updated 12/28/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/28/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST
More important, perhaps, for the future of Nashville, Mandrell's embodiment of confectionary rural kitsch has conquered country's last media frontier. Her NBC-TV series, Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrel! Sisters Show, co-starring siblings Louise, 27, and Irlene, 25, is in its second surprising season. Since Tennessee Ernie Ford and his pea-pickers left NBC in 1961, only the now syndicated Hee-Haw among country music shows has survived network trial by prime time that long. The secret is Mandrell's girlish sex appeal, pleasant way with a tune, versatility on four instruments and refreshing sense of humor about it all. She began working professionally at age 11, then during her teens played pedal steel guitar with manager-father Irby and mother Mary in the family band. All those years of work have paid off for Barbara, not to mention her ex-drummer husband of 14 years, Ken Dudney, 40, and their two young'uns, Matthew, 11, and Jaime, 5. They've got two Rolls-Royces, a 45-foot yacht, a string of real estate investments, a tour bus more lavishly furnished than many homes, a mansion near Nashville and a rented pied-à-terre in Beverly Hills. None of it came easy, and now that younger performers come to her motorized stateroom for advice, Barbara knows whom—and what—to thank. "As long as I've got my blow dryer and my makeup and electricity to run it all," she says, "I'm in good shape."