Barbara Mandrell brought country music to a larger mainstream audience with a series of hit records and NBC-TV's Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters, but that's just part of a career she began while just a child. Born Barbara Ann Mandrell on Dec. 25, 1948, in Houston, she was the eldest child of country guitarist Irby Mandrell and his wife, Mary, who taught Barbara to play accordion and read music by the time she entered the first grade. After the family moved to California, she was taking steel guitar lessons at age 10 while playing saxophone in her school band. Country guitarist Joe Maphis met her at a music trade convention in 1960 and invited her to play steel guitar in his Las Vegas show. She also appeared on Town Hall Party, a country music program that aired on a Los Angeles television station.
As a teenager, she was performing with her parents in the Mandrell Family Band on tours of military installations in the U.S. and in Asia. In 1967, Mandrell married Ken Dudney, who had played drums in the band. When Dudney began fulfilling his commitment as a U.S. Navy pilot, Mandrell moved to Tennessee, where her parents had already relocated. With her father managing her career, she signed to Columbia Records and charted her first single in 1969 with a new version of Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)." Her duet with David Houston on "After Closing Time" reached the Top 10. In 1972, she scored her first Top 10 record as a solo artist with "Tonight My Baby's Coming Home." She reached the Top 10 again with her Columbia single, "The Midnight Oil," but her greatest success came after moving to the ABC/Dot label. Her first hit for the label, "Standing Room Only," reached No. 5 on the country chart in 1975.
"Sleeping Single in a Double Bed," released in 1978, became her first No. 1, and she followed it up with another soulful song, "If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don't Want to Be Right)," in 1979. Her other chart-topping singles include "Years," "'Till You're Gone," "One of a Kind Pair of Fools" and one of her most famous recordings, "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool," which included a guest vocal by George Jones.
Sisters Louise and Irlene joined her on Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters, a weekly show that aired from 1980-82. The variety program gained a substantial national audience and showcased her talents on steel guitar, banjo, saxophone, accordion, bass and mandolin. In addition to emphasizing her abilities as accomplished stage performer and dancer, the show also featured dozens of other country artists.
Mandrell was named the CMA's female vocalist of the year in 1979 and 1981. She also won the CMA's entertainer of the year award in 1980 and 1981, becoming the first artist to claim the prestigious prize two years in a row. Mandrell, who always closed her TV show with a gospel song, won a Grammy in 1982 for best inspirational performance for her album, He Set My Life to Music. She and gospel singer Bobby Jones shared the 1983 Grammy for best soul gospel performance by a duo or group for "I'm So Glad I'm Standing Here Today." Later in 1983, she starred in The Lady Is a Champ, a Las Vegas show that became an HBO television special. She was seriously injured in an 1984 automobile accident near Nashville, but following a lengthy recuperation, she returned with new tours, hit records, TV acting roles and her autobiography, 1990's Get to the Heart: My Story.
Mandrell announced her retirement in 1997, and her final concert was filmed at the Grand Ole Opry House for a TNN special, Barbara Mandrell and the Do-Rites: The Last Dance. Unlike many stars who retire at a relatively early age, she has felt no need to return to the spotlight. However, Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, LeAnn Rimes and other artists honored her on the 2006 album, She Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool: A Tribute to Barbara Mandrell.
Roy Clark's abilities as a singer and guitarist are often overshadowed by his innate talent as a comic and all-around entertainer. A co-host of Hee Haw TV series, he also gained national attention for his guest appearances on The Beverly Hillbillies and as guest host of The Tonight Show. He also took country music to a virtually untapped international market by touring in Soviet Union.
Born April 15, 1933, in Meherrin, Va., Roy Linwood Clark was born into a musical family, learning to play guitar, fiddle and banjo and performing during his teenage years with his father. By age 20, Clark had become a veteran of the nightclub scene, toured with Grandpa Jones, performed on a television station in Washington, D.C., and worked on a show fronted by Hank Williams. Clark later appeared on Connie B. Gay's Town and Country Time radio and TV broadcasts in Washington.
After appearances on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts television show in the late '50s, he joined Wanda Jackson's band in 1960, recording with her and opening her show in Las Vegas. Before long, Clark was making numerous appearances in major hotels and casinos in Nevada and New Jersey. Jim Halsey, Jackson's former manager, proved to be an important figure in Clark's career by booking appearances on The Tonight Show and The Beverly Hillbillies. Clark's musical performances were showcased on the sitcom in his role playing two recurring characters, Cousin Roy and his mother, Myrtle.
Clark and Buck Owens were selected as co-hosts of Hee Haw, a CBS-TV series patterned as a country version of another popular series, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. CBS launched the show in 1969 but canceled it in 1971 when the network moved away from rural-oriented programming. However, Hee Haw went into syndication and became more popular than ever before finishing its run in 1994. In addition to co-hosting the show, Clark and Owens were part of the Hee Haw Gospel Quartet with Grandpa Jones and Kenny Price. Clark's skills as an instrumentalist were highlighted in Hee Haw's Million Dollar Band, a group of musicians that included guitarist Chet Atkins, pianist Floyd Cramer, mandolinist Jethro Burns, saxophonist Boots Randolph, fiddler Johnny Gimble, harmonica player Charlie McCoy and trumpeter Danny Davis.
As a recording artist, Clark signed with Capitol Records in 1960. His first album for the label, The Lightning Fingers of Roy Clark, was released in 1962. His chart debut came in 1963 with "Tips of My Fingers," a Bill Anderson composition that reached No. 10 on the country chart and No. 45 on the pop chart. After moving to Dot Records, he had another Top 10 hit in 1969 with "Yesterday, When I Was Young." He topped the country chart in 1973 with "Come Live With Me" (1973), and his other Top 10 country singles during the decade included "I Never Picked Cotton," "Thank God and Greyhound," "The Lawrence Welk-Hee Haw Counter-Revolution Polka," "Somewhere Between Love and Tomorrow," "Honeymoon Feelin'" and "If I Had to Do It All Over Again." Later recording for a variety of labels, his chart success continued through 1989..
In 1976, Clark became one of the first American artists to perform in the Soviet Union, and his international tours helped expand country music's popularity throughout the world. He also performed with the Boston Pops Orchestra and recorded a Grammy-nominated album with jazz guitarist Joe Pass. He opened the Roy Clark Celebrity Theater in Branson, Mo., in 1983 to help establish the region as a major tourist destination. He joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1987.
Clark has won seven CMA Awards, including entertainer of the year (1973), comedian of the year (1970) and instrumentalist of the year (1977, 1978 and 1980). He and banjo player Buck Trent won the CMA's instrumental group of the year award in 1975 and 1976. His powerhouse rendition of "Alabama Jubilee" earned him a 1982 Grammy for best country instrumental performance.
Charlie McCoy is one of the most successful and prolific session musicians in the history of Nashville's recording industry. He is best known for his skills as a harmonica player, but his versatility on other instruments added to his value as a session musician. In addition to harmonica and guitar, he also plays bass, keyboards, percussion, mallet percussion, trumpet, saxophone and tuba. His work has been heard on recordings ranging from Eddy Arnold and Kitty Wells to Bob Dylan and Ringo Starr. Charles Ray McCoy was born in Oak Hill, W.Va., on March 28, 1941, and grew up in Miami. He began playing harmonica at age 8. By the time he was a teenager, he was working as a backing musician at country and rock 'n' roll shows in Florida. At the encouragement of future Country Music Hall of Fame member Mel Tillis, McCoy moved to Nashville in 1960 and recorded as a rock 'n' roll singer and guitarist for the Monument and Cadence labels. After playing on a song publisher's demo recordings, he gained additional studio work from producers Owen Bradley, Chet Atkins and others. One of his early sessions found him playing harmonica on "Candy Man," which became a hit for Roy Orbison.
McCoy's studio credits include singles such as "500 Miles Away From Home" (Bobby Bare), "Orange Blossom Special" (Johnny Cash), "(Old Dogs, Children And) Watermelon Wine" (Tom T. Hall), "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line" (Waylon Jennings), "He Stopped Loving Her Today" (George Jones), "My Tennessee Mountain Home" (Dolly Parton), "Take This Job and Shove It" (Johnny Paycheck) and "Delta Dawn" (Tanya Tucker). He traveled to New York City to play guitar on Bob Dylan's recording of "Desolation Row" and became one of the studio musicians who later worked on a series of classic albums Dylan recorded in Nashville -- Blonde on Blonde, John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline. McCoy played on the soundtracks of eight Elvis Presley films and was featured on Simon & Garfunkel's recording of "The Boxer" and Ringo Starr's country album, Beaucoups of Blues. He's also heard on recordings by Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson, Manhattan Transfer, Leon Russell, Joe Simon, Paul Simon, Nancy Sinatra, Bobby Vinton and many others.
As a solo artist, McCoy has made numerous albums. The Real McCoy won a 1972 Grammy for best country instrumental performance. Several of his singles reached the Top 40 at country radio, including "I Started Loving You Again," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "I Really Don't Want to Know" and "Orange Blossom Special." He was also a member of Area Code 615, a band of Nashville session musicians who melded country and rock during the late '60s and early '70s.
McCoy was frequently featured as a solo performer and backing musician on television shows such as Nashville Now, Midnight Special, Pop Goes the Country, The Mike Douglas Show, The Johnny Cash Show and the CMA Awards. McCoy served as music director for Hee Haw for 18 years. He was named the CMA's instrumentalist of the year in 1972 and 1973.