Quote of the day

A reader offers some thoughts on my confusion about Barbara Mandrell:

I wonder if SG’s sudden interest in Barbara Mandrell isn’t, in actuality, Barbara’s sudden interest in SG.  We’ve all known for years that Barbara is a devout Christian but it seems to me that it wasn’t until her son married a failed-country-singer-turned-gospel-singer that suddenly Barbara allows herself and her name to be used to promote award show events, as long as daughter-in-law Christy Sutherland comes along for the ride and gets to sing her latest single.

I also think that gospel music’s fascination with mainstream acts (Mandrell and anyone else who happens to even hint at having some kind of faith) is that we have a big ole inferiority complex that says “mainstream acts are better.”  I don’t think it’s just southern gospel either; take a look at the long list of b, c, and d-list mainstream performers who take the stage at the Doves Awards every year and horribly mispronounce everyone’s name, proving to us and the world that they have no knowledge of our industry whatsoever.  All of this is under the guise of attracting a larger audience to either the award show or the tv show, but does it?  Does the average unaware-of-gospel-music person happen to see that Billy Baldwin is presenting on the Doves and suddenly decide to tune in?  Or do country fans hear that Barbara’s being given an award and suddenly decide to call up and buy a ticket to sit through the long event just to see what Barbara’s wearing and to hear her say 20 words of thanks to whatever organization is presenting her with the honor?  I don’t think so.  But maybe I’m wrong.

I just really wish that we in gospel music had enough respect for what we do that we didn’t feel the need to pull names from other genres of music to feel validated.

However, having said all of that…if I got to choose between sitting through a has-been gushing about how much she loves this industry (even though she only did one gospel album almost 30 years ago) or sitting through another one of Dennis Swanberg’s awkwardly unfunny bits, I would choose Mandrell any day of the week.

Update: Judy Nelon, who describes herself as a “devoted southern gospel fan and advocate” in a recent email and who has been one of the key people responsible for the attention Mandrell is receiving in the industry these days, writes:

Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters NBC variety television show was my all-time favorite.  When Barbara first agreed to do the show she insisted the NBC executives let her have seven minutes of southern gospel music at the end of each weekly segment.  She was a tiny lady but stood tall when she spoke of the love she had for gospel music.  The NBC executives allowed her to do this for a trial of two weeks but with the high ratings and 40 million devoted viewers each week she proved she was right.  Southern Gospel Music won…..we all won.  Barbara and her sister Louise Mandrell have featured southern gospel music regularly on their concerts.  Today one of our leading groups The Triumphant Quartet on Daywind Records began as regular members of the Louise Mandrell theater in Pigeon Forge.  Barbara recently retired from her singing career but is still highly regarded with a large fan base.  She was recently recognized by being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. If there were country artists today that included gospel music on their television and concert tours it would benefit more than any other exposure.

Barbara as well as Louise are long over due on the Gospel Music world expressing our appreciation for the exposure they have given to the BEST music in the world.  Please join me in saying “Thank you Barbara.”  Maybe this will shine a light that opens up other opportunities for our music to play to huge mainstream audiences.  I believe that gospel music wins when it gets a chance to be heard.

Nelon also sent along two clips of Mandrell as well. The first, a clip from Barbara Mandrell & The Mandrell Sisters show, featuring The Blackwood Brothers. (created from the NBC show for GMA Week/SGMG Harmony Honors earlier this year).

The second, a GAC clip from GMA week/SGMG Harmony Honors, where Mandrell was honored this past Spring:

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  1. Extra Ink wrote:

    I have watched for years as the old-timers always got a gleam in their eye when Elvis Presley was mentioned in any way….as if his music or his presence was some sort of monumental moment in their gospel music career. I believe Vestal mentioned him in her biography, I believe it was George Younce who mentioned singing with him backstage at NQC many years ago, of course (and understandably, since he worked with him) J D Sumner wrote a book about him. James Blackwood loved talking about Elvis. Ditto for Hovie Lister.

    The same sort of thing happens now (on a smaller scale) if Ricky Skaggs or Earl Scruggs sings with an SG artist. Shoot, I remember 4 or 5 years ago when the Reid brothers from the Statlers came into the convention hall at NQC….quite a stir.

  2. JEB wrote:

    Mandrell is welcomed anywhere and anytime! She is a gracious and warm lady. SG will do well to have her around a little. She is friends with many SG people in Nashville - both performers and behind-the-scenes types.

    Just like Johnny Cash, Statler Brothers and others - she made a statement by including gospel music on national television shows and deserves some bit of thanks.


  3. Ben Harris wrote:

    I have recorded two album projects for Barbara, one secular and one gospel, and of all the major artist’s I have worked with she is by far my favorite. She is gracious, and kind to everyone. Her family is precious to her and they are great people. She treated me great every time I had the occassion to work with her, even down to fetching coffee for me one day when I was tied behind a console for a long session. She would get my vote in a New York minute.

  4. quartet-man wrote:

    Thanks for sharing, Ben.

  5. RF wrote:

    #1 - Watch the Gaither videos. They’ve had the Gatlins, Boots Randolph (for crying out loud), Jimmy Dean, George Jones, Brenda Lee…I figure you get the message. Everyone know if Elvis was still alive (at the ripe old age of 74 by now), he’d be regular on the Homecoming videos and get one of those easy chairs up front. Why? Because all are icons in society and have some ties to sg music. Maybe those ties are not strong, but the fact that Brenda, Elvis, Jimmy, and Boots were there makes the music legitimate in some eyes. Can you imagine what would have happened to the Homecomings if Ernie Ford had lived?

  6. Casual Observer wrote:

    I’m thinkin’ Kanye West could really spice up the Singing News Fan Awards next year…

  7. Kevin wrote:

    I’m sure she’s a cool person, but I don’t get it, either.

    According to wikipedia, In October 1999 she was inducted into the “Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame” with other artists, Andy Griffith, Loretta Lynn, Gary S. Paxton, David L Cook, Lulu Roman and Jimmie Snow.

    I would think that’s more appropriate for her than a southern gospel thang!

  8. yeah... wrote:

    “I just really wish that we in gospel music had enough respect for what we do that we didn’t feel the need to pull names from other genres of music to feel validated.”

    Now that was prescient. I couldn’t agree more with that statement. I’m in no position to judge why there is this great fascination with secular performers who give lip service to Gospel music. Sure, I think we’d all agree that many of them were raised with this music, and maybe have (or had) a great reminiscent fondness for it as well. I also feel that the inclusion of the majority of these folks on the Homecoming DVD’s has cheapened them, rather than giving them the desired panache. Here’s why I believe this: the message of our music will endure forever, just as the One of Whom we sing and speak is eternal. The often-vapid, silly, and suggestive lyrics of Ms. Mandrell et al will most certainly not live on forever. And as such, even if they have more fleeting fame than those who perform music honoring to the Lord, the music of the Gospel is infinitely superior to their music. So, it all mystifies me too.

  9. Steven wrote:

    casual observer: That is hilarious..i can see it now.

    I’m sorry booth brothers, you did great and all, but the KINGSMEN had one of the best projects in the history of gospel music…I’ll let you finish..

  10. pk wrote:

    I remember years ago, in Cincinnati, we went to a concert that had Ronnie Milsap, Ricky Skaggs and Barbara Mandrell. loved the first two, but Barbara spend way to much time talking instead of singing….and when she got to the gospel part I was totally bored…we left. But man, that Ricky Skaggs can pick and his gospel part was so sweet.

  11. Extra Ink wrote:

    If Kanye West comes to the Singing News fan awards next year, he better bring a body armour suit. Some of those people who win it every year would slug him if he tried to take theirs.

  12. DMP wrote:

    Well, they probably called Barbara because Miley Cyrus couldn’t make it.

  13. Soli Deo Gloria wrote:

    #9- love the joke…especially the part about the Kingsmen having a good project.

  14. weber wrote:

    I agree #13, the Kingsmen have not had a good project since Chattanooga Live. The line-up they have right now is sub-par at best. Ray Dean Reece, needed to retire 15 years ago. Like a long list of others, the Mandrells have no place in Southern Gospel Music.

  15. RF wrote:

    I find it interesting that Mandrell was singled out (not that I have anything against her–her show was wonderful), but saying she convinced NBC to allow the last six minutes of her show to be devoted to gospel music is interesting when you consider shows hosted by Jimmy Dean, Eddie Arnold, Pat Boone, and Tennessee Ernie Ford did nearly the same thing much earlier. And let us not forget the Statler Brothers.

  16. olaneljonois wrote:

    #14- What planet are you on? The Kingsmen have produced some great music in the last 20 years, The Judgement, Wish You Were Here, He’s All I Need, I Will Rise Up From My Grave, You’re Not Alone, The Next Cloud, God Sits On High, When God Ran, and their current recording has great new music. Don’t forget the success of the KingsGold recordings made during this time as well. The current line up of the Kingsmen has some of the best vocalist ever to ride the Kingsmen bus. Ray Dean Reese is a living legend and is a member of two Halls of Fame, why should he come off the road? The Kingsmen have stayed true to themselves musically and yet are breaking the “Kingsmen” mold with their new music. As a fan for the last twenty years I can say that it will be a sad day for Gospel music when Ray Dean Reese decides to retire.

  17. quartet-man wrote:

    Turner finally found the right key. :-)

  18. weber wrote:

    # 16, you are just mentioning a handful of songs from different projects, not to mention that ” When God Ran, is nothing more than a me-too song from “Phillips Craig & Dean. Thats eight mediocre songs at best in 20 years? What planet are you living on, do the math, two projects a year with average of 10 selections. Percentage not very good friend. During the KingsGold years, Gold City was the premier group.

  19. Nashville Phil wrote:

    #14 You are wrong about RayDean! When was the last time you heard him sing? He can still blow the speakers out of the bottom cabinet!

    I agree with Olan…The day Ray retires will certainly be a sad day in SG.

  20. BarbaraMandrellFan wrote:


    Just a question: Did those shows have as wide of an audience? Did they reach 40 million people a week? Did they feature gospel music in almost every show they did?

    I am wondering, because I’ve not heard of that in regards to those you mentioned.

    I would be interested to know.

  21. Sadie Sidewalker wrote:

    The Dinah Shore show (which was HUGE in the 70’s) routinely had the Bill Gaither Trio and the Happy Goodman Family as guests. The Mike Douglas Show also had many gospel acts on. HeeHaw featured their gospel quartet on every show as well. It was not groundbreaking to put gospel music on network tv - it was normal back then.

  22. whoathere! wrote:

    Regarding Barbara Mandrell, “Who will be eating the crackers in her bed?” And will it be allowed “anytime” or just some of the time?

  23. RF wrote:


    I have no idea what the ratings or the number of people watching were. Dean was on ABC and lasted (I think 4 seasons), so it must have been successful. Arnold hosted the Kraft Music Theatre, which lasted forever and is an icon of the industry we know as country music. Boone had a weekly show on ABC when he was making No. 1 hits every week and made an Armed Forces radio program each week that included southern gospel music. And Ford, on his NBC show featured the Statesmen, the Happy Goodmans, and the Blackwoods on his show many times. Of course those shows were before Ms. Mandrell’s. All I was saying, was that BM wasn’t the first, but of course, Arnold and Ford, icons that they were, are dead and Dean is living happily in retirement in Virginia. We all know Boone’s religious leanings. As I said it was nothing against Barbara, but it seemed a reach to me.

  24. Videoguy wrote:

    RE: SG on The Mandrell Show

    I think it’s important to remember the time and place: Ford, Boone, Dean, Shore were all 1950’s - 1970’s. By 1980 when the Mandrell show made its debut on NBC, networks were probably no longer interested in SG. I’m sure her idea was met with much resistance.

    Can anyone recall seeing a SG artist/group on one of the big 3 networks since the Mandrell show? The Cat’s on the Today Show is the only one I can think of. (Late-nite infomercials on an affiliate doesn’t count.)

  25. Wayne Kerr wrote:

    #9 Steven

    Kanye would in no way say anything good about the Kingsmen, or any other white group. He would have to give props to Reggie Sadler Family, Charles Johnson, Gospel Enforcers, Michael Combs, Quinton Mills, or any other black performer(s).

    btw….I do know that Michael Combs isn’t black.

  26. gina wrote:

    Wayne, BTW… Do you also know that Quinton Mills isn’t?

  27. cynical one wrote:

    gina #26 — I’ve been wondering, what is Quinton’s ethnic heritage? Not that it’s really important.

    Why do we have to be Hyphenated-Americans?

  28. gina wrote:

    cynical one - QM is a Native American Indian and a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe in Hollister, NC. This is documented on the bio section of his website.

  29. Wayne Kerr wrote:

    I stand corrected. So scratch out the name Quinton Mills and place Jessie Dixon in. (Jessie is black, isn’t he?)

  30. cynical one wrote:

    Wayne, yes, Jessy Dixon (note the corrected spelling) does claim to be black. Has for some time, now.

  31. Ben Harris wrote:

    I really don’t understand the ire toward Barbara Mandrell, especially from those who really don’t know anything about her. I see this as very unfair. I have never met anyone in any genre of music that I admired more. She was a lady each and every time I had the occassion to work with her, and her giving heart was amazing. I have many things I could tell of her love for people but these are far too long for this forum. I know of no one who dislikes Barbara after they have met her. She is a great lady.

  32. baritonebob wrote:

    # 31 Ben, I think a lot of SGM fans are cynical when all of these country legends who’s day in the spotlight has dimmed(seen any current/recent stars doing this?), jump into SGM in order to give their career a boost. These stars want to sing the music yet they don’t know much about the music or the history of it.

  33. Sadie Sidewalker wrote:

    No one is saying that Barbara Mandrell isn’t a great and talented lady. From all I can see she is — and she deserves the highest of accolades in the country music field — which IS the field she worked in. Anything given to her in southern gospel is nothing more than pandering to the fans trying to stir up attention in an industry that can’t seem to do anything note-worthy on their own.

  34. SomthingNeeds2Happen wrote:

    SOMETHING needs to give this industry some attention!

  35. gina wrote:

    baritonebob - You are right, however I don’t think this is the case with Barbara. She chose to retire from country music, and has made no push, as far as I know, to break into southern gospel. You are also right that you don’t see the major country stars today trying to get into this style, which even validates Barbara’s inclusion more. She included gospel music when she WAS in the prime of her career.

  36. SomthingNeeds2Happen wrote:

    I am sitting here thinking HOW RIDICULOUS this whole conversation is!

    BILL GAITHER has been honored the IMPACT award, as well as others.


  37. cynical one wrote:

    SomthingNeeds2Happen #36 — So we go find someone outside the genre, who contributed a little 25+ years ago, just because there’s no one else inside the genre who deserves it, just so we can give an award? I’m not sure I see the wisdom in that.

    Maybe someone donated to a trust fund, in order to get her daughter-in-law a showcase? Maybe not, but one has to wonder.

    I’m sure Babs is a fine Christian lady, an outstanding leader in the community, but my mind is clouded by memories of her suing the young man with whom she was involved in an auto crash several years ago, and by comments from a former employee, who told of demeaning practices (like having an employee hold her underwear so she could step into them).

    But as with most people who’ve been discussed on these pages, some folks have had good experiences with her, and other not-so-good.

    Of course, I’ve never had anyone hold my underwear, so I could step into them, but I’m sure there are folks who’ve had both good and bad experiences with me. Just ask my family. :-)

  38. gina wrote:

    Barbara didn’t sue the young man with whom she was involved in the car crash, because he died. Her insurance company actually required that she sue the estate in order to receive her benefits. The guy was DUI and Barbara and her children’s lives were on the line. Who wouldn’t have sued?

  39. cynical one wrote:

    gina — Sorry, I stand corrected. She didn’t sue the young man, she sued his grieving family. Insurance companies cannot “require” you to sue someone. She, the wealthy entertainer who already appeared insincere and stuck-up to the Nashville community, sued the less-than-wealthy family.

    The general consensus in the community was that she should have either refused to sue, or let the insurance company sue, if they wanted to.

  40. gina wrote:

    cynical one - It’s a fact, under TN law, she HAD to sue the estate of the other driver in order to collect insurance to pay medical bills. Look it up if you want to confirm; I did. When your life and those of your children were on the line because of the negligence of a drunk driver, I doubt you care much for what the “general consensus in the community” is.

  41. Teresa wrote:

    Gina, also it was not a DUI, he fell asleep, driving back home after class at Vol-state.

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