On The Fringe
Amanda Carol Barnett was born in Crossville, Tennessee on September 28th 1975, the only child of Betty and Dan Barnett. Mandy was named after Amanda Blake, the husky-voiced actress who played Miss Kitty on "Gunsmoke."
Mandy began singing at 5 years old, and began her career the way so many southern singers do-- in church. The first song she learned was "Victory In Jesus," taught to her by the Baptist neighbors who provided her day care. Her first public performance was the song "Because He Lives" in an Easter program at the Holiness Church in Crossville, and even that first time she hit every note head-on, and filled the lyrics with emotion.
Even as a toddler, Mandy wanted to guide her future with her voice, playing 'let's-pretend' childhood games about being a country singing star, rehearsing with a "Mr Microphone," and practicing singing into a Fisher-Price toy stethoscope.
Her early talent and determination did not go unnoticed by her bookkeeper mother Betty, who realized the vocal performance of her child was something that surpassed the quality of almost any adult. To encourage Mandy's talents, her parents played music constantly, and helped to arrange singing engagements anywhere in public they could find: singing in churches with gospel groups, talent contests, VFW halls, lodge meetings, bowling alleys, parking lots, and the occasional honky tonk. Other notable performances includes singing the National Anthem at the Cumberland County Fair, and singing at political rallies for Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander and then-Senator, future Vice-President, Al Gore.
At 9 years old, her contractor father arranged for a professional recording session, and the result was the release of an album of gospel songs as her first commercial cassette. In 1986, when Mandy was 10, she began 2 years of summer theatre at the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. At Dollywood she once sang "Happy Birthday" while Dolly Parton herself jumped out of a huge cake. And, at Dollywood, she beat out 2,500 adult and child contestants to win the "Best Country Act" in the "Dollywood Search for Talent" contest, which gave her a $500- prize to make a professional demo tape in Nashville.
Mandy's mother then began a telephone campaign to get her 12 year old daughter on the famous "Midnight Jamboree" radio show, broadcast live from Nashville's Ernest Tubb Record Shop after the Grand Ole Opry on legendary radio station WSM. Amazingly, her persistence paid off, and Mandy appeared on the program. Opry star and show guest host George Hamilton IV was amazed at what he heard. He raved about her vocal talents, and said "if there are any producers out there, you better call in." Sure enough, a producer did call. The phone call was from Billy Strange, who was working at MCA Universal Records under industry mogul Jimmy Bowen.
Word continued to spread about Mandy's mature voice and interpretive skills as a performer. At 12, Justin Tubb invited Many to debut on the Grand Ole Opry as part of a tribute show to his father. Mandy performed Patsy Cline's "Crazy" to rave reviews, and family friend and Opry dancer Melvin Sloan took Mandy backstage to meet with all the Opry stars.
Jimmy Bowen personally offered Mandy a recording contract with Universal when she was 13. She made two demo tapes for Universal before Bowen left the label, going to Capitol Nashville Records, and taking Mandy with him. Mandy continued to record demos, going with Bowen from Capitol to his own LibertyRecords label, going through one producer after another, with none of them being able to figure out just what to do with her immense talent. Mandy spent hundreds of hours -- and the labels spent almost $400,000 -- in the studio, learning what kind of music she wanted to sing -- and what kind of music she didn't. Eventually Bowen paired Mandy with songwriter/producer/recording artist Gail Davies as her mentor. But despite all the years of effort, of the hundreds of songs that were committed to tape, no album ever resulted.
In addition to continuing to develop her style in the studio, when Mandy was 16 years old, she began to sing in a weekly bluegrass show at the Fairfield Glade Resort, to further refine her live performance skills. Mandy attended Cumberland County High School in Crossville, from which she graduated in 1993. While in high school, she was voted both the Secretary of her Future Farmers of America chapter, and the school Prom Queen. Mandy portrayed Annie Oakley in the Cumberland County High School production of "Annie Get Your Gun," and participated in a 50's review called "Brand New Beat." She made her professional theater debut in the Cumberland County Playhouse as Prudie Cuff in "Pump Boys and Dinettes."
Mandy's parents divorced when she was 17, and Mandy then made the decision to move to Nashville to push ahead her recording career. To support herself, she took (and left) jobs at Ponderosa Steak House, an ice-cream parlor, Office Depot, and a job at a halfway house for mentally retarded women. But the singing stardom dream of hers continued to be elusive. In December 1993, her record company dropped her from her recording contract, without ever releasing an album from the many hours of material she recorded with Davies.
Mandy finally became well-known to the musical world at age 18, by starring in the stage musical "Always...Patsy Cline" at the original home of the Grand Ole Opry, the historic Ryman Auditorium Mandy only heard about the audition the morning it was to happen, she quickly tossed on an old dress, and grabbed a Polaroid of herself sitting in a graveyard, and rushed to the audition. Although she was dressed less like Patsy than the other 400+ hopefuls from 33 states and Canada, the shows producers heard in her voice the style that none of the others possessed, and she was cast in the role.
Beginning its run in April 1994, the musical tribute was a two-woman show about the life of Patsy Cline, as recollected by a friend/fan of hers. The play included 25 vintage Patsy Cline songs, and a soundtrack album with Mandy performing 18 of these classics was released in 1995 on MCA Records.
Mandy portrayed Cline in 67 shows from April to October 1994, and 91 shows from April to October 1995, earning universally rave reviews for the almost-eerie way she brought the music and persona of Patsy Cline back to life.
Performing in "Always..." opened many musical doors to Mandy, earning her a nomination for "Female Vocalist of the Year" in the Nashville Music Awards, and helping her to sign a new recording contract with Asylum Records. The run of "Patsy Cline" ended in October 1995, and most of that summer Mandy was in the recording studio working on her debut solo album. The album was produced by Asylum Records president Kyle Lehning and producer Bill Schnee, who is well-known for his work with other powerful singers, including Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand, and Natalie Cole.
Her self-titled album was released in February 1996, and generated three singles that all hit on the Billboard charts, "Now That's All Right With Me," "Maybe," and "A Simple I Love You." Three promotional videos were also produced, for "Now That's All Right With Me," "Maybe," and "Planet Of Love."
Mandy was also involved, along with country luminaries such as Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood and Tim McGraw, in the all-star choir on the 1996 "Hope" benefit single, and toured the U.S. extensively over summer 1996. Mandy contributed background vocals on the 1996 Kenny Chesney CD, "Me and You," and background vocals on the 1997 Kim Richey album, "Bitter Sweet." Mandy appeared on background vocals for a new song on a 1997 "Greatest Hits" compilation by her childhood mentor Gail Davies, and toured throughout 1997.
She then had three spectacular songs featured in the movie and on the soundtrack album for the 1997 major motion picture "Traveller," starring Bill Paxton, Mark Wahlberg, and Julianna Margulies.
Mandy returned to perform a special reunion run of "Always... Patsy Cline" shows with her former co-star Tere Myers at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville in December 1997 and January 1998. Mandy was featured on three duets in 1998, two with Texas crooner Don Walser on his album, and one with talented songwriter Kim Richey on the "Will Sing For Food" benefit album. Mandy spent much of 1997 and most of 1998 test-driving new material at concerts in Nashville and around the country, and working at the Bradley Barn first with legendary producer Owen Bradley and then his brother celebrated guitarist Harold Bradley recording material for her new album.
Mandy contributed one track to the soundtrack of the March 1999 Miramax film "A Walk On The Moon," a scorching cover of the Gene Pitney classic "Town Without Pity."
Finally, after much labor, and with much anticipation, her new album, "I've Got A Right To Cry," was released to rave reviews by Sire Records in April 1999.
From Mandy Barnett's Official Website.
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