Barbara's Early years:
Barbara Mandrell was born on December 25, 1948 in Houston, Texas, the eldest of three sisters. The family was very musical, and by the age of five, Barbara was already reading music, & playing the accordion. By age 11, she took up the steel guitar, and her father brought her with him to a music trade convention in Chicago, where she demonstrated the instrument. She caught the eye of both Chet Atkins and Joe Maphis. Soon after, she became a featured performer in Maphis' Las Vegas nightclub show. She followed that up with television performances and tours with Red Foley and Tex Ritter.
Teen years and beyond:
As a teen, Barbara had played steel guitar in Patsy Cline's band. In her later teen years, she teamed up with her sisters and parents to form the Mandrell Family Band. The drummer in the band was Ken Dudney, who married Barbara shortly after she graduated from high school.
Barbara moved to Nashville in the late 1960's and with her father as her manager, was signed to Columbia Records in 1969. Her producer was Billy Sherrill, who was responsible for producing well-known stars like Tammy Wynette, Tanya Tucker and Charlie Rich. While she had some Top 40 hits, nothing really went anywhere.
Barbara left Columbia for ABC/Dot, and reached the Top 5 with "Standing Room Only." In 1978, she finally had her first No. 1, with "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed." During the 1980's she continued with hits like "Crackers," "I Was Country, When Country Wasn't Cool," and "One of a Kind Pair of Fools."
The 1980's were a time filled with accolades, as Barbara was recognized by the CMA as Entertainer of the Year, (only the third woman to ever win the coveted award), plus 7 American Music Awards, and other awards from the ACM, MCN, and 9 People's Choice Awards, making her one of the most awarded acts in country history.
The Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters Show:
In 1980, Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters premiered on NBC, and the show became a huge hit, with musical guests, comedic skits, and a closing gospel number. The show continued for two seasons, but took a toll on Barbara's voice, so the show ended in 1982.
Barbara also got bit by the acting bug, and in 1984, she starred with Tom Wopat in Burning Rage.
Motor vehicle accident:
In 1984, Barbara was in a head-on automobile accident, where she ended up with multiple fractures in her right leg, and severe head trauma, including short term memory loss. It took her over a year and a half to recover, but the accident made her reassess her priorties, and the amount of time she spent away from her family.
Barbara's Acting career and today:
In the 1990's, traditional country became more popular, and the country-pop that Barbara favored was becoming less so. By 1997, Barbara released her last studio album, and announced she was leaving country music to pursue acting. She made many guest appearances on hit shows, and even had a recurring role in Sunset Beach.
Barbara continues her acting career, but never totally distances herself from her country music roots. She has appeared on the CMA Awards, and was recently awarded a star on Nashville's "Walk of Fame."