. Her parents formed the Mandrells with herself and two boys, one of who, drummer Ken Dudney, became her husband in 1967. Their extensive touring schedule included forces bases in Vietnam. Mandrell first recorded in 1966 for the small Mosrite label, and her sobbing ‘Queen For A Day’, with Glen Campbell on guitar, was reissued with a revised accompaniment in 1984. Mandrell signed with Columbia Records in 1969, and, for a time, she concentrated on country versions of soul hits - ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’, ‘Treat Him Right’, ‘Show Me’ and ‘Do Right Woman - Do Right Man’. Despite her glossy Las Vegas look, she joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1972, switched to ABC - Dot Records in 1975 and had her first Top 5 country single with ‘Standing Room Only’. In 1977 she had her first US country number 1 with ‘Sleepin’ Single In A Double Bed’, which was written by Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan, who also wrote further number 1 hits, including ‘Years’ and ‘I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool’, which was released during Urban Cowboy’s popularity and featured George Jones. Her version of the soul hit ‘(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right’ was another country number 1 and also a US pop hit, leading her to name her band the Do-Rites. Mandrell also covered Poacher’s ‘Darlin’’ for the US country market. She had further US country number 1 singles, ‘Til You’re Gone’ and ‘One Of A Kind Pair Of Fools’, and also fared well with ‘To Me’, a duet with Lee Greenwood.

Mandrell’s television series, Barbara Mandrell And The Mandrell Sisters, ran from 1980-82 and was also screened in the UK. There was good-humoured interplay between Mandrell and her sisters, Irlene (b. Ellen Irlene Mandrell, 29 January 1956, California, USA) and Louise Mandrell, and the diminutive Barbara had the same vivacious appeal as Dolly Parton.

In 1984 Barbara and her two children were badly injured when her car was hit head-on. She was unable to work for a year, although she had another child, and she lost much credibility when she sued, on her insurer’s advice, the late driver’s family for $10 million. Her records for Capitol Records did not see much chart success as her style of music fell out of favour, but she maintained that the accident had strengthened her faith. During the 90s she has published her autobiography and kept up a busy touring schedule. After 25 years as a member, Mandrell played her last Grand Ole Opry in October 1997.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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