Reba McEntire is one of the biggest stars in country music. Reba’s career spans almost five decades and shows no sign of stopping any time soon. Over the years, she has landed two dozen singles at the top of the chart. She has also earned sixteen number-one albums. Reba has a slew of gold, platinum, and multiplatinum records. At the same time, she remains down-to-earth and has never forgotten her Oklahoma rodeo roots. For all of these reasons, she is the Queen of Country Music.
In honor of Reba McEntire’s 66th birthday, we’re going to look back at her career and highlight some of the most important moments.
Reba McEntire’s Early Days
It’s important to look at Reba McEntire’s early life when discussing her career. That is where everything started. She was born and raised in southern Oklahoma. Her father was a champion steer roper. So, Reba’s family traveled around the country to rodeo events. While on the road, the Reba, her siblings, and their mother would pass the time by singing.
When Reba was a freshman in high school, she and her siblings formed The Singing McEntires. The group performed at rodeos. They disbanded before long. However, Reba continued to perform solo. She knew, deep-down that she belonged on the stage. The time with her family singing group had solidified that for her.
However, Reba McEntire wasn’t putting all of her eggs in one basket. She enrolled at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. She was working toward being an elementary school teacher. At the same time, she would sing at local venues whenever she could.
It was at one of these solo performances that Reba McEntire got her big break. She was singing the national anthem at the 1974 National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, according to Biography. She didn’t know that country artist Red Steagall was in the audience. He was so impressed with her performance that he agreed to take her to Nashville to get her musical career off the ground. They recorded a demo tape together. in 1975, Reba signed to Mercury Records.
Reba’s Days at Mercury
Reba McEntire might be the Queen of Country Music today but it was a slow climb to the top. Reba didn’t see much success in her early days at Mercury. Her first three singles landed between number 88 and number 86 on the country chart. Her self-titled debut album hit shelves in 1877 and failed to chart. However, Reba wasn’t discouraged. She kept pushing forward.
Reba McEntire’s 1979 album, Out of a Dream saw a little more success. While the album itself did not chart, it did produce some minor hit singles. Reba’s cover of Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams,” placed her in the top-twenty for the first time.
In 1980, “You Lift Me Up (To Heaven)” put Reba McEntire in the top-ten for the first time. Her third album, Feel the Fire, dropped that year and produced two more minor hits. Her fourth album, 1981’s Heart to Hear was her first album to chart. It peaked just shy of the top-forty. However, the single “Today All Over Again,” landed Reba in the top-five for the first time. She was slowly and steadily clawing her way to success.
Reba McEntire’s First Number-One Single
Reba McEntire’s fifth studio album Unlimited dropped in 1982 and spawned two number-one singles. First, “Can’t Even Get the Blues,” went to the top of the chart. Then, “You’re the First Time I’ve Thought About Leaving,” hit number-one as well. Reba was finally on her way to stardom. however, she wasn’t quite there yet.
She released one more album on Mercury, Behind the Scene. Then, announced her departure from the label. Mercury was interested in producing pop-country. At the same time, Reba McEntire had no real control over her music. She wanted more control so, she moved to MCA Nashville.
Reba Takes Control
Moving to MCA Nashville allowed Reba McEntire to take control of her career. Once there, she was able to record the music that she had been wanting to make since arriving in Nashville. However, it didn’t come easy. Her first album at MCA Just a Little Love did better than the bulk of her Mercury releases. However, it was still a pop-country album. Reba wasn’t pleased with the sound of the record. So, she went to the president of MCA, Jimmy Bowen. When she explained her issue to him, Bowen told her to find material that suited what she wanted to create. Instead of finding new songs, Reba dove into her record collection. She pulled out a handful of songs to cut on her next album, My Kind of Country. This is the album that set Reba’s career on fire.
That album contained songs from country greats like Ray Price, Connie Smith, and Faron Young. However, it was the new songs “How Blue,” and “Somebody Should Leave,” that reached the top of the charts. The album itself reached number 13. Later that year, Reba McEntire won the CMA for Female Vocalist of the Year.
In 1986, Reba McEntire released Whoever’s in New England. This album combined Reba’s traditional country style with mainstream production. This was the album that shot the Oklahoma native to superstardom. It produced two number-one singles. The title track and “Little Rock,” both topped the chart. The album itself landed at number one as well. It was also her first gold record and later went platinum. Later that year, Reba was named Entertainer of the Year at the CMA Awards. The next year, Reba took home the Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
Another important milestone that came with Whoever’s In New England, was Reba McEntire’s first music video. She made a video for the title track of the hit album. Later on, she would come to be known for the short film style of her videos.
After years of hard work, Reba was finally seeing the success that she deserved. The success came from the control that she now had over her music.
From Oklahoma to Hollywood
Reba McEntire’s music videos are like miniature movies. They showcase not only her vocal prowess but also her acting skill. For instance, she turns in a strong emotional performance on both fronts in her video for the iconic track “Fancy.”
Apparently, these music videos were just enough to whet Reba McEntire’s appetite for acting. Her first big role came in 1990 when she acted alongside Kevin Bacon in Tremors. Since then, she has made appearances in several television shows as well as movies. She has also done voice acting for several animated films and series. Currently, she has two TV movies in production, according to IMDb.
The Queen of Country held court on the small screen weekly from 2001 until 2007. Her hit sitcom Reba put her acting chops and down-home charm front and center. The show landed her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy.
Reba McEntire also took over the role of Annie Oakley in the 2001 Broadway revival of Annie Get Your Gun.
Still Going Strong
Over the years, Reba McEntire has won dozens of awards. She is a member of both the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Her contribution to and influence on country music is undeniable. However, she doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. Her 33rd studio album Stronger than the Truth dropped in 2019. Recently, she appeared on Loretta Lynn’s album Still Woman Enough.
Maybe the most important thing to note about Reba’s career is that it only really took off when she took creative control over her music. When she stepped out from under the thumb of label execs and showed the world her true face, she shot to success. This authenticity is what made her the Queen of Country Music.