Reba McEntire’s ‘Can’t Even Get the Blues’: Story Behind the Country Icon’s First No. 1 Hit Song

by Clayton Edwards
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It’s hard to think of Reba McEntire as anything but a superstar today. She was a huge part of the 90s country sound. The only other female country artist who has more number-one hits than Reba is Dolly Parton. There is only a one-song difference between the two. In short, McEntire is an icon. That didn’t come easy for the rancher’s daughter from Oklahoma, though. In fact, she had to work hard and fight her way to the top.

Before topping the country songs chart with “Can’t Even Get the Blues,” Reba McEntire released thirteen singles. None of them managed to reach the top of the charts. She had a few that came close but never quite got there. Then, she released her first uptempo single. It went to the top of the charts and helped to launch Reba to a new level of success.

Even that song didn’t come easy. She had to fight to record it. According to The Boot, Mercury records wanted to give the song to Jacky Ward. Her producer, Jerry Kennedy, thought that Reba McEntire should stick to doing ballads. Her previous thirteen singles had been ballads. None of them reached number one. This included “Three Sheets to the Wind” which she recorded with Ward. She was persistent and, in the end, she was allowed to cut “Can’t Even Get the Blues” for her fifth studio album “Unlimited.”

Her persistence was rewarded. “Can’t Even Get the Blues” was her first single to hit number one on the country songs chart. This just goes to show that Reba McEntire knows how to pick great songs. When she has control over her music, she makes hits.

Reba McEntire Gets Creative Control

We can’t say that fighting for her first number-one single prompted Reba McEntire to leave Mercury. However, it probably factored into the decision. She only released one more album with the label before leaving for RCA Nashville. Once there, she was able to have more control over her music.

The folks at Mercury were interested in making pop-country. Reba McEntire wasn’t. She grew up on classic country. She has deep roots in the rodeo lifestyle and grew up on a ranch in Oklahoma. Reba wanted to make traditional country music. RCA Nashville gave her the chance to do just that.

While at RCA Nashville, Reba McEntire dropped some of her most iconic records. She served as the producer on most of them as well. Reba was always great but it wasn’t until she was given control of her career that she was able to truly shine. Be like Reba. Stick to your guns and don’t settle for less than you deserve.

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