In 2015, country music sensation Reba McEntire received the shock of a lifetime. After 26 years of marriage, her husband, Narvel Blackstock, decided that he wanted a divorce. She told network CMT that the divorce wasn’t her idea in “any shape, form or fashion.”
The divorce was extremely rough for her but the reason why he wanted to divorce was even more difficult to handle. She had said multiple times that Narvel was not only her husband, but also her best friend, so it was an even bigger shock to find his reason for leaving.
2. New Beginnings
Reba and Narvel first met in 1980 when he was her band’s steel guitar player . By 1987, he was her manager and supported her emotionally while going through a divorce from her first husband. The two became very close during this time and their relationship turned romantic. The couple got married in 1989 on a boat in the middle of Lake Tahoe.
Together the power-couple took over all aspects of Reba’s career and eventually created a management company named Starstruck. Reba also became step-mother to three children from Narvel’s previous marriage. In 1990 she gave birth to a son, Shelby, who has become a race car driver. Her life and career were on the up and up. How did it all begin?
3. Country Born and Raised
Country queen Reba Nell McEntire was born on March 28, 1955, in the small town of McAlester, Oklahoma. She grew up in the nearby sparsely-populated community of Chockie on her family’s ranch along with her brother Pike and sisters Alice and Susie.
She, along with her entire family, helped out on the ranch tending to the cattle, cooking and cleaning. At a very young age, she was taught the value of hard work and contribution, paving the way for her future success and firey work ethic.
4. Rodeo and Ranch
Reba’s mother Jacqueline dreamed of being a country music singer but she instead became a school teacher because their community didn’t have one. Both her father and grandfather were rodeo steer ropers. Her father, Clark Vincent McEntire, was a three-time World Champion Steer Roper.
Reba amazingly learned how to drive when she was only about five-years-old in order to help out around the ranch. In the wintertime, she would drive her father’s truck while he kicked bales of hay off the back to feed the cattle.
5. The Singing McEntires
Reba’s mother introduced her kids to her own passion for country music and taught her to sing at a very young age. Reba made her debut solo-performance in her First Grade Christmas play singing “Away in a Manger”. Her family traveled frequently for her father’s rodeo competitions and during their long drives, the entire family sang together.
Slowly the kids began performing and became known locally as the Singing McEntires. Reba would often sing for the local radio and would sing the national anthem at rodeo competitions. When Reba was in the Third Grade, she was invited to sing at the town’s high school graduation ceremony.
6. Miss Ford Country
Growing up, Reba was inspired by female super-star artists such as Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Patsy Cline. Little did she know that she would end up on their levels and go onto to become the bestselling female country singer of all time.
At the age of 16, Reba won an essay contest and was named Miss Ford Country. As a prize, she got to use a new Ford for six months. She says that she put a whopping 18,000 miles on it before it came time to return the truck.
7. Honky-Tonk Girl
The group the Singing McEntires played gigs at local bars, honky-tonks, dance halls and local rodeos. The family group even recorded a song called The Ballad of John McEntire, named after their grandfather. Around 1,000 copies of the record were created.
The Singing McEntires had two big hits while they were together: God Never Cried and If I Could Only Be With You. Their songs were featured primarily on local radio stations in Oklahoma but the group was also known to perform live.
8. Keeping the Faith
During Reba’s time in the Singing McEntires, she decided to get baptized. On their way to a gig one night Reba told her mother that she was going to tell all the people in the dance hall to go to church Sunday morning. Her mother Jacqueline then taught her a valuable lesson she would remember for the rest of her life.
Jacqueline asked her daughter how she knew those people didn’t already go to church. At that moment, Reba has stated in interviews, she learned something incredibly valuable. “That was my first lesson on passing judgment. You don’t know what other people do. You don’t know their heart.”
9. School and Song
After graduating high school, Reba went to college at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Oklahoma. She majored in education with a minor in music, but when she wasn’t studying, music was her life. She kept singing locally whenever the opportunity presented itself.
At one point, she was reportedly classmates with fellow future country star Garth Brooks. Originally, however, Reba hoped to become an elementary school teacher like her mother after graduation. Her future, however, would lead her on a much different path.
10. National Rodeo
Reba’s life changed in 1974 when she was hired to sing the national anthem at the National Rodeo in Oklahoma City. That’s when she was discovered by country musician Red Steagall, who was also performing that day and was instantly impressed by Reba’s vocal abilities.
He set out to help her launch a country music career in Nashville. She recorded a demo tape and just one year later, signed her first recording contract with Mercury Records. At a different rodeo, Reba also met her first husband.
Reba married rodeo star Charlie Battles in 1976, around the same time her music career started to heat up. She released her first debut single I Don’t Want to Be a One Night Stand on January 22, 1976. It only reached No. 88 on the Billboard country music chart, though.
Her next few singles were not major hits either but that didn’t stop Reba. In 1979, her cover of Patsy Cline’s Sweet Dreams reached No. 19 on the Billboard country charts. It was her first break into the Top 20, but far from her last.
12. Grand Ole Opry
Reba was invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry in 1977, her first appearance at the iconic home of country music and a major honor. After driving all the way to Nashville, a security guard at the entrance refused to let her in because her name wasn’t on the list. The two exchanged some frustrating back and forths before he finally found her name. She almost missed the performance.
Once she finally made it inside, she was notified that the show’s producers had cut her time slot in half. The other half of her performance time was given to Dolly Parton. Little did the guard know that he was dealing with a future music legend.
13. Music Breakthrough
Reba had her first Billboard No.1 in early 1983 after the release of her fifth album Unlimited. After complaints about not having creative control over her music and being forced to record country-pop style ballads, (which were not well liked by her) she decided to leave Mercury. In 1984 she signed with MCA Nashville Records and released a seventh album, Just a Little Love. She was still unhappy with her music, though.
That same year, she was then given full creative control and released another album of songs she had previously released as singles called My Kind of Country. Two of the songs on the album hit the No. 1 spot on the charts and she was praised by critics. Reba finally had her true big break.
14. Music Videos
Reba McEntire became a music video pioneer in the late ’80s. Instead of just singing her songs, she transformed her music videos into theatrical productions and took the part of portraying characters depicting a storyline. Critics even called them “mini-movies.”
Her work in these short music videos eventually sparked an interest in acting. She then made it her goal to act in a least one movie during her career. She would end up doing a lot more than just that.
15. Film Debut
Reba McEntire eventually ticked one item off her bucket list when she made her acting debut in the 1990 horror-comedy movie Tremors, about giant underground worm-monsters. She even postponed her honeymoon with Narvel to finish shooting. Reba said that she enjoyed making the movie, though her co-star had a very different opinion.
Co-star Kevin Bacon called the film a “low point” in his career prior to its release. It didn’t matter much to Reba, though. She was slowly making her dreams come true. Behind the scenes, though, not everything was as perfect as it seemed.
16. Marriage Blues
Reba and her husband Charlie Battles lived at Charlie’s a ranch in Oklahoma but her career put pressure on their marriage. He wanted his wife to stay home and help out, but she was always on the road performing. This led to endless conflicts between the couple
The two finally divorced in 1987, though it was a tough process. “I had to pack everything in one day and leave. I was totally starting over. I wasn’t the little girl anymore, taking orders and doing what he said,” Reba said about the divorce.
17. Band Tragedy
Reba was on top of the world until 1991, when a charter plane carrying members of her band crashed into the side of a mountain near San Diego, tragically killing everyone on board. Eight members of Reba’s band lost their lives in the accident.
It is believed that the plane crashed due to poor visibility. Reba was still asleep at a nearby hotel when the event occurred and in the aftermath, she was devastated. She said it was like losing family. Some of the members had been in Reba’s band for years.
18. For My Broken Heart
Reba’s sixteenth album For My Broken Heart was dedicated to the members of her band that died in the plane crash. Many of the songs were about sorrow and lost love. It became one of her best-selling studio albums, selling over four million copies.
Two of the songs reached No. 1 on the Billboard music charts and the album as a whole hit No. 3 on the charts. In the liner notes, Reba wrote that the album was “a form of healing for all our broken hearts.”
19. An Iconic Red Dress
Reba and Linda Davis won Grammy and CMA awards for their 1993 duet Does He Love You. At the CMA Award show that year, she drew more attention, however, for her revealing red dress. Gasps could be heard from the audience the moment she stepped on the stage.
In an interview, Reba said that her father had even given his two cents on the memorable getup, asking if she had put her dress on backward by mistake. The iconic red dress has since been placed on exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
20. Reba the Maverick
The subject of AIDS is rarely brought up in country music and considered taboo by some, but not for Reba McEntire. Reba’s 1994 album entitled Read My Mind contained one of her most controversial songs called She Thinks His Name Was John. The song was about a woman who contracted AIDS after having a drunken one-night stand long ago.
This song and others have stood to prove that Reba is a groundbreaking musician who uses her art as social commentary. She certainly has not shied away from other controversial subjects either, having sung songs about illegal immigration, domestic abuse, mercy killing and neglect of the elderly.
21. Tough Times
Reba’s music career took a slight decline after the release of her 19th album, Starting Over. Instead of recording new material for the album, she collected the original recordings of all of her favorite songs. The collection was to commemorate her 20th year in the music industry.
Critics were less than pleased with the album. Only one song on the album made the Top 10 hits chart. Despite the negative reviews, the album went platinum and within just one year she incredibly managed to turn everything around.
22. Titanic Role
Despite the lackluster review of her album, Reba was asked by director James Cameron to play a role in his upcoming film Titanic. However, she ended up pulling out of the production due to scheduling conflicts. According to Reba, “they kept movin’ my schedule.” She wasn’t about to cancel performances that were already booked with tickets sold.
Reba was supposed to play the role of powerhouse socialite Molly Brown in the hit film. The iconic part later went to Kathy Bates instead. To date, the 1997 blockbuster has grossed over $2 billion worldwide, making it the second highest-grossing film ever.
23. Back to the Top
Reba dropped her 20th studio album, What If It’s You, in 1997. The album was a hit and considered a dramatic comeback from the slight decline the previous year. The album’s lead single The Fear of Being Alone charted at No. 1.
How Was I to Know charted at No. 1 and I’d Rather Ride Around with You charted at No. 2. She also recorded a song for charity called What If, which charted at No. 23. All of the profits from the song were donated to the Salvation Army. She was also about to start a new journey in her career.
24. Hiatus On Broadway
Reba’s 2001 album Greatest Hits Vol. 3: I’m a Survivor produced three hit singles, making her the most certified female country musician in history. Around this time, she decided to take a hiatus from the music industry and instead starred in the Broadway revival of Annie Get Your Gun.
The New York Times called Reba’s performance “Without qualification the best performance by an actress in a musical comedy this season.” The musical told a fictionalized version of the story of fabled Wild West sharpshooter Annie Oakley. Reba’s achievements in acting were far from finished though.
25. A TV Show of Her Own
Reba McEntire really caught the acting bug after Broadway and soon appeared on the small screen. Starting in 2001, she starred in her own sitcom about a wisecracking single mother, Reba. The series premiered on the WB network and quickly became the network’s highest-rated show.
The show earned her a Golden Globe and ran for a total of six seasons from October 2001 to May 2006. After the popular show moved networks to The CW for its final season, it was canceled, even though it was their top sitcom.
26. Reba on the Small Screen
Originally, the producers of the sitcom wanted the main character to be named Sally but Reba eventually convinced them to let her use her own name. She was convinced that using her own name would help attract her loyal fan base.
In the show, co-star Melissa Peterman played Reba’s nemesis, Barbara, who had an affair with character Reba’s husband, resulting in divorce and him leaving Reba for Melissa. Despite their on-screen rivalry, Reba and Melissa are best friends in real life.
27. Back and Better Than Ever
Reba McEntire made her much-anticipated return to the music scene in 2003 with the release of her 76th chart single. Her 23rd album, Room to Breathe, shot her back to the top of the charts when it was released in 2003.
In 2007, Reba gained the accolade of being the female artist with the most CMA nominations in the award’s history, surpassing even Dolly Parton. In 2008, Reba went on tour with singer Kelly Clarkson. She was back in the limelight again and would soon venture into other fields.
28. Malibu Country
Reba made a short-lived return to television in 2011 on the ABC sitcom Malibu Country. She stared as Reba Gallagher, a recently divorced mother of two. Similar to her last sitcom, her character discovers that her husband is cheating on her and the two divorce.
In the show, Reba gets her husband’s Malibu house as part of the divorce settlement and then tries to restart her country music career. The series received mixed reviews but was ABC’s highest-rated new comedy show in 2012. Nonetheless, Malibu Country was canceled after 18 episodes.
29. Broken Records
Reba received her record-breaking, 56th Top 10 country hit in 2008 with a re-recorded single of Cowgirls Don’t Cry along with Brooks & Dunn. This broke country music legend Dolly Parton’s previous record for the most Top-10 hits for any female artist.
Later that year, Reba announced that she would be leaving her record label after 25 years and be signing a new contract with Valory Music Group. During her time with record label MCA, she sold over 67 million records and won two Grammys.
30. Reba’s Death?
In 2012, shocking news reports online surfaced claiming that Reba had fallen off a cliff in Austria during filming and tragically died. The story spread like wild-fire, devastating Reba’s family and her fans. After hearing the news, Reba’s sister called her in a panic to verify if the claims were true.
However, the rumors were put to rest when she answered the phone, saying everything was fine. She later posted on Twitter to let everyone know she was okay. “There are so many of those hoaxes that are just going around and I think it’s cruel. That’s not funny,” Reba commented.
31. Reba’s Biggest Fan
Around the time that Reba was supposed to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, her beloved father, Clark McEntire, sadly fell into a coma after suffering a stroke. He passed away on October 23, 2014. Dolly Parton inducted Reba into the Hall of Fame on her behalf.
The music video for her song Just Like Them Horses was made as a tribute to her late father and filmed on her family’s land in Chockie, Oklahoma. “He ran all the way to heaven. Just like them horses,” Reba said remembering her father. Rebas has always said that her father was her biggest fan.
32. Living Large
Having put in a good amount of hard work, Reba McEntire also how to live large and enjoy the fruits of her success. This is apparent in her former home, a 12,000 sq. ft. mansion with seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a swimming pool, spa, and tennis court.
In the summer of 2015, though, she sold off her luxurious Beverly Hills mansion to an undisclosed buyer for a whopping $22.25 million. She had originally paid $9 million when she bought it in 2009. It was one of the area’s priciest sales ever.
33. Almost Lost Faith
Before beloved country artist Faith Hill got her big break, she originally auditioned to be a touring backup singer for Reba but was ultimately rejected for the part. The singer who got the part, Paula Kay Evans, died in the tragic 1991 plane crash.
In an interview with Larry King, Faith stated that she didn’t get the part because she simply wasn’t good enough. Not getting the part may have saved her life though and she eventually became another one of the biggest names in country music.
34. New Daughter-in-Law
Pop singer Kelly Clarkson’s manager was Narvel Blackstock and he introduced her to his son (and Reba’s stepson) Brandon Blackstock. Brandon proposed to Kelly at the 2012 Super Bowl where Kelly sang the national anthem and the two married in 2013, making Kelly Reba’s daughter-in-law. Reba, having toured with Kelly, was ecstatic about the marriage.
Reba said that she was “thrilled to death, thrilled to death. To have my buddy as my daughter-in-law, I mean, who could ask for more?” But the good time didn’t end there. Kelly has since given birth to two children since getting married.
35. Just Wants to be Happy
Elaborating on her divorce, Reba says that if the decision had been up to her, she would still be married to Narvel. She has had to make some major life adjustments after the shock divorce but in the end, she says that she just wants everyone to be happy in their lives.
Sadly, for Narvel, that meant ending the couples 26-year marriage and moving on. Reba added: “I just thought it was the best thing to take my marbles and go play somewhere else, is what daddy used to always say.” But little did she know that her now ex-husband would “move on” just a little too close to home.
36. The New Love Interest
Just a few months after the couple officially divorced, news broke that Narvel was already dating again. Not just dating, but dating Reba’s best friend, Laura Putty Stroud. Laura is a luxury real estate agent in Nashville and was one of the Reba and Narvel’s closest friends while they were together.
During their marriage, photos of Laura and Reba would frequently pop up on Reba’s social media photos. The two even went to a Katy Perry concert together! A source close to Narvel and Laura has said that the two are “very serious.” It isn’t clear when they started dating but it has led many to speculate that Narvel may have been cheating on the country singer, prompting their divorce.
37. Caught in the Middle
Reba McEntire’s new daughter-in-law, Kelly Clarkson, found herself in the middle of the divorce. On the one hand, she was Reba’s best friend, and on the other, her husband’s father was Narvel. Kelly reportedly urged the two to stay together.
It’s possible that Kelly actually helped keep the couple together for as long as they were. Reba and Narvel had reportedly already been living apart for years prior to the divorce. But even through the pain and heartbreak the couple still support each other.
38. Breaking Away
Following the divorce from ex-husband, he stayed on as her manager for another year. The two had been working together since 1988. In 2016, she decided to break away from him professionally and formed her own company called Reba’s Business Inc. (RBI).
Reba’s company now manages rising young artists. She also has her own brand of merchandise such as clothing, beauty products, jewelry and home décor. Some of her merchandise is available at Cracker Barrel gift shops. The country music star is currently worth an estimated $95 million. In an interview in 2017, Reba also stated that she was ready to start dating again.
39. Passion For Pictures
Anyone who has seen Reba’s Instagram page knows that she loves taking pictures. She told a country music website called The Boot that she loves her photos. Reba takes photos everywhere she goes or has someone get the perfect snap of the country queen.
“I love to piddle with my pictures. I am a big picture fanatic,” she said. “I love when people send me pictures that I don’t have. I can scan them and put them in my computer, and I am archiving right now.”
40. Presidential Pals
It seems pretty clear that Reba is a downright lovable person. It appears that she gets along with pretty much everyone she meets. Some of her most famous friends include former president George W. Bush and his father, former president George H. W. Bush.
“We e-mail each other on our Treos all the time — nothing political, just passing jokes back and forth,” she explained. “He’s really into e-mail and so are his buddies. Senior Bush invited my husband [Narvel Blackstock] and I on a private cruise to the Greek islands years ago. We became very good friends, and that’s when the e-mail stuff started.”
41. Reba Loves Guns
Like any good country girl, Reba loves guns and loves shooting them. Reba has stated that she actually didn’t learn how to shoot a gun growing up on the ranch. She took shooting lessons later in life for a movie she was filming.
“When I found out that I was going to do a movie called ‘Buffalo Girls’ with Anjelica Huston several years prior to this, I went and learned how to skeet shoot and trap shoot, because I wanted to be able to look like I knew how to shoot a gun, because we never did that when we were home in Oklahoma.”
42. Gospel Album
Reba released her first gospel album Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope on February 3, 2017. The album consists of two discs, one with more traditional hymns and the second with her own original songs. Reba has stated that she got the idea to record a gospel album from her former manager, Bill Carter.
The production was Reba’s 28th studio album and it comprises of all her favorite songs that she said she had been hoarding and collecting over the years along with inspiration she gathered from an old hymn book she’s had since childhood.
43. Reba as Colonel Sanders
In January 2018, Reba McEntire made fast-food history when she became the first female Colonel Sanders in a hilarious commercial for KFC to promote their new “Smoky Mountain BBQ” chicken. In it, she sings while dressed as the Colonel himself and throws a hat into the audience, which lands on the head of the “real” Reba.
When the unusual commercial idea was presented to her, she told reporters that she said “Absolutely I want to do that. Who wouldn’t want to be the first female Kentucky Fried Chicken Colonel?” It seems like she thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. “It feels very good,” she noted. “And my goatee tickles a little bit … and my mustache. But I am a pretty good looking gray-haired man.”
44. Country Sensation
Reba McEntire’s career started in the ’70s and there is no sign that she will be letting up anytime soon. To date, the super-star has released 29 studio albums, 40 No. 1 singles and 16 No. 1 albums. Of these, 28 of her albums have been certified gold, platinum or multi-platinum.
Whatever comes next for Reba is certain to be larger than life. She is reportedly shopping around a new TV series that has been described as a “southern gothic soap opera.” We’ll have to tune in to see if it lives up to the country queen‘s other work.
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