One of the most successful female vocalists of the 1970s and 80s, Barbara Mandrell was born on Christmas Day in 1948 in Houston, Texas. Born into a musical family, Mandrell was reading music and playing the accordion by the time she was five years old. After attending a music trade convention in Chicago six years later, Mandrell caught the eye of Chet Atkins and Joe Maphis with her unforgettable skills on the steel guitar. Shortly after, she was performing in Maphis’ nightclub show in Vegas and, later, touring with artists like Red Foley, Tex Ritter and Johnny Cash. In 1961, she had her network debut on the show Five Star Jubilee. After moving to Nashville with the dreams of becoming a country star with her father as her manager, Mandrell was signed to Columbia Records in 1969. From there, her success took off. Just three years later, she would be invited to join the ranks of the Grand Ole Opry.
Throughout her career, Mandrell found fame with her country-pop sound, especially in the 1970s. In that decade, she released nine albums, all of which charted in the Top 50 on the Country charts, and three of which peaked in the Top 10. The decade brought her dozens of hits with her singles as well, including three Number One hits: “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed,” “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right” and “Years.”
Her fame didn’t stop there, with more than a dozen Top 10 singles in the 80s. She had three more Number One singles with 1981’s “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool,” 1982’s “Till You’re Gone” and 1983’s “One of a Kind Pair of Fools.”
Besides being a member of the Grand Ole Opry, Mandrell has been recognized countless times with a variety of awards. She has received awards from the Academy of Country Music, Music City News Country, the Country Music Association, People Magazine, the American Music Awards, the People’s Choice Awards and the Grammy Awards. She has been named Top Female Vocalist, Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year, Instrumentalist of the Year, Favorite Female Country Artist, Favorite Female Personality, Favorite All-Around Female Performer, Best Inspirational Performance and a variety of other recognitions. She has also been gifted the Living Legend Award from Music City News Country in 1985, the Minnie Pearl Award from TNN/Music City News Awards, and both the Pioneer Award and the Triple Crown Award from the Academy of Country Music.
In 1999, she was elected into the Country-Gospel Hall of Fame. In 2009, Mandrell was also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. 2002 brought her recognition as Number Thirty-Eight on CMT’s list of the “40 Greatest Women of Country Music.”
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