Reba Nell McEntire was born in Oklahoma to Jacqueline and Clark McEntire. Her mother was a school teacher, and her father was a steer roper. Her mother taught their children to sing. Two of her siblings and Reba made up a trio group called the “Singing McEntires”. They performed at rodeos in local Oklahoma, and actually recorded “The Ballad of John McEntire” together.
Reba attended Southeastern Oklahoma State University, and was studying to be an elementary school teacher. She continued to sing locally while attending college. After singing the National Anthem at an Oklahoma rodeo, country music artist Red Steagall was so impressed, he offered to help make her a country music artist in Nashville Tennessee. She made a demo tape for him, and it led to the signing of a recording contract with Mercury Records.
McEntire’s first recording was a single called “I Don’t Want to Be a One Night Stand”. It failed to be a major hit on the Billboard country music charts. After several more recording sessions, she failed to reach a top hit.
Reba’s “You Lift Me Up (To Heaven)” brought her to the Top 10 for the first time. Her third studio album, “Feel the Fire” spawned two Top 20 hit singles. Her fourth album, “Heart to Heart” became her first album to chart the Billboard Top Country Albums. The fifth album, “Unlimited” spawned her first Billboard Number One single. The number sixth album “Behind the Scene” was the last one released by Mercury. Reba left them announcing her departure was because they worked too much on country pop production styles.
McEntire’s seventh studio album “Just a Little Love” was released with MCA Nashville Records in 1984. She switched producers, when Harold Shedd wanted to do the arrangements in country pop form. Norro Wilson was the new producer. The album still had the country pop sound, and she went straight to the MCA president, Jimmy Bowen. He told McEntire to find the sound she wanted. Reba found some previously recorded country music hits from her own collection of other artists. This album was “My Kind of Country.” It became her highest peaking album on the Top Country Albums chart, reaching #13. The album was aimed towards a traditional country music sound. She won the Country Music Association Awards’ Female Vocalist of the Year, which was her first major award.
Reba released her third MCA album in 1985, called “Have I Got a Deal For You”. This album followed the same traditional format as “My Kind of Country”. This album received positive feedback. and as a result, she became a member of the Grand Ole Opry show in Nashville, Tennessee. “Whoever’s in New England” was the next album Reba did, and it won a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. This was also her first to certify gold in sales. It was later certified Platinum. At the end of the year, McEntire won Entertainer of the Year from the Country Music Association.
McEntire’s next album was “What Am I Gonna Do About You”. This album spawned another Number one with “One Promise Too Late” The following year, her first MCA compilation “Greatest Hits” was released and was her first album to be certified platinum in sales. It eventually certified triple-platinum. “The Last One to Know”, was released next. This album was filled with emotions of her divorce from her husband, Charlie Battles. Late in 1987, Reba released her first Christmas album, “Merry Christmas to You” which sold two million copies, certifying double platinum.
In 1988, Reba released her thirteenth album, “Reba”. This album was not received well by the critics. They thought she was moving away from the traditional sound. The album was reviewed poorly, but still produced two number one singles, and was certified platinum in sales.
In 1989, McEntire released her fourteenth studio album “Sweet Sixteen”. It stayed at the number one spot on Billboard Top Country Albums chart for thirteen weeks. This album brought good reviews, as it brought back the fiddles and steel guitars with a more traditional country music sound. Four No 1 hits were on “Sweet Sixteen”. Shortly after, she released her first live album, which eventually certified platinum.
Reba transitioned into 1990 with the release of “Rumor Has It.” By 1999, the album had sold three million copies.
McEntire lost eight members of her road band and two plane crewmen while on tour for her 1990 album. Their charter jet plane crashed in California. Her next album was dedicated to her deceased road band. “For My Broken Heart”, was released in 1991. Within nine months, “For My Broken Heart” sold two million copies. It eventually earned a quadruple-platinum certification.
Reba kept making albums, and kept receiving awards and honors for all her work in the country music industry. She soon started making country music videos. The videos being “mini movies” sparked an interest in her to be an actress. She first co-hosted “Good Morning America” on the ABC network.
After that, in 1990, she obtained her first film role in the horror comedy called “Tremors” with Kevin Bacon. Her next screen appearance was with Kenny Rogers and Burt Reynolds in the movie “The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw”. Her next film was “North”, she later starred in “Buffalo Girls”, which was based on the life of Calamity Jane. In 1998, she played in a fourth TV film called “Forever Love”, which was based on McEntire’s hit single of the same name.
McEntire expanded into theater in early 2001. The Broadway revival of “Annie Get Your Gun” was critically acclaimed by several newspapers. The New York Times commented, “Without qualification to the best performance by an actress in a musical comedy this season.”
Reba premiered her half-hour television sitcom “Reba” on WB network in 2001. It soon became the network’s highest rated television show for ages of 18 to 49. The show was nominated for a Golden Globe award. It was cancelled in February 2007.
For over two decades, Reba McEntire has maintained her success by incorporating contemporary sounds without changing her traditional vocal style. She has been credited as being the inspiration to many country music stars. Reba has proven that fame does not take away values or goals. She is one of the most influential female vocalists in the country music industry.