From Rodeo Girl To Country Music Superstar: Oklahoma's Own Reba McEntire


Thursday, May 5th 2011, 4:54 pm
By: News On 6


Terry Hood, News On 6

NASHVILLE, Tennessee--  She has been a mainstay in the entertainment industry for more than three decades. But just this month, Oklahoma's own Reba McEntire is realizing a lifelong dream.

The year was 1974. The event was the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City. It was a night that would change the life of Reba McEntire and ultimately country music- forever.

Terry Hood, News On 6: "What do you think of when you see that?"
Reba McEntire: "Thank God I've improved since then!"

All modesty aside, Reba Nell McEntire was born for the spotlight.

"I gotta be on stage. I want the lights, I want the action. I'm a ham," she said.

But before the lights came the solid earth of Atoka County, Oklahoma. Reba grew up on a ranch in Chockie, a bump on the road between Kiowa and Stringtown.

Her daddy was on the rodeo circuit, a three-time world steer-roping champion, who's in the Cowboy Hall of Fame. He taught the kids the value of hard work; their mamma taught them to sing.

By the time Reba was in junior high school, the kids had formed their own band. By high school, the "singing McEntires" were a local sensation.

Then came 1974 and Oklahoma City. Country artist Red Steagall heard her voice and knew Reba was destined for something more. But it would be a long wait before that "something more" came to pass.

"I started so far down on the totem pole that any little baby step, and that's what they all were, was just yeah," Reba said.

Eight years after Reba signed with Mercury Records, she scored her first number one single with "Can't Even Get the Blues."

This spring at a party in Nashville, she celebrated number 35.

In between those two number one hits, Reba has influenced a whole generation of country music artists.

"She has been very gutsy and she has been groundbreaking," Michael McCall said.

McCall is a historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

"Her influence has been so broad," he said. "I don't think there's a female country singer who doesn't site Reba as one of her influences."

And it's no wonder. Reba is the number one best selling female country singer of all time. She's won a room full of awards, most recently being honored for winning female vocalist of the year seven times, a new record.

But Reba has also pushed the boundaries of being a country music star. She's been in movies, has her own clothing line, and along with her husband runs one of the biggest recording and broadcast studios in Nashville.

In 2001, she landed the leading role and rave reviews in the Broadway production of "Annie Get Your Gun."  Later that year she launched her own TV show, which ran for the next six seasons.

Now this amazing career is about to be capped by perhaps the biggest honor of all. Reba is one of three inductees this year in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Kix Brooks made the announcement from Nashville.

"This is where Reba should come walking out of that curtain right there," Brooks said at the time. "And this is the bittersweet part of the announcement."

Bittersweet, because Reba's father had suffered a stroke and she was at his bedside at a Tulsa hospital.  Before he slipped into a coma, Reba told her father the family was about to have two hall of famers and saw his pride that her childhood dream was about to come true.

"When we did take vacations, it would be to Nashville," Reba said. "And we'd go to the Hall of Fame and I'd see the big bronze plaques on the walls and think wow, wouldn't it be cool and here we are."

Reba's big, bronze plaque will be on the wall of the Hall of Fame in about two and a half weeks.  Later that week, Reba will be back home in Atoka County, performing a benefit concert for victims of the deadly Tushka tornado. 

As for her father, he's making a remarkable recovery, and he'll be watching her introduction into the Hall of Fame.