A true renaissance woman, Reba McEntire has parlayed a singing career into a global entertainment empire. Whether she’s making us laugh on TV, gracing the Broadway stage or designing her own clothing line, McEntire does everything with down-home wit and style.
Below, The Boot counts down 25 of our favorite things that you may never have known about one of Oklahoma’s most celebrated treasures.
1. Reba Nell McEntire was born March 28, 1955, named for her maternal grandmother, Reba Estelle Brassfield. The family, including McEntire’s older sister Alice, older brother Pake and younger sister Susie, lived on a cattle ranch in Chockie, Okla., for 34 years.
2. At 5 years old, McEntire would drive her dad’s truck while he kicked hay off the truck’s bed to feed cattle during the winter.
3. McEntire made her singing debut in the first grade with a solo of “Away in a Manger” in a school Christmas play.
4. As a third grader, McEntire was asked to sing at the Kiowa High School graduation.
5. In 1934, McEntire’s “grandpap,” John Wesley McEntire, won the Steer Roping World Champion title. Her father did the same in 1957, 1958 and 1961.
6. When McEntire was 12, she made her first-ever recording, with brother Pake and sister Susie. The song, “The Ballad of John McEntire,” was written by family friend Clark Rhyne and recorded in Oklahoma City, Okla.
7. At 16, McEntire won the title of Miss Ford Country. The prize — which she received for writing a winning essay — was the use of a new Ford for six months. She put 18,000 miles on the car.
9. In college, McEntire was a member of a campus singing and dancing group called the Chorvettes.
10. McEntire, who was also an avid barrel racer, was discovered by cowboy singing star Red Steagall while singing the National Anthem at the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City in December 1974.
11. McEntire was signed to Nashville’s Mercury / PolyGram Records on Nov. 11, 1975.
12. Because her family was so well-traveled on the rodeo circuit, by the time McEntire had her first tour bus, she was better at reading road maps than her bus driver.
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13. McEntire’s self-titled 1977 debut album featured cover versions of then-current pop hits “Angel in Your Arms” and “Right Time of the Night.”
14. McEntire’s debut single, “I Don’t Want to Be a One Night Stand” reached No. 88 on the country chart. It would be three years before she first reached the Top 10.
15. McEntire made her Grand Ole Opry debut on Sept. 17, 1977, and was inducted into the Opry in 1986.
16. In 1982, McEntire had her first No. 1 single, “Can’t Even Get the Blues.” Her next single, “You’re the First Time I’ve Thought About Leaving,” also hit No. 1.
17. After six albums with Mercury / PolyGram, McEntire signed with MCA Nashville. Her first album for the label, “Just a Little Love,” was released in January 1984.
18. After “How Blue” hit No. 1 in 1984, McEntire reached the Top 10 with every solo single she released for the next 10 years, with only two exceptions: “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” (No. 12) and “She Thinks His Name Was John” (No. 15).
19. In the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game, McEntire has a “Bacon number” of one. In 1990, she made her acting debut, playing Heather Gummer in Tremors, a campy adventure film in which he also starred.
20. In 1979, young Bacon had a small role in Starting Over, which starred Burt Reynolds. In 1993, Reynolds and McEntire starred together in The Man From Left Field.
21. In 1991, McEntire played madam Burgundy Jones in the TV movie The Gambler Returns: Luck of the Draw, co-starring Kenny Rogers.
22. McEntire was chosen by Titanic director James Cameron to play the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown in the 1997 film, but she had to decline because of her tour schedule. The role went to Kathy Bates instead.
23. In January 2012, McEntire was forced to deny a report that she had died after falling of a mountain in Austria while shooting a movie. She was watching her son Shelby, who was racing that day.
24. McEntire is the only country female solo act to have a No. 1 hit in four straight decades: the 1980s, ’90s, ’00s and ’10s.
25. Before she signed with the new Nash Icon label in October 2014, McEntire thought her career was over; her then-husband, Narvel Blackstock, was the one to convince her otherwise.
This story was originally written by Stephen L. Betts, and revised by Angela Stefano.
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