Barbara Mandrell learned to read music before she could read words. Over the years, she added steel guitar, alto saxophone, bass, banjo, mandolin and Dobro to her arsenal of instruments. At age 11, her father took her to a music trade show in Chicago where she performed and caught the attention of legendary country guitarists, Chet Atkins and "Uncle" Joe Maphis. Maphis invited Barbara to join his show at the Showboat Hotel in Las Vegas, which became one of the single greatest influences on her musicianship. By the time Barbara was a teenager, she was touring with The Johnny Cash Show, which included Cash, Patsy Cline, George Jones and June Carter.
Throughout her career she earned over 75 major awards, including two consecutive CMA Entertainer of the Year awards (1980 and 1981), making her the first artist ever to win two years in a row, CMA Female Vocalist of the Year (1979 and 1981), ACM Top Female Country Music Vocalist (1980 and 1986), NARAS Grammy Award for the Best Inspirational Performance (1983), Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance (1984), Dove Award for Gospel Album of the Year (1983) and nine People's Choice Awards (1983-1987). She is one of only six artists to have received the "Triple Crown" by winning all three of the most coveted awards, Top New Female, Top Female and Entertainer of the Year. Her NBC variety show, "Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters" drew nearly 40 million viewers weekly and introduced a nation to country music. Her autobiography, "Get to the Heart: My Story" debuted on The New York Times Best Sellers list and remained there for six months.
When she retired in 1997, her final concert was filmed at the Grand Ole Opry House for a highly-rated TNN concert special, "Barbara Mandrell and the Do-Rites: The Last Dance." In 1999, Mandrell was inducted into the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame. In 2000, the Academy of Country Music honored Barbara with their most prestigious award, The Pioneer Award.
BNA Records paid homage to Mandrell in 2006 with She Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool: A Tribute to Barbara Mandrell. The album featured many of today's top artists performing her classic hits, including Dierks Bentley, Terri Clark, Sara Evans, Reba McEntire and Kenny Chesney, Willie Nelson and Shelby Lynne, Lorrie Morgan, Randy Owen, Brad Paisley, Leann Rimes, Gretchen Wilson and gospel singer Cece Winans. She was inducted into Nashville's Music City Walk of Fame in 2007. People magazine ranked her among its "100 Most Beautiful" in 2007 and "100 Most Beautiful at Any Age" in 2008 and 2009. 2009 was a Hall of Fame year for Barbara as she became the newest member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, as well as the first woman inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame.