In preparation for the launch of the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Reba: All The Women I Am exhibit, Reba McEntire quickly realized one thing. She hadn’t thrown a lot of things away from her Hall of Fame career.
“I am a pack rat, by nature, so I’ve been collecting these items and memorabilia for many years,” she admitted to Billboard. “I have kept things from my grade school days, my first stage outfits when I was performing, everything from my videos, films, and television. I’ve got it all collected. Justin McIntosh at Starstruck helped me put it all together, and took it over to the Country Music Hall of Fame. They are so sweet to do the exhibit, and I’m really excited to see what all they have done. It was a lot of work, but it’s going to be worth it.”
The exhibit features many of her stage outfits, awards, and items that run the gamut of her career. There’s a Christmas program from her grade school years, and also items that demonstrate her impact on pop culture — like a lunch box and a bag of Fritos with her likeness, and one item that she finds highly ironic — a Reba “Barbie Doll.”
“Growing up in Oklahoma, I didn’t know what a Barbie doll was,” she admits. “I never had a doll in my life except for one that my good friend Melia Kelly gave me in the first grade. I still have it. It was in a little dome. I was a tomboy, and didn’t play with dolls, so for me to have a Barbie doll is pretty funny.”
Of course, the exhibit is heavily focused on her music. McEntire first hit the charts in 1976 with “I Don’t Want To Be A One Night Stand” for Mercury, and topped the charts as recently as 2011 with “Turn On The Radio” for The Valory Music Company. In between those two singles are some of her biggest hits, such as “How Blue,” “You Lie,” and “Whoever’s In New England.” The singer said the latter record was definitely a career game changer.
“That was a huge turning point,” she said of the 1986 classic. “Don ‘Dirt’ Lanier and I found that song, and I remember his eyebrows disappearing underneath his ball cap, and I got cold chills. We knew that was a song that was going to make some waves. Sure enough, it did. It was the first gold album I ever had, and the first video I ever had.”
The video was a huge boost to her career, gaining play in spots not usually reserved for country music, like HBO. “I was in a hotel room on tour, and sure enough, they played an Aretha Franklin video, then they played mine. I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” she said.
She credits her former manager for the idea to film the video in Boston. “Bill Carter had this idea to take us up to New England, and to shoot the video there. We knew we had a lot of country music fans in the northeast, but that just told the rest of the world how popular country music was up in the New England states.”
McEntire also was quick to give credit to the writers who have provided her with that long list of hits. Two of them, Liz Hengber and Will Robinson, will be taking part in a special songwriters’ forum today at the Hall. “Liz is a huge part of my career. She wrote ‘For My Broken Heart,’ ‘It’s Your Call,’ ‘And Still,’ and ‘Forever Love.’ We’ve been together since the early 1990s, and now she’s back in my publishing company again at Starstruck.”
So, what lies ahead for the singer? “We’re kind of in a spot to see what happens next. Narvel is very busy managing Blake Shelton with our oldest son Brandon, as well as our soon-to-be daughter in law, Kelly Clarkson. I was all geared up for the next chapter of television,” she said – alluding to last year’s ABC sitcom “Malibu Country,” which was canceled after one season – “so with that not working, I’m going to be touring some more, and loving life in Tennessee.”
Of course, you just might be seeing her at the race track, where she will be cheering on her son, Shelby, who is carving out a successful racing career in the Grand Am Series. “That’s the one thing that keeps me very busy,” she says. “I’m going to see his races as much as I possibly can. When I don’t, I watch him online. But, it’s a lot more fun when you can see him in person.”