Reba Nell McEntire (born March 28, 1955) is an American country music singer, songwriter and actress. She began her career in the music industry as a high school student singing in the Kiowa High School band, on local radio shows with her siblings, and at rodeos. While a sophomore in college, she performed the National Anthem at the National Rodeo in Oklahoma City and caught the attention of country artist Red Steagall who brought her to Nashville, Tennessee. She signed a contract with Mercury Records a year later in 1975. She released her first solo album in 1977 and released five additional studio albums under the label until 1983.
Signing with MCA Nashville Records, McEntire took creative control over her second MCA album, My Kind of Country (1984), which had a more traditional country sound and produced two number one singles: “How Blue” and “Somebody Should Leave”. The album brought her breakthrough success, bringing her a series of successful albums and number one singles in the 1980s and 1990s. McEntire has since released 26 studio albums, acquired 40 number one singles, 14 number one albums, and 28 albums have been certified gold, platinum or multi-platinum in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America. She has sometimes been referred to as “The Queen of Country”. and she is one of the best-selling artists of all time, having sold more than 85 million records worldwide.
In the early 1990s, McEntire branched into film starting with 1990’s Tremors. She has since starred in the Broadway revival of Annie Get Your Gun and in her television sitcom, Reba (2001–07) for which she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series–Musical or Comedy.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Music career
- 2.1 1976–83: Career launch at Mercury
- 2.2 1984–90: Breakthrough
- 2.3 1991: Aviation accident and For My Broken Heart
- 2.4 1992–96: Continued success
- 2.5 1997–98: What If It’s You and “If You See Him”
- 2.6 1999–2001:So Good Together and Greatest Hits Vol. 3: I’m A Survivor
- 2.7 2003–07: Return to the music industry
- 2.8 2008–12: Move to Valory
- 2.9 2014–present: Nash Icon and Love Somebody
- 3 Grand Ole Opry
- 4 Acting career
- 4.1 1989–99: Entrance into film and television acting
- 4.2 2000–07: Broadway and television series
- 4.3 2011: Return to television
- 5 Musical styles and legacy
- 6 Personal life
- 7 Accolades
- 8 Discography
- 9 Filmography
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Bibliography
- 13 Further reading
- 14 External links
Reba Nell McEntire was born March 28, 1955, in McAlester, Oklahoma, to Jacqueline (née Smith; born November 7, 1926) and Clark Vincent McEntire (November 30, 1927 – October 23, 2014 ). She was named for her maternal grandmother Reba Estelle [Brassfield] Smith (October 6, 1903 – May 12, 1970). Reba Smith was the daughter of Byron Williams “B.W.” Brasfield (May 13, 1874 – September 12, 1906) and Susie Elizabeth [Raper] Brasfield (February 2, 1871 – April 18, 1935). Her father and grandfather, John Wesley McEntire (February 19, 1897 – February 13, 1976), were both champion steer ropers and her father was a World Champion Steer Roper three times (1957, 1958, and 1961). John McEntire was the son of Clark Stephen McEntire (September 10, 1855 – August 15, 1935) and Helen Florida [Brown] McEntire (May 19, 1868 – May 16, 1947). Her mother had once wanted to be a country-music artist but eventually decided to become a schoolteacher, but she did teach her children how to sing. Young Reba also taught herself how to play the guitar. On car rides home from their father’s rodeo shows, the McEntire siblings learned songs and harmonies from their mother, eventually forming a vocal group called the “Singing McEntires” with her brother, Pake, and her younger sister Susie (her older sister Alice did not participate). Reba played guitar in the group and wrote all the songs. The group sang at rodeos and recorded “The Ballad of John McEntire” together. Released on the indie label Boss, the song pressed one thousand copies. In 1974, McEntire attended Southeastern Oklahoma State University planning to be an elementary school teacher (eventually graduating December 16, 1976 ). While not attending school, she also continued to sing locally. That same year she was hired to perform the national anthem at the National Rodeo in Oklahoma City. Country artist Red Steagall, who was also performing that day, was impressed by her vocal ability and agreed to help her launch a country-music career in Nashville, Tennessee. After recording a demo tape, she signed a recording contract with Mercury Records in 1975.
1976–83: Career launch at Mercury
McEntire made her first recordings for Mercury on January 22, 1976, when she released her debut single. Upon its release that year, “I Don’t Want to Be a One Night Stand” failed to become a major hit on the Billboard country music chart, peaking at number 88 in May. She completed her second recording session September 16, which included the production of her second single, “(There’s Nothing Like The Love) Between a Woman and Man”, which only reached number 86 in March 1977. She recorded a third single that April, “Glad I Waited Just for You”, which reached number 88 by August. That same month, Mercury issued her self-titled debut album. The album was a departure from any of McEntire’s future releases, as it resembled the material of Tanya Tucker and Tammy Wynette, according to AllMusic reviewer Greg Adams. The album itself did not chart the Billboard Top Country Albums chart upon its release. After releasing two singles with Jacky Ward (“Three Sheets in the Wind” b/w “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight”; and “That Makes Two of Us” at No. 20 and No. 26, respectively ), Mercury issued her second studio album in 1979, Out of a Dream. The album’s cover of Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams” became McEntire’s first Top 20 hit, reaching No. 19 on the Billboard country chart in November 1979.
In 1980, “You Lift Me Up (To Heaven)” brought her to the Top 10 for the first time. Her third studio album, Feel the Fire was released in October and spawned two additional Top 20 hit singles that year. In September 1981, McEntire’s fourth album, Heart to Heart was issued and became her first album to chart the Billboard Top Country Albums list, peaking at No. 2. Its lead single, “Today All Over Again” became a top five country hit. The album received mainly negative reviews from critics. William Ruhlmann of AllMusic gave it two-and-a-half out of five stars, stating she did not get creative control of her music. Ruhlmann called “There Ain’t No Love” “essentially a soft pop ballad”. Most of the album’s material consisted of mainly country pop-styled ballads, which was not well liked by McEntire herself. Her fifth album, Unlimited was issued in June 1982, and spawned her first Billboard number one single in early 1983: “Can’t Even Get the Blues” and “You’re the First Time I’ve Thought About Leaving”. The following year her sixth album, Behind the Scene was released and was positively received by music critics. In 1983, McEntire announced her departure from Mercury, criticizing the label’s country pop production styles.
McEntire signed with MCA Nashville Records in 1984 and released her seventh studio album, Just a Little Love. Harold Shedd was originally the album’s producer; however, McEntire rejected his suggestions towards country pop arrangements. It was instead produced by Norro Wilson, although the album still had a distinguishable country pop sound. Dissatisfied with the album’s sound, she went to MCA president, Jimmy Bowen, who told McEntire to find material that was best-suited to her liking. Instead of finding new material, she found previously recorded country hits from her own record collection, which was then recorded for the album. The album’s material included songs originally released as singles by Ray Price (“Don’t You Believe Her”, “I Want to Hear It from You”), Carl Smith (“Before I Met You”), Faron Young (“He’s Only Everything”) and Connie Smith (“You’ve Got Me [Right Where You Want Me”]). The album spawned two number-one singles: “How Blue” and “Somebody Should Leave”. It was given positive reviews from critics, with Billboard praising McEntire as “the finest woman country singer since Kitty Wells” and Rolling Stone critics honoring her as one of their Top 5 favorite country artists. Upon its release, My Kind of Country became her highest-peaking album on the Top Country Albums chart, reaching No. 13. The album also included instruments such as a fiddle and pedal steel guitar, and was aimed more towards a traditional country sound. McEntire was later praised as a “new traditionalist”, along with Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, and Randy Travis. That year, she won the Country Music Association Awards’ Female Vocalist of the Year, her first major industry award. The album was certified Gold.
In 1985, McEntire released her third MCA album, Have I Got a Deal for You, which followed the same traditional format as My Kind of Country. It was the first album produced by McEntire and was co-produced with Jimmy Bowen. Like her previous release, the album received positive feedback, including Rolling Stone, which called it a “promising debut”. The album’s second single, “Only in My Mind” was entirely written by McEntire and reached No. 5 on the Billboard country chart. On January 17, 1986, McEntire became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, and has been a member ever since. In February 1986, McEntire’s ninth studio album, Whoever’s in New England was released. For this album, McEntire and co-producer Jimmy Bowen incorporated her traditional music style into a mainstream sound that was entirely different from anything she had previously recorded. Country Music: The Rough Guide called the production of the title track, “bigger and sentimentalism more obvious, even manipulative”. The title track peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Chart and won her a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance the following year. In addition, the album became McEntire’s first release to certify gold in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America (and was later certified Platinum). At the end of the year, McEntire won Entertainer of the Year from the Country Music Association, the highest honor in the awards show.
McEntire released a second album in 1986 (her tenth overall), What Am I Gonna Do About You. Allmusic critic William Ruhlmann was not overly pleased with album’s production, saying that it lacked the features that had been set forth on Whoever’s in New England. Rulhlmann criticized the title track for “something of the feel of ‘Whoever’s in New England’ in its portrayal of a woman trying to recover from a painfully ended love affair”. The title track was the lead single from the release and became a number-one single shortly after its release. This album also spawned a second number-one in “One Promise Too Late”. The following year, her first MCA compilation, Greatest Hits was released and became her first album to be certified platinum in sales, eventually certifying triple-platinum. A twelfth studio album, The Last One to Know, was released in 1987. The emotions of her divorce from husband, Charlie Battles, were put into the album’s material, according to McEntire. The title track from the release was a number-one single in 1987 and the second single, “Love Will Find Its Way to You”, also reached the top spot. In late 1987, McEntire released her first Christmas collection, Merry Christmas to You, which sold two million copies in the United States, certifying double Platinum. The album included cover versions of “Away in a Manger”, “Silent Night”, and Grandpa Jones’s “The Christmas Guest”.
Her thirteenth album, Reba, was issued in 1988 and was not well received by critics, who claimed she was moving farther away from her “traditional country” sound. Stereo Review disliked the album’s contemporary style, stating, “After years of insisting that she’d stick to hard-core country ‘because I have tried the contemporary-type songs, and it’s not Reba McEntire—it’s just not honest,’ McEntire[…]has gone whole-hog pop. The album peaked at No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart and remained there for six consecutive weeks. Okay, so maybe that’s not so terrible.” Although it was reviewed poorly, the album itself was certified platinum in sales and produced two number-one singles: “I Know How He Feels” and “New Fool at an Old Game”. In addition, the release’s cover version of Jo Stafford’s “A Sunday Kind of Love” became a Top 5 hit on the Billboard country music chart. Also in 1988, McEntire founded Starstruck Entertainment, which controlled her management, booking, publishing, promotion, publicity, accounting, ticket sales, and fan club administration. The company would eventually expand into managing a horse farm, jet charter service, trucking, construction, and book publishing.
McEntire’s fourteenth studio album, Sweet Sixteen, was released in May 1989; it spent sixteen weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, while also becoming her first album to peak in the top 100 on the Billboard 200, reaching No. 78. The album was given positive reviews because unlike her previous studio album, the release, “welcomes the fiddles and steel guitars back as she returns to the neo-traditionalist fold”, according to Allmusic, which gave the release four-and-a-half out of five stars. Reviewer William Ruhlmann found Sweet Sixteen to “double back to a formula that worked for her in the past”. The lead single was a cover of The Everly Brothers’ “Cathy’s Clown”, with McEntire’s version reaching No. 1 in July on the Billboard country music chart. Three more Top 10 hits followed from Sweet Sixteen: “Till Love Comes Again”, “Little Girl”, and “Walk On”, at No. 4, 7 and 2, respectively. In September she released Reba Live, her first live album, which originally certified gold but certified platinum ten years later.
Sixteen months after the release of Sweet Sixteen and after giving birth to her son, McEntire transitioned into 1990 with the release of Rumor Has It. The album’s “sound and production were almost entirely pop-oriented”, according to Kurt Wolff of Country Music: The Rough Guide. Although Rumor Has It was an attempt to receive critical praise, many reviewers found the album to be “predictable”. Stereo Review mainly found the recording displeasing in some places, but the reviewer also believed she “still leaves most of the competition in the dust”, calling the album “glorious”. Rumor Has It eventually sold three million copies by 1999, certifying triple-platinum by that year. It was prefaced by the single “You Lie”, which became her fifteenth number-one single on the country chart. In addition, the album’s cover of Bobbie Gentry’s 1969 hit “Fancy” and a new track, “Fallin’ Out of Love”, became Top 10 hits on the same Billboard country chart.
1991: Aviation accident and For My Broken Heart
While on tour for her 1990 album, McEntire lost eight members of her band; (Chris Austin, Kirk Cappello, Joey Cigainero, Paula Kaye Evans, Jim Hammon, Terry Jackson, Anthony Saputo, and Michael Thomas), plus pilot Donald Holmes and co-pilot Chris Hollinger, when their charter jet plane crashed near San Diego, California in the early morning of March 16, 1991. The accident occurred after McEntire’s private performance for IBM executives the night before. The first plane was a Hawker Siddeley DH-125-1A/522 charter jet, believed to have taken off around 1:45 AM from the Brown Field Municipal Airport, located near the border of Mexico. After reaching an altitude of about 3,572 feet (1,089 m) above sea level, the aircraft crashed on the side of Otay Mountain, located ten miles east of the airport, while the second plane (carrying her other band members) did not crash. The accident was believed to have occurred due to poor visibility near the mountain, which was not considered “prohibitive” for flying. The news was reported nearly immediately to McEntire and her husband, who were sleeping at a nearby hotel. A spokeswoman for McEntire at the time stated in the Los Angeles Times that “she was very close to all of them. Some of them had been with her for years. Reba is totally devastated by this. It’s like losing part of your family. Right now she just wants to get back to Nashville.”
McEntire dedicated her sixteenth album, For My Broken Heart, to her deceased road band. Released in October 1991, it contained songs of sorrow and lost love about “all measure of suffering,” according to Alanna Nash of Entertainment Weekly. Nash reported that McEntire “still hits her stride with the more traditional songs of emotional turmoil, above all combining a spectacular vocal performance with a terrific song on ‘Buying Her Roses,’ a wife’s head-spinning discovery of her husband’s other woman.” The release peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, while also reaching No. 13 on the Billboard 200, and eventually sold four million copies. Its title track became McEntire’s sixteenth number-one, followed by “Is There Life Out There”, which also reached No. 1 on the Billboard country music chart. The third single, “The Greatest Man I Never Knew,” peaked in the Top 5 and her cover of Vicki Lawrence’s “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” reached No. 12. “If I Had Only Known,” a cut from this album, was later included in the soundtrack to the 1994 film 8 Seconds.