Family & Companions
Country music superstar Reba McEntire enjoyed huge commercial and critical success, initially as a country music performer, and later crossing over to more mainstream pop material before eventually becoming an accomplished actor. Raised in a small town in Oklahoma, and spending much time on the rodeo circuit, McEntire began singing at a young age. She signed her first record deal by her mid-20s and went on to release several hit albums over the course of the 1980s. A life-long fan of movies, and a naturally gifted performer all-around, McEntire began her foray into acting with a role in the cult classic horror/comedy "Tremors" (1990), followed by the comedy "North" (1994), alongside Elijah Wood. On television, she portrayed Annie Oakley in "Buffalo Girls" (CBS, 1995), eventually playing another version of the historical character in the hit Broadway musical "Annie Get Your Gun" in 2001. McEntire achieved real crossover star status with her own television sitcom, "Reba" (The WB, 2001-06; The CW, 2006-07), as a recently separated mother trying to reassemble her increasingly chaotic life. The show went on to become a rare hit for the struggling WB network, and increased McEntire's already substantial fan base. More film, television and stage work followed for the entertainer, although McEntire - who greatly enjoyed her "triple-threat" stature - never forgot where she came from, continuing to record country music, and considering herself its de facto ambassador in all her endeavors.
The product of a small-town upbringing, Reba Nell McEntire was born on March 28, 1955 in McAlester, OK to parents Clark and Jacqueline McEntire. Jacqueline, a schoolteacher, had entertained early aspirations of a career in music, so she ended up passing her love of song along to her children. On the other side of the spectrum, Clark was a world champion rodeo roper, so his daughter also competed on the rodeo circuit as a quarter horse barrel racer with her family, in addition to singing with her brother and sister as part of the teenaged Singing McEntires. After graduating from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in 1976, she was invited to sing the National Anthem at a local rodeo, where she was seen by fellow performer Red Steagall. Steagall was so impressed by the young vocalist that he offered his assistance in getting McEntire started in the music business. Before long, she had signed a recording deal with Mercury Records.
Achieving a respectable amount of success by the end of the decade, McEntire brought her rich, throbbing alto, with its distinctive Midwestern twang, to such country pop tunes as "I Can't Even Get the Blues." In the mid-1980s, McEntire sang several very traditional country songs like "How Blue" and plush ballads about broken romance, including "Whoever's in New England" and "He Broke Your Memory Last Night." In stark contrast to her continued good fortune, tragedy struck the McEntire camp when a chartered jet carrying eight members of the singer's touring band crashed into a mountainside near the San Diego-Mexico border in March of 1991, killing all aboard. McEntire, who had just performed with the musicians the previous night, learned of the disaster while preparing to board her own flight out of San Diego with her husband later that day. Devastated by the death of her band mates - many of whom had been with her for years - McEntire went on to dedicate her next album For My Broken Heart to their memory when it was released that October.
Fittingly, the album's title track, "For My Broken Heart" went on to become yet another No. 1 hit for McEntire, who found continued success with her hard-hitting duet with Linda Davis on "Does He Love You" the following year. With her endearingly forthright manner and her trademark red hair, McEntire not only won the hearts of country music fans, but dozens of industry awards, as well. Her impressive string of best-selling albums and hit singles produced corresponding music videos - or "mini movies" as McEntire referred to them - which she enjoyed making a great deal, in addition to comedic turns on a host of TV variety shows and awards specials. Following a progression made by other entertainers who came before, McEntire's visibility in the media and experience performing story-centric songs with great emotion suggested the possibility of pursuing straightforward acting, prompting the singer to make her feature debut in the highly enjoyable revamp of '50s-era monster films, "Tremors" (1990). Subsequently, she starred opposite Burt Reynolds in the feel-good baseball TV movie "The Man from Left Field" (CBS, 1993), and was more than believable playing the extravagant Texan wife of Dan Aykroyd in the Rob Reiner misfire "North" (1994). A string of made-for-TV movies followed, with a starring role as Annie Oakley in "Buffalo Girls" (CBS, 1995) - a character she would revive with great success on Broadway years later. Other projects included "Forever Love" (CBS, 1998) in which she played a loving wife and mother who had fallen into a stroke-induced coma only to awake 20 years later. In the period drama "Secrets of Giving" (CBS, 1999), she was a turn-of-the-century widow struggling to keep her farm and while caring for her ailing five-year-old son (Devon Alan).
Having already essayed the character in "Buffalo Girls," McEntire made her 2001 Broadway debut as Annie Oakley in the hit revival of Irving Berlin's "Annie Get Your Gun." She received glowing notices, not only for her impressive singing ability, but also for her deft comic timing and chemistry with leading man Brent Barrett. Now on a roll, McEntire landed her own sitcom, "Reba" (The WB, 2001-06; The CW, 2006-07), playing a Texas soccer mom whose idyllic suburban life is rapidly falling apart around her after her husband leaves her for another woman and her teenaged daughter becomes pregnant. Coming off of her previously crazed schedule of recording, touring and hosting "The Country Music Awards," McEntire found it a blessing to have a regular schedule that would allow her to live a relatively normal family life. To the surprise of many, the show "Reba" became a rare hit for the perpetually struggling WB, taking in a consistent three million viewers a week during the first half of its six-year run. For her part, McEntire earned kudos with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy in 2003. Despite the demands of her weekly series, McEntire pursued her budding acting career on the big screen as well, with a brief turn in the black comedy "One Night at McCool's" (2001), alongside Matt Dillon, Liv Tyler and Michael Douglas.
Returning to the stage, McEntire starred as Nellie Forbush in the Carnegie Hall production of the musical "South Pacific" in 2005. The acclaimed performance with co-stars Alec Baldwin and Brian Stokes Mitchell was filmed and aired on PBS stations the following year as part of its "Great Performances" series. McEntire also lent her impressive voice to animated efforts, such as the adaptation of E.B. White's beloved children's book "Charlotte's Web" (2006), in the role of Betsy the Pig, and that same year provided vocals for Dixie, the singing pooch, in the direct-to-video feature "The Fox and the Hound 2" (2006). Having returned to her musical roots a few years earlier, in 2007 McEntire released her 25th studio album Reba: Duets, collaborating with such diverse talents as Kelly Clarkson, Don Henley and Justin Timberlake. Proving she was still at the top of her game in the music industry, McEntire nonetheless kept one foot firmly planted in the acting world, with guest spots on series like the romantic comedy "Better with You" (NBC, 2010-11).
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Sang the national anthem at the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City; was heard by Nashville-based songwriter Red Steagall, who convinced McEntire's mother to cut a demo tape
Earliest TV appearances include a cameo as herself in the CBS TV-movie, "Country Gold"
Left Mercury Records
Signed with MCA Records
First TV hosting duties, "The 21st Annual Academy of Country Music Awards"
Feature film acting debut, "Tremors"
Stayed behind in San Diego after giving a spring concert, suffering from bronchitis; airplane carrying her tour manager and seven members of her band crashed near the border of Mexico
Made TV acting debut in the two-part NBC TV-movie, "The Luck of the draw: The Gambler Returns", co-starring opposite Kenny Rogers
Starred in CBS TV-movie "Forever Love"
Received star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (September 18)
Starred in and executive produced the sitcom "Reba" for The WB; premiered in fall; earned a Golden Globe (2003) nomination
Made Broadway debut as star of the hit revival of "Annie Get Your Gun"
Signed to star in and executive produce a CBS adaptation of "Annie Get Your Gun"
Had featured role as a psychiatrist in the black comedy "One Night at McCool's"
Voiced Betsy the cow in live-action/computer-animated feature film "Charlotte's Web," based on the book by E.B. White