Country Music Hall of Famer and Grammy winner Barbara Mandrell retired from music more than two decades ago, but the Grand Ole Opry still feels like home.
Mandrell, 73, made a rare public appearance Saturday night (July 30) at the Opry to celebrate his 50th anniversary as a member of the Opry.
“We’re home again,” Mandrell said The Associated Press in a backstage interview at the Opry House ahead of the long-running radio and television broadcast. “50 years. Not everyone gets that blessing.
Born in Texas and raised in California, Mandrell was just 23 when she joined in July 1972. But she was already a seasoned performer by the time she arrived in Nashville, having spent her teenage years playing the steel guitar and to appear regularly on the California-based country television show town hall party.
Over her decades-long career, the actress, multi-instrumentalist and singer drew millions of fans to country music in the ’70s and ’80s, and not just through her popular TV show. Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sistersbut also through hits like “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed”, “If Loving You is Wrong (I Don’t Want to be Right)” and “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool”.
She became the first country artist to win back-to-back Country Music Association Artist of the Year awards, crossing over with R&B covers and bringing glamor and showmanship to the genre. Her performances have been a showcase of her musicality, whether she sings loudly, plays pedal steel, banjo or saxophone.
“It’s called show business. You have to show them something,” Mandrell said. “Otherwise they might stay home and listen to your recordings or listen to you on the radio. You have to give them something to entertain them.
Along with her sisters Louise and Irlene, Mandrell used the power of television to bring new ears to country music, as well as gospel music. His musical guests were a mix of R&B, pop and country artists.
“So many people would say things like, ‘I’ve never listened to country music, but now boy, I watch every Saturday night and I love it,'” Mandrell said.
This Saturday night, Mandrell was still a champion of country music. Prior to the start of the show, Mandrell watched Carrie Underwood from the side stage as Underwood soundchecked “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool,” stopping to hug her and wave to the band members. of Underwood.
Underwood said that growing up, Mandrell’s voice was always there.
“She’s been such an inspiration to me and so many others who stand on the shoulders of great female artists like her,” Underwood told the Opry crowd.
During the Opry show, Mandrell enthusiastically applauded the lineup of all-female artists, including CeCe Winans, Linda Davis and Suzy Bogguss, as they performed his hits.
“I already feel on top of the world. I feel the deepest gratitude and excitement because I’m such a huge fan of these ladies,” Mandrell said.
From his seat in the middle of the crowd, Mandrell waved and kissed his fans, who took photos of the country star.
Mandrell has not played music or sung – other than in church – since retiring in 1997. Her last gig was at the Opry House and was the subject of a television program titled, Barbara Mandrell and the Do-Rites: The Last Dance.
Elegantly dressed in a bright pink pantsuit and surrounded on stage by 50 dozen lavender-colored roses bought by her fans, Mandrell waved another goodbye from the same Opry stage 25 years later.
“I chose my house to do my last performance and this was it,” Mandrell said. “God bless you!” she told fans before leaving the stage in the shadows.