The Reba Story

Posted on 2018-02-01.

On March 28, 1955, Reba Nell McEntire was born in McAlester, Okla., to Clark Vincent and Jacqueline Smith McEntire. The third of four children, she was raised on her family’s 8,000-acre family ranch in Chockie, Oklahoma, and travelled frequently to watch her father compete at rodeos. Her father was the World Champion Steer Roper in 1957, 1958, and 1961, an honor her grandfather John McEntire also won in 1934. She would later follow in the family tradition by participating in barrel racing competitions from the time she was 11-years old until she was 21. Her mother, a former schoolteacher and secretary to the superintendent of Kiowa High School, had once harbored dreams of being a Country Music singer. Instead, she had four children and taught them how to sing and harmonize on the long car trips.

While in high school, Reba joined her older brother Pake (who later had his own Country Music career) and younger sister Susie (who would grow up to become a Gospel singer) as members of the Kiowa High School Cowboy Band, and recorded a single, “The Ballad of John McEntire,” for Boss Records in 1971. Her older sister Alice, runner up to the IFR Barrel Racing Championship that same year, never sought a musical career, but was always a strong supporter of her family. Soon after, the three musical siblings formed their own group, The Singing McEntires, and performed frequently at rodeos, clubs, and dance halls. After high school ended, Reba went to college at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, later graduating in 1976 with a major in elementary education and a minor in music.

Reba sang the National Anthem at the National Rodeo Finals in Oklahoma City on Dec. 10, 1974. Her performance so impressed Red Steagall, who was also performing at the event, that he invited her to Nashville to record demos for his music publishing company. After recording Reba during her spring break in March 1975, Steagall shopped her tapes around Nashville and secured her deal with Polygram Mercury Records in November.

Although her first recordings were not that successful, Reba worked steadily to build her career. The first single, “I Don’t Want to Be a One Night Stand,” peaked at No. 88 in 1976, followed in 1977 by “(There’s Nothing Like the Love) Between a Woman and a Man” at No. 86, and “Glad I Waited Just For You,” at No. 88, and her self-titled debut album, which did not chart at all. Despite the lack of initial chart success, she was invited to debut on the Grand Ole Opry on Sept. 17, 1977, which happened to be 30 years to the day when her father won the All Around at the Pendleton, Org. rodeo. Although her next two albums still would not chart, Reba began building momentum when she cracked the Top 20 with songs such as “Three Sheets in the Wind” (with Jacky Ward) and her cover of Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams.” She achieved her first Top 10 hit when “(You Lift Me) Up to Heaven” reached No. 8 in 1980, and she followed it with the Top 5 “Today All Over Again.” Showing career growth, her fourth album, Heart to Heart, became her first charting album, peaking at No. 42 on the Billboard Country Albums Chart. Her fifth album, Unlimited, eventually rose to No. 22 on the charts and featured her No. 3 hit “I’m Not That Lonely Yet,” as well as her first two No. 1 hits: “Can’t Even Get the Blues” and “You’re The First Time I’ve Thought About Leaving.”

Reba moved to MCA Records in 1983, and released the album Just A Little Love one year later, featuring the Top Five title cut. She wanted more control over her song selection and album production, and was thrilled when label president Jimmy Bowen allowed her to make the album she wanted to make (she and Bowen would later co-produce several successful albums together). She released My Kind of Country in 1984 and hit No. 1 with its first single, “How Blue.” The album, which featured both new material and covers of songs originally recorded by Ray Price, Carl Smith, Connie Smith, and Faron Young, helped propel Reba to the forefront of the “New Traditionalists” alongside artists such as Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, and Randy Travis. The album also featured her No. 1 hit “Somebody Should Leave.” Her success was rewarded in 1984, when she won the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year Award for the first time. She would go on to win this Award for four consecutive years (1984-1987), and currently is tied with Martina McBride for the most wins in this category. The year 1986 brought further honors, as she joined the Grand Ole Opry in January, and was named CMA Entertainer of the Year in October, an Award that recognized her remarkable showmanship in concert.

By this time, Reba was a bonafide Country Music superstar. Her 1986 album Whoever’s in New England was her first to be certified Gold by the RIAA, and both the title cut and “Little Rock” became No. 1 hits. One year later, her Greatest Hits album became her first Platinum-certified album (continuing to sell more than four million copies through the years). She continued to rule the charts with hit songs including “The Last One to Know” and “Love Will Find Its Way to You.” But her album Reba, which contained the hits “Sunday Kind of Love,” “I Know How He Feels,” and “New Fool at an Old Game,” signaled a change towards a more pop-oriented style. Reba continued in this direction, scoring hits with songs such as “Cathy’s Clown” and “Walk On.”

Proving her business acumen, Reba and her manager Narvel Blackstock created Starstruck Entertainment in 1988 to handle her management, booking, publicity, publishing, and more. The company went on to work with other artists as well, including Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton. One year later, she married Blackstock, who had been part of her organization since 1980 when he joined as the steel player for her band. In 1990, she gave birth to their son Shelby Steven McEntire Blackstock. She would later share stories from her life and marriage in her 1994 autobiography Reba: My Story and her 1999 book Comfort from a Country Quilt. Years later, the couple would expand her brand and oversee the creation and development of successful clothing, footwear, luggage, and home collection lines that are sold nationwide in Dillard’s.

After getting a taste of acting from her music videos, Reba began exploring her options in Hollywood. She first appeared alongside Kevin Bacon and Michael Gross in the comic, horror film “Tremors,” in 1990. Over the years, she would continue with roles in movies such as “North” (1994), “The Little Rascals” (1994), and “One Night at McCool’s” (2001). She also appeared in a string of television movies, including: “The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw” with Kenny Rogers in 1991; “The Man From Left Field” with Burt Reynolds in 1993; “Is There Life Out There?” in 1994 (based on her hit song and music video); “Buffalo Girls” in 1995 (where she first played Annie Oakley); “Forever Love” in 1998 (also based on her hit song); and “Secret of Giving” in 1999. Her distinctive voice was heard as the goddess Artemis in the animated television series “Hercules” (1998); Betsy the Cow in the movie “Charlotte’s Web” (2006); and Dixie the dog in animated movie “The Fox and the Hound 2” (2006).

But she was never far away from the music, continuing to chart huge hits with “You Lie,” “Rumor Has It,” “Fancy,” “Is There Life Out There,” “The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia,” “Take It Back,” “The Heart Won’t Lie” (a duet with Vince Gill), “Does He Love You” (a duet with Linda Davis, which won the 1994 CMA Vocal Event of the Year Award as well a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals), “Why Haven’t I Heard From You,” “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” “She Thinks His Name Was John,” “On My Own” (with Davis, Martina McBride, and Trisha Yearwood), “The Fear of Being Alone,” “I’d Rather Ride Around With You,” “How Was I to Know,” “Forever Love,” “If You See Him/If You See Her” (with Brooks and Dunn), and more. She also reached No. 2 on the Billboard Dance Singles chart with her remake of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”

In 2001, Reba triumphed when she took over the role of Annie Oakley in the Broadway play “Annie Get Your Gun,” previously played in this revival by Bernadette Peters, Susan Lucci, and Cheryl Ladd. Reba brought new life to the production, and with it came rave reviews, sold out performances, a Drama Desk Award, and an Outer Critics Circle Award.

After performing on Broadway from February through June, Reba moved to Los Angeles to begin her successful television sitcom “Reba” for the WB Network (later renamed the CW Network). The show debuted in October and remained in production for six seasons, signing off in February 2007. The series grew even stronger and gained a larger audience through syndication re-runs on the Lifetime Network, and will continue to play for a second round of syndication on ABC Family and CMT through 2014.

While starring in and producing the television series, Reba continued to succeed in music with hit songs such as “I’m a Survivor” (the sitcom’s theme song), “I’m Gonna Take That Mountain,” “He Gets That From Me,” “My Sister,” and the No. 1 hit “Somebody.” In 2005, she participated in a special concert performance of “South Pacific” with Alec Baldwin and Brian Stokes Mitchell at Carnegie Hall that was filmed to air on “Great Performances” on PBS the following year.

In 2007, she released Reba Duets, an album that paired her with artists including Kenny Chesney (on “Every Other Weekend”), and Kelly Clarkson (on “Because of You”), as well as Ronnie Dunn, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Don Henley, Carole King, Rascal Flatts, LeAnn Rimes, Justin Timberlake, and Trisha Yearwood. This became her first album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart.

After releasing a three-disc 50 Greatest Hits album in 2008, Reba left her longtime home at MCA and moved to the Valory Music Label, reuniting her with label president Scott Borchetta. Her first album for her new label, Keep on Loving You, became her second album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart when it was released in 2009. The album’s first single “Strange” debuted at No. 39 on the Billboard Country Singles chart, the highest single chart debut and the fastest rising single of her career. In addition to the title cut, the album also featured “Consider Me Gone,” which topped the Billboard Country Singles chart for four consecutive weeks and became her longest-running No. 1 song ever. Her current album, All the Women I Am, hit stores in 2010, and features the hit singles “Turn on the Radio,” which became the first No. 1 hit from the new CD, and Reba’s remake of Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy,” which she performed on “The 44th Annual CMA Awards” that year.

Reba’s life and career were recently featured in the REBA: ALL THE WOMEN I AM Exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN. The exhibit contained more than two dozen costumes, personal possessions, vintage photographs and career-spanning audio and video.

One of the most successful female recording artists in history, Reba has sold over 56 million albums worldwide and is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame. She has won 15 American Music Awards; 13 ACM Awards;9 People’s Choice Awards; 7 CMA Awards; 2 GRAMMY Awards; an ACM Career Achievement Honor; and is one of only four entertainers in history to receive the National Artistic Achievement Award from the U.S. Congress.

Reba’s reign of #1 hits spans four decades and Billboard, Country Aircheck and Mediabase recognized her as the biggest female hitmaker in Country music history. She earned her 64th Top 10 hit and her 35th #1 with “Turn On The Radio,” from her most recent album, ALL THE WOMEN I AM. Reba’s run of sales successes has garnered her in the upper echelon of #1 albums in the Country genre.

During her 2011 ALL THE WOMEN I AM TOUR, both Pollstar and Billboard’s Boxscore (the touring industry’s leading trade outlets) named Reba the #1 female Country touring artist, selling a combined total of over 9 million tickets in her career.