In 1981, Barbara Mandrell seemed to be at the peak of her career. She could sing, act, and man, she was a natural beauty! So much so, in fact, that Mac Davis could hardly focus on introducing her during the awards night!
Going up on the stage with a fringed pants-suit, Mandrell started performing her #1 song “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.” The crowd were really digging it!
The song was launched during a time when the neocountry genre – a type of pop-country mix made popular by the John Travolta movie, Urban Cowboy – was becoming more and more popular. “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” was composed by Kyle Fleming and Dennis Morgan and performed by Mandrell in April 1981 as the lead track from her album Barbara Mandrell Live.
One of the things that set Mandrell apart was that she performed country music like it was an important part of a very long history, rather than some kind of novelty or craze. With lines such as, “I still act and look the same/What you see ain’t nothing new/I was country when country wasn’t cool,” you can definitely see that she was very serious about all of this!
During her performance, she looked at the crowd and asked, “Are you out there George?” Even though George Jones was featured in the song, he had not been acknowledged in the record charts.
In answer, Jones begins singing from within the crowd, and finally – after a little convincing from Mandrell – they meet in the front row to perform the song together.
Check out their 1981 performance below!