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Born in Salinas, California, she grew up in Durant, Oklahoma as an only child on her father's cattle ranch. She learned music from her mother who taught her piano lessons while her father taught her to ride horses. She began to perform publicly at age six at rodeos and talent shows, in church, and on pickup beds on the back of trucks stumping for local political candidates. She also learned how to sing gospel music from her grandmother. While attending the University of Tulsa, majoring in piano performance, she took part in the Miss Oklahoma Pageant and won in talent and swimsuit competitions. She also attended the Juilliard School of Music in New York during the summer to further hone her talents as a piano player.
After graduating magna cum laude in 1969, she flew out to Los Angeles, California to become a pre-school music teacher, but decided to audition for Lawrence Welk since he and his band performed every Saturday night at the Hollywood Palladium. She got the maestro's attention in a tag dance, tapping him on the shoulder and asking if she can sing for him. She sang Cotton Fields in front of 3000 people at the Palladium. Welk asked her to appear on the opening broadcast the following September. She officially joined the Musical Family three shows into the 1969-70 season and over the course of the next twelve years, she sang solos, played piano, sang in duets with Dick Dale and in trios; first with Sandi Griffiths, and Mary Lou Metzger and later for "Gail, Ron & Michael" a mixed trio that featured her husband Ron Anderson and Michael Redman. In addition, she also developed as a songwriter, writing vocal arrangements for both trio groups. Her exposure on The Lawrence Welk Show opened doors in her career, making notable television appearances on Match Game, Dinah!, and The Mike Douglas Show.
The Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma[which?] christened Gail Farrell Drive in her honor in her hometown of Durant. The Welk show ended in 1982. Since then, Farrell has continued to pursue singing/songwriting, as her arrangements have been covered by artists such as Barbara Mandrell and featured on the soap opera Knots Landing. She sang with numerous recording artists and her vocals have appeared in numerous commercials and television/film soundtracks. Most recently, she appeared on several Welk-related television specials for PBS such as Milestones & Memories and Lawrence Welk, Precious Memories. She reunited with fellow Welk castmates Ava Barber, Ralna English and Mary Lou Metzger for the four-woman revue, Four Wunnerful Women. She also had a voice role in the animated Disney feature The Little Mermaid.