Cliffie Stone Family Photos
Barbara Mandrell and Cliffie engrossed in a conversation backstage at the ACM’s Awards Show in the early 1990s. After I took this photo, I also chatted with her and she was so personable. When Barbara received the ACM “Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award” in 2001, I wrote her a congratulatory note and said to the effect that Cliffie had always followed her wonderful career and that he would have been so proud that she received this award, etc. She wrote back to me saying how honored she was to receive the award and how much she had always liked and respected Cliffie. I was touched that she took the time to respond. Excerpts from Cliffie’s book: “I saw Barbara Mandrell perform at the beginning of her career when she was just a youngster. She sings and plays a variety of instruments and is so full of energy on the stage! She’s also a multi-award winning CMA and ACM artist. In 1980 and 1981, she was the CMA ‘Entertainer of the Year’. She proves that big talent comes in small packages and she’s my ‘Entertainer of the Year’ forever!”  A brief background:  She was a 1948 Christmas Day baby who was born to musical Christian parents, Irby and Mary, in Houston, TX. Irby and Mary exposed their children to music early on. Obviously, Barbara was a precocious child; when she was pre-school age, she was already playing the accordion and reading sheet music, which her mother taught her to do. Later, she handily learned the pedal steel guitar, which she would excel in. Other instruments she learned to play include the saxophone and banjo.  Being a youngster, Barbara’s father, Irby, protectively took her under his wing and became her manager. She performed at Chicago’s musical trade convention where Joe Maphis (a superb guitar player; he and his wife, Rose Lee, were a very popular duo act) saw her and he was very impressed! She became a professional at eleven years of age when she became part of Joe Maphis’ Las Vegas nightclub show. It was in this time frame that Cliffie first heard and saw Barbara perform. His popular Saturday night “Hometown Jamboree” radio/TV show was on the air from 7 pm to 8 pm (broadcast on KXLA radio and KCOP-TV (in 1953, it moved to KTLA-TV). “Town Hall Party” was a 3 hour broadcast that came on later on Saturday nights from 10 pm until 1 am on KTLA-TV.  To make extra money, many of Cliffie’s Hometown Jamboree band members such as Les “Carrot-Top” Anderson, Eddie Kirk and Merle Travis (a good friend of Joe Maphis) played in Town Hall’s ten-piece band. (Wesley Tuttle was the musical director; Johnny Bond, the scriptwriter; and the M/C was Jay Stewart.)  The cast members included Tex Ritter, Johnny Bond, Wesley and Marilyn Tuttle, Joe and Rose Lee Maphis, Eddie Kirk, Merle Travis, Les ‘Carrot-Top’ Anderson. Nashville artists on tour on the West Coast as well as local artists were guests and they include Lefty Frizzell, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Eddie Dean, Freddie Hart and the list goes on. Many times, musicians and artists would ‘drop in’ which I’m sure Cliffie did occasionally. All the aforementioned artists/musicians knew Cliffie and were his friends; at one time or another, many of them would be invited to be a featured guest on his Hometown Jamboree TV show. Barbara performed numerous times on Town Hall Party; this is where Cliffie first saw her perform and it’s my understanding that Cliffie also invited her to perform on his Hometown Jamboree show several times. Barbara gained invaluable experience by being on these local TV shows and performing in Las Vegas with Joe Maphis’ show. Her national TV debut was on Red Foley’s ABC “Five Star Jubilee” show in 1961.  Somewhere along the line, Johnny Cash invited her to tour with his show and she became part of his prestigious cast made up of popular country greats such as June Carter, George Jones and Patsy Cline. After her initial tour experiences where over, Irby formed the ‘Mandrell Family Band,’ which featured Barbara playing steel guitar/saxophone; Irby picked and sang; Mary, her mother, played bass; her two talented sisters, Louise and Irlene sang background vocals; and their drummer was Ken Dudney (who Barbara would eventually marry). In 1969, she signed a recording contract with Columbia Records; she recorded “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” which was her first time on the country charts. In the 1970s and early 1980s time frame, her top selling albums would spawn numerous Top 40 charted songs, many of which became #1 hit singles. Her successful recording career brought her superstar status, which was cemented in 1980 when her TV Show, “Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters” (Louise and Irlene) made its debut on NBC-TV. It was a wonderful variety show: Barbara and her sisters sang, she played various instruments, there were comedy skits, musical guests and the show closed with a gospel song. Her show was on the air for two years. Barbara had everything going for her: a loving husband, wonderful children, a beautiful home, incredible God-given talent and superstar fame, which she always credited and thanked God for. Then one September day in 1984, she was involved in a serious head-on car crash wherein the other driver did not survive. Although Barbara and her two children survived their ‘close call with death’ crash, they all sustained serious injuries which took considerable time to recover and heal from. Barbara had a severe concussion from that head-on crash as well as many broken bones. Her traumatic and tragic car crash made her reevaluate her attitudes and priorities in life and her faith in the Lord became stronger than ever before. (I had never known about her automobile accident until I started doing research on her for this caption. A few years ago, a car rear-ended me, which caused me to have a ‘mild concussion,’ which was a frightening experience that took me over six months to recover from. Since I was the only person in my car and the other driver sustained no injuries, I certainly can’t identify with the depth of mental, physical and emotional anguish that Barbara went through. However, I have an inkling of her physical and emotional anguish!) She deserves all the admiration that her family, friends and fans give her! Barbara’s #1 hit songs includes: “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed”; “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right;” “Years,” “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool;” “Till You’re Gone,” and “One of a Kind, Pair of Fools.” The awards bestowed upon Barbara are too numerous to mention, but they include: “Country Music Hall of Fame,” 2009; ACM’s “Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award,” 2001; CMA’s “Entertainer of the Year” in 1980 and 1981; ACM’s “Entertainer of the Year” in 1980; Grammy Award for “Best Inspirational Performance” (“He Set My Life To Music”) in 1983; and the “Steel Guitar Hall of Fame,” 2009; (Other inductees include: Speedy West, 1980 - who was on Cliffie Stone’s ‘Hometown Jamboree’ show for years; Leon McAuliffe, 1978 - credited for ‘Steel Guitar Rag’ instrumental; and its lyrics were written by Cliffie Stone and Merle Travis; and Jaydee Maness, 2003- (who has stellar credits and who, in Cliffie’s later years, played on Cliffie’s recording sessions and his local shows). For more detailed info about Barbara’s life, career and awards, there are numerous websites that you can visit. I also recommend that you read her 1990 autobiography (with George Vecsey) called “Get To The Heart: My Story.”  As I said at the beginning of this caption, Barbara is so personable, and her official website reflects her engaging personality; it not only displays her bio and career achievements, she also uses it as her very own social network. Her Gallery includes photos of her family and she has a journal which makes you feel as if she were your friendly next door neighbor. For instance, she has a photo of herself feeding the birds in her bird garden, which is one of the first things she loves to do every morning (which I personally identify with). She even shares her homemade suet recipe for her birds! It goes without saying that she also talks about her current musical activities and those of her family in her monthly journal, such as her appearance in Country Music Television’s (CMT) ‘Salute to Reba McEntire.’ To read about her contributions to country music history and to have your spirit uplifted, I suggest that you visit her official website, I concur with Cliffie’s admiration for her when he wrote: “Barbara proves that big talent comes in small packages, and she’s my “Entertainer of the Year” forever!”

Previous     Next