Barbara Mandrell embraces her father and former manager, Irby Mandrell,… (Mark Humphrey / Associated…)
Irby Mandrell, who taught his daughter Barbara to play an array of musical instruments at the shop he ran in Oceanside, then helped guide her country singing career as her longtime manager, has died. He was 84.
Mandrell died Thursday at Baptist Hospital in Nashville after suffering a stroke, Barbara Mandrell said.
Irby Mandrell had his own dreams of becoming a country music star. Born in Hot Springs, Ark., in 1924, he got his start singing and playing guitar on a radio program there. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he became a traveling musician and met his future wife, Mary, in Illinois. They married in 1947 and moved to Texas and then to California, where he opened Oceanside Music Supply with business partner Bill Hendricks.
Mandrell and his wife, who also had a music background, taught Barbara, their oldest child, to read and play music as a young girl. By the time she was in fifth grade, she was playing accordion, banjo, pedal steel guitar and saxophone. At age 11 she had her first professional gig, playing steel guitar with country star Joe Maphis in Las Vegas in 1960, then went on tour with Johnny Cash, June Carter, Patsy Cline and George Jones.
Soon Barbara began appearing on "Town Hall Party," a country music program broadcast live on Saturday nights on KTTV Channel 11.
When Barbara was 14, her father formed the Mandrell Family Band with his wife and daughter, and in the early to mid-1960s, they performed at military bases up and down the West Coast and across the Pacific.
After taking a break to get married -- to the band's drummer -- Barbara decided she wanted to continue her music career. Her father became her business manager.
"He was not only my manager," Barbara said, "he was my daddy, so he had my best interests at heart. . . . He wanted me to know the details of the business end, because it was show business, not just show."
Barbara went on to have a string of country hits as a solo artist, including "Midnight Oil," "Married But Not to Each Other" and "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed," as well as her signature duet with George Jones, "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool." In the 1980s she starred with her two younger sisters, Louise and Irlene, in a TV variety show on NBC.
Last month, when Barbara was announced as an inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame, she cited her father's unwavering support, saying, "This is me being honored, and this is Irby Mandrell being honored. Because he earned it."
Mandrell is survived by his wife of 61 years, his three daughters and seven grandchildren.