I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool

As a teenager, I loved Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Anne Lennox and Pat Benatar. But the person I really wanted to be was Barbara Mandrell.  *Go ahead and laugh…I’ll wait*

source: theboot.com

source: theboot.com

Seriously though, I thought she was amazing! She could sing, write, dance and play zillions of instruments. Multi-talented doesn’t even begin to describe the level of this woman’s abilities. I remember being so excited to watch her win Entertainer of the Year two years in a row back in the 80s.  I owned all of her records and I sung along with her while holding a hairbrush, wondering how she ever got so far without me!

I remember noticing that she didn’t have a high pitched voice and I loved that about her. She was sultry and soulful. Totally cool. I read somewhere that her father – who was her manager – helped her develop her voice. He would stand in the back of an empty auditorium and make her sing on stage directly to him without using a microphone. Gospel and soul music out of the black churches were her inspiration, and it showed in the depth and range of her voice.

I remember learning of the horrible car accident that nearly killed her. She was at the pinnacle of her career. Somehow, in those days before the Internet, my mother found out where we could send cards and well wishes.

Oh yeah, she was my hero. And how many people get to say they met their hero? Well I was lucky enough to meet her when I was a tour guide at Disney. In the early 90s, she and her family were in town and it was my huge pleasure to tour them around the parks. She could not have been nicer. She signed a picture for me and even autographed her book for me. (*Note – Disney taught us tour guides to be cool around celebrities, but I always freak when I meet someone I like. It’s a wonder I was never fired).

But I got even luckier than that. The following year, by some clerical error, I was assigned to tour her sister Louise Mandrell at Disney. She was equally as nice to be with and I got to know her family very well. She surprised me when she asked if I would be interested in a nanny job for her sister’s son. You know? Her sister BARBARA.

I flew to Nashville a month later. Stayed at Louise Mandrell’s house (and holy hell what a house). Went to Barbara’s house (this one!). And nearly lost my mind from the state of sheer delirium I was living in! I know this has nerd written all over it, but I was totally digging it. I ended up turning down the job as her nanny, but I was rewarded with a huge compliment. She hugged me (OMG) and said she admired my decision to stay in Orlando and finish my degree. I sometimes wonder how my life would have turned out had I accepted the job, but I just couldn’t do it. She was my hero and someone I greatly admired, but in my heart of hearts I couldn’t see myself in that job. It wasn’t meant to be for me.

I have such great memories of this time! And I have tons of totally intrusive and possibly inappropriate photos of Louise Mandrell’s house. It was only after I had tip-toed through her house and taken a bunch of photos that I realized she had a security cameras in every room. And the feed was broadcast in the kitchen. Where they were waiting for me to come down for breakfast. Ahem. Anyway, my pictures came out really good 🙂

OMG what a long post. But tonight’s CMA awards made me think of some of my favorite country music performers. And Barbara will always be at the top of my list.


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