Reba Nell McEntire was
born on March 28, 1955 to Jacqueline and Clark McEntire in the town of
McAlester, Oklahoma. She was the third
of four children, born into a family of steer ropers on their 8,000-acre ranch
in Chockie, Oklahoma. She would follow
in her father and grandfather’s footsteps in the rodeo by becoming a barrel
racer from the age of 11-years old until she was 21. Her mother was a schoolteacher and secretary
for the Kiowa school district, who dreamed of becoming a professional country music
singer. She encouraged all the children
to sing and taught them to harmonize in long car trips while traveling to the
rodeos. Reba, her older brother Pake,
and younger sister Susie joined their own small town band called the Kiowa High
School Cowboy Band while in high school.
Eventually, the three broke off onto their own and formed their own
group called The Singing McEntires and recorded a single “The Ballad of John McEntire”,
for Boss records in 1971 (Bufwack, 323).
Reba played the guitar and wrote all the music for the band. The Singing McEntires continued to sing and
perform at rodeos, clubs, and dance halls throughout their high school years. This was the start of Reba’s career in the country
music world with a long, rough road ahead of her.
Reba’s success continued on after graduating high school
and attending Southeastern Oklahoma State University, graduating in December
1976 with a degree in elementary education and a minor in music. While not attending school, she continued to
play and perform her songs locally. She
was hired to sing the national anthem at the National Rodeo Finals in Oklahoma
City on December 10, 1974. Her performance
caught the attention of country music artist Red Steagall, who invited her to
Nashville to record demos for his music publishing company (Carlin, 260). Reba spent
Spring Break of March 1975 in Nashville recording demos that would later secure
her a record deal. Steagall was so
impressed with her vocal ability that he shopped her demo tapes around
Nashville and eventually landed her a recording contract with Mercury Records
in 1975. Reba released her first debut
single “I Don’t Want to Be a One Night Stand” in January of 1976, it failed to
become a major hit peaking at No. 88 on the Billboard country music chart. The next few releases didn’t fare as well
either, and her self-titled debut album did not chart at all. Despite the lack of initial chart success,
Reba worked to steadily build her career.
She finally made the charts in in 1979 with the singles “Three Sheets in
the Wind’ and the cover of Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams” peaking at No. 20 and
No. 19 respectively on the Billboards Top 20 hits. In 1980, Reba’s “You Lift Me Up (To Heaven)”
single brought her to the Top 10 when the song peaked at No. 8. In September 1981, Reba’s fourth album “Heart
to Heart” was released and was her first album to chart on the Billboards Top
Country Albums list, peaking at No. 2 (Stambler, 305).
In 1983, McEntire decided to leave Mercury records in hopes
to have more control over her song selection and album production. She signed a deal with MCA Records and was electrified
when she was finally allowed to create an album the way she wanted to. In 1984, she released “My Kind of Country”
which contained “How Blue” and “Somebody Should Leave”, both which soared to No.
1 hits on the charts. Her hard work,
success, and dedication was ultimately rewarded in 1984 when she won the CMA Female
Vocalist of the Year Award, an honor she would earn unprecedented four years in
a row (Dicaire, 18). In 1986, she brought further admirations when
she joined the Grand Ole Opry in January and was crowned as the CMA Entertainer
of the Year in October. McEntire’s album
“Whoever’s in New England” became her first to become certified Fold by the
RIAA in 1986, and her “Greatest Hits” album became her fist Platinum-certified
album. She continued to dominate the
charts and was by this time considered a country music superstar.
By 1988, her success led McEntire and her manager at the
time, Narvel Blackstock, to establish Starstruck Entertainment to handle her
bookings, publicity, publishing, and more.
The company would expand to include other artists as well. She would eventually marry Blackstock and the
couple would expand their brand to include the production and creation of successful
clothing, footwear, luggage, and other home collection lines that were sold
nationwide in Dillard’s department stores.
Everything seemed to be going well for McEntire until
tragedy struck. On March 16, 1991, the
plane carrying her manager and band crashed on it’s way back to Nashville from her
latest concerts on the West Coast. The
crash killed her tour manager and seven band members. She let her sorrow reflect on the album “For My
Broken Heart” which was released later that year. Her co-producer kept bringing her upbeat
songs to sing, and McEntire kept telling him that she needed to sing songs that
dealt with misery and heartbreak. The
songs were a type of release for McEntire that allowed her to deal with the
tragedy and get back to music, which she claimed her late band members would
have wanted (Stampler, 304). The album
became another platinum release.
was never far from the music, but tried her hand in the acting business and
explored her options in Hollywood. She
stared in the horror film “Tremors” alongside Hollywood stars Kevin Bacon and
Michael Gross, but it wasn’t until 2001 that McEntire triumphed in her acting career
when she appeared as Annie Oakley in the Broadway play “Annie Get Your Gun”
replacing revivals Bernadette Peters and Susan Lucci. Not only bringing a new life to the production,
she also landed herself a Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award to
add to her collection (Dicaire, 20). In
the summer of 2001, McEntire moved to Los Angeles to begin a successful
television sitcom “Reba” for the WB Network.
After airing for 6 seasons, it signed off in February 2007 from the now
CW Network, but re-runs continued to play on Lifetime, ABC Family, and CMT though
2014 showing the shows popularity.
McEntire left her longtime home of twenty-five
years with MCA and signed with Valory Music Label in 2008 after releasing her
three-disc Greatest Hits album. Under MCA,
she had sold a total of dixy -seven million records and won two Grammy’s. Her success continued under her new label
when her first album “Keep on Loving You” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top
200 album chart. Her album “All the Women
I Am” hit stores in 2010 and gained popularity with a number of hit singles and
received great reviews from music critics.
In 2011, the Country Music Association announced that McEntire would be
inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and was inducted by Dolly Parton
in May of that same year (Bufwack, 323).
In 2014 she announced that she would be working on a new album that
would end up being her twenty-seventh studio album and released in April of
2015. She went on to create her first
Gospel album titled “Sing It Now: Songs of Faith and Hope” and was released it in
Reba McEntire was one
of the most successful female recording artists in history. She has sold over 56 million albums worldwide
and has won 15 American Music Awards, 13 AMC Awards, 9 People’s Choice Awards,
7 CMA Awards, and 2 GRAMMY Awards. Above
all, she is one of only 4 entertainers in history to receive the National Artistic
Achievement Award from the United States Congress (www.reba.com)