FLASHBACK ...

Nov. 18, 1980

I used to think that 15,000 was the biggest audience in the world," Barbara Mandrell once said. But on Nov. 18, 1980, she discovered what "big" really meant. That night, Barbara premiered her weekly NBC prime-time series, Barbara Mandrell & The Mandrell Sisters, to a TV audience that numbered in the millions.

The show, which starred Barbara and her sisters Louise and Irlene, brought back the "variety concept" to television. Each week, the sisters would sing, dance and appear in comedy sketches with special guests.

The premiere telecast featured Dolly Parton and drew high viewer ratings. The show was renewed for a second season, but the weekly grind eventually took its toll on Barbara. Citing exhaustion, Barbara announced in 1982 that she would not return for a third year.

Still, she maintains, "I was very proud of that show. I think we expanded the parameters of what women in country music could do."

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