December 29

A 1980 Hit by the Talented Barbara Mandrell, “Years”

A 1980 Hit by the Talented Barbara Mandrell, "Years" 1

About the song Writers

This 1980 hit by Barbara Mandrell was written by Kye Fleming & Dennis Morgan. Back in the early ‘80’, these two writers were the most prolific Nashville songwriters. They racked up to 20 Top Ten singles on the Billboard Country Chart from 1978 through 1983. Out of the 20, seven landed on the No.1 spot. The two started with fairly similar methods. Dennis Morgan grew up in Tracy, Minnesota, leaving high school in his junior year to pursue music. He played the coffeehouse circuit all over the country in the early ‘70s, finally settling in Nashville. After writing a few advertising jingles, he earned a contract in 1976 to write for Charley Pride’s Pi-Gem Music.

Thanks to the requirements of her father’s position in the Navy, Fleming grew up in numerous towns. Her family settled in Arkansas when she was 12 and she started writing songs in ninth grade.  Like Morgan, she played coffeehouses for much of the ’70. That ended when she met Elvis Presley’s bass player Jerry Scheff, who got her an appointment with Pi-Gem. In early 1978, she and Morgan wrote together for the first time.

Their Songs and the Story of “Years”

A lot of their songs were tailor-made because the songs were written to order. Tom Collins was producing Ronnie Milsap, Sylvia, Steve Wariner and Barbara Mandrell. When he needed material, he frequently gave the writers a title or a framework he hoped to explore. Fleming and Morgan wrote and rewrote, pushed and pulled at their songs until they had exactly what was needed for each particular artist. However, “Years” differed from their usual approach in that it came more from the heart rather than by a certain pattern or formula. Fleming considered it one of her favorite compositions.

When producer Collins and Barbara Mandrell appeared at Nashville’s Sound Emporium studio to record “Years,” Collins felt the session went well and he liked what he heard. Even so, he thought the song turned out too long to be considered for a single release. Not only that, he also thought that it would, therefore, be used only as an album filler for her upcoming LP “Just For The Record.” Randy Wright, who played drums in Mandrell’s band provided an “answer voice” on the chorus. Although Collins was unsatisfied and brought in a session singer, who did a more elaborate performance. When MCA’s deadline to turn in the album came due, he still hadn’t remixed “Years” with the new background vocalist. He wasn’t concerned though because he still considered the track unsuitable for release as a single, so Wright’s voice remained on it.

“Years” caught on quickly with radio listeners because many disc jockeys around the country were playing it from the “Just For The Record” album, which had shipped in August of ’79, so Barbara’s label decided to rush-release it as a single on December 7th. Two months later, “Years” reached the No. 1 plateau on February 23, 1980.


barbara mandrell, ronnie milsap, songwriters, Tom Collins, Years

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