Barbara Mandrell

Barbara Mandrell

Thanks to a string of hit singles and a popular television variety series, vocalist Barbara Mandrell was arguably the biggest female star in country music in the late '70s and early '80s. Born the oldest daughter into a musical family in Houston, TX, on Christmas Day, 1948, Mandrell was already reading music and playing accordion by the age of five. Just six years later, she was so adept at playing the steel guitar that her father escorted her to a music trade convention in Chicago, where her talents caught the attention of Chet Atkins and Joe Maphis. Soon after, she was a featured performer in Maphis' Las Vegas nightclub show, followed by television performances and tours with Red Foley, Johnny Cash, and Tex Ritter.


When Mandrell was 14, her family formed its own group, with her father Irby on vocals and guitar, her mother Mary Ellen on bass, and Barbara handling pedal steel and saxophone. The band also included drummer Ken Dudney, whom Mandrell would eventually marry. The Mandrells toured the U.S. and Asia before Barbara made her first recordings in 1963, among them the minor hit "Queen for a Day." After a few more years of touring, Mandrell briefly retired in order to become a housewife, but she soon grew restless and returned to the music business. After signing with Columbia in 1969, she notched her first chart hit, a cover of the Otis Redding classic "I've Been Loving You Too Long." In 1970, Mandrell scored the first of many Top 40 hits with "Playin' Around With Love." In the same year, she began performing with singer David Houston, and their partnership also generated considerable chart success.

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