Barbara Mandrell Biography
Barbara Mandrell was born in Houston, Texas, on Christmas Day in 1948. The oldest daughter of Irby and Mary Mandrell, she demonstrated her musical talent at a very early age: She began playing the accordion when she was five and the steel-pedal guitar when she was nine. In 1960, Joe Maphis recruited her to play in his Las Vegas show, where she was billed as the "Sweetheart of Steel." This led to appearances on Los Angeles' "Town Hall Party" and on NBC's "Five-Star Jubilee."
Twelve-year-old Barbara was invited to go on tour with Johnny Cash, where she performed with some of the top names in country music, including Patsy Cline, June Carter and George Jones. Following the tour, Barbara's father put together the Mandrell Family Band.
Being part of that group led Barbara to meet 21-year-old drummer Ken Dudney, with whom she soon began a relationship. Seven years his junior, she attempted to hide the romance from her parents; but the couple was soon discovered, and Barbara's mother forbade them to see each other again. Miserable without Ken, Barbara focused entirely on her music.
She recorded her first single, "Queen for a Day," in 1966, and the song became a modest hit. In December of that year, Ken returned from fighting in Vietnam, and with her parents' permission, Barbara and Ken were married in May 1967. Over thirty years later, they remain as in love as on the day they met.
The Mandrell Family Band soon broke up, but Barbara's father helped her put together a new show, and she began to play at local Nashville clubs. In a few short weeks, she signed with CBS records. She enlisted her sisters, Louise and Irlene, to sing and play backup, and together they formed the Do-Rites.
Barbara's first No. 1 hit was "Midnight Oil." She worked for years to strengthen female forces in the country music world and was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in July 1972. In 1979, Barbara won the the Country Music Association's Female Vocalist of the Year award. Following her win, NBC asked her to star in her own musical-variety series, "Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters." The show was an instant hit, catapulting the three sisters to national stardom and bringing country music to the masses. But after two years, Barbara was forced to leave the show due to extreme exhaustion — continuing would have permanently damaged her voice. Still, Barbara went on to win three People's Choice Awards and a Grammy Award. She then put together a successful new Las Vegas act, and her singles continued to top the charts.
But on September 11, 1984, Barbara's life was turned upside down. The victim of a head-on collision, she suffered more than a dozen broken bones and severe head trauma. During her slow recovery period, she was given the unexpected news that she was pregnant, and on September 6, 1985, Barbara gave birth to Nathaniel Mandrell Dudney.
At the urging of her family and friends, Barbara performed another sold-out show in Los Angeles. But singing wasn't the only path left for her to follow. She learned to fly in 1986, wrote an autobiography, "Get to the Heart: My Story," in 1991, and in 1997 announced that she was leaving the world of country music to pursue a full-time acting career. She has since appeared in a number of television series, including "Diagnosis Murder," "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" and "Baywatch", had a recurring role on the daytime soap "Sunset Beach" & had the starring role in the NBC made-for-TV movie "The Wrong Girl". She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Ken, and the youngest of their three children.
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