CMA: Barbara Mandrell's Cool
Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool: A Tribute to Barbara Mandrell"
on BNA Records.
2007 CMA Close Up News Service
As a longtime performer
who knows the demands of a busy schedule, Barbara Mandrell is both
humbled and gratified that so many top-tier Country artists took
the time to contribute to an album that pays tribute to her and
her amazing career.
"They have really
given me a great gift of not only their talent and their time, but
their love," Mandrell, the two-time CMA Entertainer of the
Year, said in an emotion-filled voice.
The album, She Was Country
When Country Wasn't Cool: A Tribute To Barbara Mandrell, was released
Oct. 17 on BNA Records. Mandrell, whose six No. 1 hits include "Years"
and "I Was Country, When Country Wasn't Cool," is still
Country and, according to the artists who participated in the tribute
project, still very cool. Sara Evans was literally raised on Mandrell's
Barbara Mandrell reminds me of my childhood and growing up as a
Country singer," said Evans, who contributed Mandrell's 1980
hit "Crackers" to the tribute project. "My mother
had me learn every one of her songs and perform them in our [family]
Naturally, Evans was
eager to participate in the tribute and said she chose "Crackers"
because "it is so cheeky and fun." For her own version
of the song, Evans recalled the things she loved best about Mandrell's
original and "tried to blend that with who I am musically."
In the end, she said, "I'm really happy with what we came out
of the studio with."
For Terri Clark, who
contributed a rocking version of Mandrell's first No. 1 hit, "Sleeping
Single in a Double Bed," Mandrell's work "was the start
of my love affair with Country Music that's lasted my entire life."
for Mandrell's music dates back to her childhood in Canada, where
she idolized the two-time CMA Female Vocalist of the Year. As a
13-year-old, Clark was a huge fan of Mandrell's NBC-TV variety show,
"Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters," which averaged
more than 40 million viewers per week.
"I wrote her fan
mail and spent all my allowances on magazines that had anything
about her in [them]," Clark said. "I clipped them out,
put them in a photo album and sent it to her. I drew pictures of
her and sent them to her. I was just absolutely blown away with
her and her showmanship. My mother was about to send me to therapy
because she was tired of hearing about her."
For Clark, the recording
session for "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed" provided
a touching opportunity to show Mandrell that she was a lifelong
"I had a fan letter
that I had written to her when I was 13," Clark said. "I
made a practice copy of it and then re-wrote it and sent her that
one, but I kept the original all these years. When we did the tribute
record, I gave her the letter."
Clark describes the fan
letter as "so 13-year-old. It was hilarious. I drew little
pictures of cowboy hats and boots on it and signed it, 'Your friend,
In the studio, however,
Mandrell handled the moment with typical class, telling an emotional
Clark she'd cherish the letter.
Although Mandrell retired
from the music business 10 years ago, no one needed convincing that
this groundbreaking singer, musician, actress, motivational speaker
and best-selling author, who landed 55 singles on the Billboard
chart between 1969 and 1989, was a fitting subject for a tribute.
Artist manager Clint
Higham, a longtime friend of the Mandrell family, first hatched
the tribute idea and brought it to SONY BMG Nashville Chairman Joe
Galante, who said he "fell in love with the plan."
Galante called Mandrell
an "unbelievable entertainer. When I first moved to [Nashville,]
I remember her being on the CMA Awards show and being riveted by
how she was as a host and an entertainer," he said.
Not surprisingly, Galante
said, nearly all of the artists who were approached to participate
"jumped up and said 'Yeah, she's meant so much to me.'"
Kenny Chesney and Reba
McEntire performed "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool,"
with Chesney supplying the memorable George Jones parts from the
original, which is Mandrell's signature song. Other tracks on the
album include Dierks Bentley's "Fast Lanes and Country Roads;"
Blaine Larsen's "I Wish that I Could Fall in Love Today;"
Lorrie Morgan's "That's What Friends Are For;" Willie
Nelson and Shelby Lynne's duet on "This Time I Almost Made
It;" Randy Owen's "Years;" Brad Paisley's version
of "In Times Like These;" LeAnn Rimes' "(If Loving
You is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right;" Gretchen Wilson's
"The Midnight Oil;" and CeCe Winans' "He Set My Life
All of the songs were
Top 10 Country hits for Mandrell with the exception of "This
Time I Almost Made It," which peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard
chart in 1974, and "That's What Friends Are For," which
topped out at No. 16 two years later. "He Set My Life to Music"
was not a Country single, but rather the title track of Mandrell's
GRAMMY and Dove Award-winning 1983 gospel album.
Kye Fleming and Dennis
Morgan wrote many of Mandrell's signature hits including five songs
that appear on the collection. "There would be no album, there
would be no Barbara Mandrell, if it were not for Kye and Dennis,"
she said. Mandrell is delighted with the finished album, calling
it the "ultimate compliment."
"This is not one
of those albums where you have to skip [around]," she said.
"Every single artist on there just gave it their all. I'm overwhelmed."
Higham worked with Galante
and his A&R team and sought Mandrell's input in deciding which
artists and songs to include in the tribute. Most of the participating
artists chose the songs they wanted to cut and each artist recorded
their individual track on their own, with the producer and musicians
of their choice.
Mandrell thinks having
multiple producers on the project "gives a distinct artistry
to each individual cut." Producers on the project include Brett
Beavers, Mark Bright, Buddy Cannon, Chris Harris, Dann Huff, Tim
Johnson, Frank Rogers, Wally Wilson and Mark Wright. Clark and Lynne
produced their own tracks.
While Mandrell was hands-on
in the creation of the tribute, she gave a quick and definitive
"no" when asked if anything about the process of putting
the album together made her want to come out of retirement. She
explained that she doesn't regret her decision to retire, no matter
how much she cherished her career.
"I was never bored,
never sick of it, never tired. It was all positive," she said
of her lengthy stint as a top entertainer. But, she added, "I
feel good that I said 'thank you' and expressed my gratitude and
stepped out of the spotlight at the highest point of my career.
. I wouldn't change a thing."
On the Web:
is Detroit's exclusive media outlet for this syndicated weekly column!