On This Day: Reba McEntire Releases First No. 1 Single in 1983

by Jennifer Shea

Country star Reba McEntire has been singing hit songs for years now. In fact, it was in 1983, 38 years ago today, that she got her first No. 1 hit.

Reba McEntire Lands Her First No. 1 Hit

The song was “Can’t Even Get the Blues,” The Boot reports. It was the singer’s 14th single from her fifth studio album, Unlimited.

“Can’t Even Get the Blues” was among the first uptempo songs that McEntire released. Tom Damphier and Rick Carnes wrote it, and the song was supposed to go to another artist on McEntire’s label, Mercury Records, named Jacky Ward. But McEntire fought to record the song and to include it on her record. 

McEntire’s producer, Jerry Kennedy, battled McEntire over the song. He argued that her voice was a better fit for ballads. But finally, he gave in, and “Can’t Even Get the Blues” became the last song recorded for McEntire’s album.

After “Can’t Even Get the Blues,” McEntire released another ballad, titled “You’re the First Time I’ve Thought About Leaving.” That song also became a No. 1 hit.

Two No. 1 hits in a row really turbocharged McEntire’s career. The following year, she won the CMA Award for Female Vocalist of the Year and the ACM Award for Top Female Vocalist.

As if to underline that she had been right about the song, McEntire put “Can’t Even Get the Blues” on multiple compilation albums in the ensuing years.

A Long, Successful Career

Over her career, McEntire has had more than 33 No. 1 hits. But that first No. 1 song will always hold a special place for her.

McEntire told Billboard that her first hit was a long time coming. Her first song on the country chart was in 1976, and it only rose to No. 88.

“I didn’t do very well on my very first one,” McEntire said. “If I had started my career today and it went like it did in ’76, I would be home washing dishes, singing in the shower.”

It was a long slog to get from there to her first hit song. But McEntire stuck it out, and her persistence paid off in the end.

“I had a long period of time before my first, after my first single to my No. 1 record,” she added. “Took a long time, but boy it was worth it!”  

And in the years since, she’s gone on to win a slew of Grammys and CMA Awards. She’s even hosted many CMA Awards shows, with and without co-hosts. By now, McEntire is a true country hitmaker, and it all started with one little song back in 1983.