How Reba McEntire got her start in the music industry

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It was 1974. Reba McEntire’s dad encouraged her to take the opportunity to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the National Rodeo Finals, which would be held in Oklahoma City. And that’s what she did. Reba contacted rodeo announcer and family friend Clem McSpadden to help him get the gig. She had no idea that this would be the performance that would change her life forever.

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Reba McEntire was the third of four children raised on the family’s 8,000-acre ranch in Chockie, Oklahoma. But they traveled frequently to see their father, a world champion Steer Roper, take part in rodeos. And with their mother, who was an aspiring country singer, that meant long car trips were spent singing and tuning. Pretty soon they caught the music bug. Young Reba started playing at school, and she also learned piano and guitar. Reba, alongside his sister Susie and brother Pake, quickly became The Singing McEntires with Reba at the helm, playing guitar and even writing songs. One of them was called “The Ballad of John McEntire,” a song that commemorated their grandfather’s accomplishments, which was then pressed by a local label and was released in small numbers across the region. . The trio reached their peak before going their separate ways when Pake graduated from high school.

After graduating from high school, Reba enrolled in Southeastern Oklahoma State University, where she majored in elementary education with a minor in music, a nod to her mother’s footsteps and aspirations. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, she continued to help out on their ranch. One thing about Reba was that she loved barrel racing as much as she loved singing. And so, she often partied and watched barrel races with her pals at the rodeo. Her father once told her that if she was going to see a rodeo, she would also have to find a job. At first, she wasn’t sure what job her father was telling her about until he told her she should go sing the national anthem.

During one of her performances, Reba impressed country artist Red Steagall who was also performing at the show. When Reba, his mother, and siblings later joined him at a hotel party, Reba performed an acapella version of Dolly Parton’s song called “Joshua”. Steagall contacted them after returning to Nashville, and although he could not take the three siblings with the request of Reba’s mother, Jacqueline, he said he could accommodate Reba.

At first, Reba wasn’t entirely sure she would pursue a professional music career, but a conversation with her mother came through. Jacqueline told Reba that if she didn’t want to go to Nashville, they didn’t have to, but she was living all of her dreams through it. This changed her mind and she then recorded a demo and got a contract in Nashville with PolyGram / Mercury Records.

And the rest is history.



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