22 April 2013

25 February 2008

Barbara Mandrell and Country Disco - The Lost Genre

Some say the end of the Disco era began when Rick Dees' novelty song "Disco Duck" hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1976. I actually think it was a few years later, when Walt Disney Productions answered that hit record in 1979 with Donald Duck singing "Macho Duck" on the Mikey Mouse Disco album. In the same year, a sub-genre of country music nearly developed. I call it "country disco." It was a sub-genre that not only drove another nail in the disco coffin, it also could have driven country music into a soul-sucking commercialism from which it would never recover. Well, actually that second part happened anyway, but that's another story.


My favorite example is a Barbara Mandrell's song from her 1979 LP "Just For The Record." On the cover, a 31 year old Barbara is sporting a sequined little dress that would have gotten her pass the velvet ropes at any Nashville discotheque. On the whole, the album is her blend of country with a little pop and soul (heavier on the pop than soul.) But a little song, Is It Love Yet, hidden on track 3 on side 2, is so catchy it could get stuck in one's head for close to 30 years and forever break the common wisdom that country music doesn't groove outside a line dance.

I put together this little video to illustrate. It starts off with a rhythmic lead in and then rides a slight but defined drum/dance beat and accented with backup singers throughout. In the video, I've noted the specific disco references at about 1:24 and around 2:20. To set the mood, the video includes a disco ball and go-go boys.


Babs was not the first artist to take this route, Dolly Parton had a fair amount of success with danceable country songs like Baby I'm Burnin' (#25 in 1978 on Hot 100 charts). Nor was Mandrell the last. In 1991, Tammy Wynette had a #11 hit with KLF doing Justified and Ancient. And today, all Leann Rimes songs are better after they've been reworked and remixed.


Barbara went on to win two Grammy's, have a top 10 TV Show, six #1 country singles, and perhaps the only person to appear on both Hee Haw and Baywatch.

As far as I know, "Just For The Record" was never released on CD and certainly not available digitally. LPs and 8-tracks can be found on the ebay.

Download the MP3 here:
Is It Love Yet?

Barbara Mandrell Discography

19 February 2008

2 Cool Covers

  • "tears dry on their own" - Amy Winehouse cover (I can actually understand the words now)
  • "everything" - Michael Buble cover

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