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."
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. In May 1970, Barbara gave birth to their first child, Kenneth
Matthew & in February 1976, Barbara gave birth to their daughter, Jaime
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
her third child, Nathaniel Mandrell Dudney.
February 1986, Barbara returned to the concert stage & was still
going strong right up until she retired from country music on October
23, 1997. Her last performance was at the Grand Ole Opry house & it
was called "Barbara Mandrell & the Do-Rites: The Last Dance". The
show was taped & later aired on the cable channel TNN. Today
Barbara enjoys retirement with her husband, Ken by spending time gardening & taking
care of her animals.