Reba Nell McEntire was born on March 28th, 1955. She was the third child of Clark and Jacqueline McEntire. All four of their children were named after one of their grandparents; Reba got her name from maternal grandmother Reba Estelle Brassfield. The family lived on a cattle ranch in Chockie, Oklahoma. Clark McEntire was a professional steel racer, whilst Jacqueline McEntire was a former English teacher. Jacqueline had aspired (but never pursued) to have a musical career, so taught and encouraged all four of her children to sing. As a result of this, the three youngest, Pake (born Del Stanley), Reba, and Susie (born Martha Susan) all have careers in the music industry. Growing up Reba would assist her family on the cattle ranch. By the age of five she would assist her father by driving his truck whilst he would kick the hay off the truck’s bed to feed the cattle in the winter. It was from these experiences that Reba learned about hard work; something she has kept with her and used in her career. The whole family would travel with Clark when he would compete at rodeos; Jacqueline using this time as a way to have her children practice singing and harmonising to pass the time when travelling. Clark McEntire was named World Champion Steer Roper three times, in 1957, 1958, and 1961. His father had also won this title in 1934.
At school Reba started performing from a young age. Her debut performance was in the first grade, where she sang a solo of Away in a Manger as a part of the school’s Christmas play. In the third grade she was asked to sing at the Kiowa High School graduation. During high school Pake, Reba, and Susie were all members of a country group: the Kiowa High School Cowboy Band. In 1971, the band recorded a single, The Ballad of John McEntire, for the Tiny Boss Records label, which pressed 1,000 copies. The song had been written by family friend Clark Rhyne. This was Reba’s first official recording, and she was only 12 years old. In the early 70s Pake, Reba, and Susie formed a trio; The Singing McEntires. They performed at rodeos. Reba graduated from high school in June 1973 and enrolled at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. At University Reba was a member of a campus singing and dancing group called the Chorvettes. As well as attending university, Reba would also compete in barrel racing (which was the only event open for women); continuing the family tradition of competing at rodeos.
On December 10th, 1974, Reba sang the national anthem (which was broadcast on national television) at the National Rodeo Finals in Oklahoma City. Country star, Red Steagall, was at the rodeo, and impressed by her voice asked her to go to Nashville to record some demos for his song publishing company. During her spring break, in March 1975, she recorded some demos for Red, and he took the tapes around trying to get her a record deal. Mercury Records signed her to a contract on November 11th, 1975. From this contract Reba would release two singles; the first, I Don’t Want to Be a One Night Stand was cut on January 22nd, 1976; and the second (There’s Nothing Like the Love) Between a Woman and a Man, was cut on September 16, 1976. Neither song charted well; the first peaking at 88 and the second peaking at 86 on the Billboard Country Singles Chart. During this time Reba married her first husband, Charlie Battles, a champion steer wrestler, on June 21st, 1975; he later become her business manager. She also graduated from college on an accelerated three and a half year program with a major in elementary education and a minor in music.
She eventually had her first two number one hits in 1983 with Can’t Even Get the Blues and You’re the First Time I’ve Thought About Leaving. Despite her success Reba was unhappy working with Mercury Records. She did not like the songs that they were giving her to sing, feeling like they were pushing her in a pop-country direction, and also criticised their promotion efforts. Taking action Reba sought out of her contract, and after cutting one final LP (which was her sixth album so far in her career) she was released from them in the September of 1983. She then went on to sign with MCA Records; her new contract taking effect on October 1st, 1983. Sadly her first album with MCA showed that not much had changed, and she still felt like she was not singing the style of music that she wanted to sing. Again Reba took action, and approached the president of the country division of MCA Records (Jimmy Bowen) with her complaints and wishes. Jimmy Bowen allowed her to show him what her type of country was, and from then on she was able to pick her own songs. Her second album with MCA Records was appropriately titled My Kind of Country, and produced two number one hits: How Blue and Somebody Should Leave. Yet even before the release of that album and the lead single How Blue, Reba was surprisingly named Female Vocalist of the Year by the Country Music Association on October 8th, 1984. This was her first of seven CMA Awards, and her third of forty-two nominations (as of April 2012). Reba then went on to win Female Vocalist of the Year in 1985, 1986, and 1987; to date she has won the award the most times and also had the most consecutive wins for the award (four). Reba also won Entertainer of the Year (the highest honour of the awards) in 1986. After the success of My Kind of Country Reba was able to headline her own concerts.
On January 14th, 1986, Reba became a member of The Grand Ole Opry. To be selected to be a part of this is an honour for all country artists as for them it means that they have been identified as a member of the elite of country music. Twenty-five years later Reba was honoured again with being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame; of which she is one of one hundred and eighteen inductees so far, and one of only sixteen women. She also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; her ceremony was held on September 18th, 1998.
When choosing her music, Reba did not just wish to perform more traditional country songs, but also searched for material which she felt that people would respond to; in particular, women. Like Lorretta Lynn (who is known as ‘The First Lady of Country Music’), had spoken for the pre-feminist women in the 1960s, Reba begun addressing the emotional and empowering women of the 1980s with her songs. If she finds a song which touches her she hopes that it will touch her listeners. One sign she uses when searching for new songs is when the hairs on her arms stand up when she hears a demo. If that happens then she knows it will be a good song.
Whilst the 1980s were the beginning of the most successful years in country music, her personal life was not going just as good. On June 25, 1987, she filed for divorce from Charlie Battles, her husband of 11 years. It seemed that the more successful she became, the more Charlie and her were having problems; the only times they spoke, if they were speaking at all, was to argue. He wanted her to slow down and stay at home; she wanted to continue with her career. During the long process of the divorce proceedings she was able to find support in one of her band members, Narvel Blackstock, who was also going through a divorce at the time. This friendship helped them both through their divorces, and would eventually turn into a romance.
Reba and Narvel were married on June 3rd, 1989. Narvel had three children from his previous marriage, and the couple had their first and only child on February 23rd, 1990: Shelby Steven McEntire Blackstock. Together Narvel and Reba founded Starstruck Management in 1988. It was originally designed to handle management, booking, publishing, and other aspects of her career, but later opened up to represent other artists such as Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson. Narvel also had become, and still is, Reba’s manager.
Tragedy struck on March 16th, 1990; the charter jet plane carrying eight of her band members crashed, killing them, as well as the two pilots on board. At this time a spokeswoman for Reba said that Reba “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.” The loss had devastated Reba, but having both Narvel and Shelby helped her through it. Her sixteenth album For My Broken Heart was released in the October of 1990 and was dedicated to the band members she had lost. If you listen to the lead single from that album, also titled For My Broken Heart, you can hear the pain in the lyrics. The crash still affects her, and reflecting on it after 10 years she said that it changed her life, “It made me realize so firmly that this second could be your last.”
By 1994 Reba was continuing to reign as country’s most successful female singer. Her eighteenth studio album, Read My Mind, had five country chart singles, including The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter which went to number one and, the controversial She Thinks His Name Was John a song about a woman who contracts AIDS from a one-night stand. Over the next six years she continued releasing albums, doing so almost yearly. However by 2000 it seemed Reba had moved on from her music career. She had previously had small roles in a four movies, guest starred in four television shows, and been in six television films; but she now branched into theatre playing Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun. In this role she won two awards; a Drama Desk Special Award and a Theatre World Award. In October 2001 Reba began starring in a half-hour situation comedy; Reba. The show ran for six seasons (October 5th, 2001-February 18th, 2007). The show became the primary focus of Reba’s activities, and she moved to Los Angeles because of it. This was not the end of her country music career though, as even during the run of her television show she released two albums; Room to Breathe and Reba #1’s. Then, in 2007, the same year that the show ended, she released her twenty-fourth album, Reba: Duets, which featured duets with LeAnn Rimes, Ronnie Dunn, Kelly Clarkson, Rascal Flatts, Trisha Yearwood, Carole King, Kenny Chesney, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Justin Timberlake, and Don Henley. It is clear from just the list of artists that she sung with on this album that she was no longer singing in a traditional country style, but had returned to her country-pop style.
After the success of the lead single from Reba: Duets; her duet with Kelly Clarkson Because of You, Reba went on to co-headline a tour with the pop artist; 2 Worlds 2 Voices. The pair had 39 shows during the course of the two leg tour; starting on January 17th, 2008 and finishing on November 22nd, 2008. This seemed like an odd pairing to some at first, but turned into quite a successful tour which had positive reviews throughout its run.
Since 2004, Reba has been partnered with retail chain Dillard’s and been producing a Reba branded line of clothing. Over the years it has expanded from just clothing; you can now buy clothes, shoes, luggage, bedding, linen, furniture, and dishes. However, Reba was clueless about the fashion industry for many years. In an interview with Billboard she said, “All my life I’d worn hand-me-downs. When I was in Annie Get Your Gun in 2001, I went to one of those fashion shows and a reporter [asked me], ‘Who’s your favorite designer?’ I said, ‘Levi?’ Now I can spout off the designers. I know who’s hot and who’s had trouble and who’s had a comeback and how they turned their business around and why.”
Over the years her charity work has included work for Habitat for Humanity (brings people together to build homes, communities and hope); First Book (provides disadvantaged kids with new books); the Reba Ranch House (for families with critically ill patients); the Reba McEntire Center for Rehabilitation (for patients dealing with recovery from a debilitating illness or injury); and the TMC Reba Mobile Unit (which offers mammography screenings). She has also written two books: her memoir Reba: My Story in 1994, and her self-help book Comfort From a Country Quilt: Find New Inspiration and Strength from Old-Fashioned Values in 2000.
In 2008, Brooks & Dunn partnered with Reba for a re-recorded version of their single Cowgirls Don’t Cry. This song became Reba’s fifty-sixth Top Ten country hit, breaking Dolly Parton’s record for the most Top Ten country hits for a solo female. In the November of 2008, Reba announced that she was departing from her label (MCA) and signing with the Valory Music Group. With Valory, Reba has released her thirty-third and thirty-fourth studio albums, Keep on Loving You on August 18th, 2009 and All The Women I Am on November 9th, 2010. Whilst discussing the latter Reba has mentioned how the songs on the album relate to different aspects of her life, and the many roles she has played. When asked for a ranking, Reba responded that she is a “mother first, wife second, and the rest just follow.” From both of these two albums Reba has had two #1 singles: Consider Me Gone and Turn on the Radio. This highlights that even after her departure from the charts and music industry, Reba is still able to put out songs which can compete with the current top artists of country music.
Reba is often regarded as one of the most influential female vocalists as well as one of the most beloved entertainers of country music. She was one of country’s most popular female artists for over three decades, her success can be credited to the way she incorporates contemporary musical sounds without changing her more traditional vocal style. She has been credited as the inspiration to their careers of many artists, including, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, LeAnn Rimes, Sara Evans, Kelly Clarkson, Lee Ann Womack, Terri Clark, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood. In 2009 The Net Music Countdown second handedly reported: “that influence has manifested itself in many ways. As a role model, she’s shown others how to handle fame with grace and good humor while never backing down from her values or goals. Just as importantly, she’s shown others to refuse to accept limitations on what she can do or how much she can achieve.” Reba also informed that website that “whatever I’m doing, I feel like I’m representing country music. It’s always been my main career, and it’s where my loyalties lie. I feel like I’m waving the flag of country music wherever I go, and I couldn’t be prouder to do it.”
As of 2012 Reba is currently in negotiations with ABC to produce a second television series, Malibu Country. It is clear that Reba is in no way going to be slowing down or stopping her career any time soon.