The legendary Reba McEntire has won every award and honor imaginable in music. Tuesday in Fort Worth, she received an honor that pays tribute to her cowgirl roots.
Reba was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.
"Well, I think being inducted into the museum is very, very important," she said. "Number one, it represents my heritage. I am a cowgirl at heart. I was raised on a working cattle ranch in southeastern Oklahoma. I'm a third generation rodeo brat. So that, right there, says 'cowgirl.' And getting inducted with my mama is the icing on the cake."
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Reba's mother, Jacqueline Smith McEntire, a former school teacher and rancher, will also have a place among honorees recognized for lives that exemplify the courage, resilience and independence that shaped the American west.
Reba and her mother spoke exclusively to NBC 5 on the eve of the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
"Oh, gosh, surprise and a deep sense of gratitude and wonder," Jacqueline McEntire said, recalling her reaction when she first learned she would join her daughter in the 2017 class of honorees. "It's special. I don't think there's anything as close as mother and a child."
It's apparent how close mother and daughter are from the moment Jacqueline sits down next to Reba for the interview. Jacqueline, 91, has a little trouble hearing. Reba never let her miss a beat, picking up a thought or asking a question to help guide the conversation.
"Did you ever think I'd become what I am today?" Reba asked.
"Oh, yeah," her mother responded. "I thought you'd succeed."
"I never did," cracked Reba.
What did Jacqueline see in her daughter that hinted at fame?
"Oh, she wanted it," Jacqueline said. "She always liked attention."
"Yeah, the good kind," Reba said.
"I knew she had the desire and stability," Jackie said.
Reba was the third of four children. She inherited her mother's red hair, her love of singing and the vocal power that has made her part of the country music scene for more than 40 years.
"I taught 'em all the best I could to sing. My mother sang. My daddy sang, and I passed it on down. It was just the thing we did," Jacqueline said. "It's just something you do, like washing your hands or combing you hair. It's just in a person. It's hard to describe."
"And, hard to stop," added Reba.
For Reba, the rise to stardom started in 1974 when a country music singer from Texas named Red Steagall heard her sing at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. They met as Reba "walked from the bathroom to the podium," she recalled.
"A lot of people got me to the point where I met Red, and Red was the one that was very interested in my vocal, because of the way I sang the national anthem. And mama asked Red if there was anything he could do to get me, Pake (older brother) and Susie (younger sister), us being 'The Singing McEntires,' into the music business," Reba said. "And he said, 'Oh, Jackie, I'm just trying to get my own own career going.' But January of 1975, he said, 'You know, let me try to take Reba in and see if she can get started. Then later, bring Pake and Susie in.' So, from December 1974 to October 1975, 11 months later, I got a recording contract with Polygram/Mercury records and Red Steagall is the reason why I got it."
In the decades since, Reba has become a one-woman force from music to retail. She has sold 56 million albums worldwide and has 35 number one singles. In between, there's been television, movies, Broadway, makeup, clothing and home goods lines and now a partnership with Justin Boot Company.
What's her secret to success?
"Team work, curiosity, great product, great songs and an interest in what you love to do," Reba said. "If you find a project that you're just half interested in, I wouldn't say pursue it. If you eat, sleep and breathe that project and that way of life, like music was for me, rodeo was for me. I wasn't that good at it, but I loved it and I pursued it. And, that led me into the music business by signing at the National Finals Rodeo. I wanted to be at the rodeo and watch barrel racing, hang out with the cowboys. It got me a job. Daddy said, 'Instead of having a good time, go get a job.'"
"All those things is because of a passion that you really, really love," she added.
Reba remembers a lot of her father's words and loves sharing stories about growing up the daughter of a rancher and World Champion Steer Roper.
"Tons of things I learned on the ranch that still help me in every day life. I can follow directions well 'cause Daddy said, 'Sit on that gate, on your horse and don't leave until I come back.' I don't care if it was 30 minutes or three days, you'd better have your butt in that saddle on that horse when daddy gets back. We took direction well. We remembered. And when you were told to do something, you do it. And when you said you'd do something, you do it, because they called you on it," Reba said. "And, when you say start a project, you finish it. You don't say, 'I got tired of that, no.' Your word means something. Mama and Daddy had boundaries, 'You can't go this far, and you can't go this less.' So, we stayed in between those boundaries when we were kids growing up and learned a lot."
Reba's quick to learn from her fans, too. They pack her concerts and sing right along with her especially when they hear the guitar start to strum the notes of her 1990 remake of Bobbie Gentry's hit 1969 "Fancy."
"Fancy is the song my fans know. If I haven't sung Fancy, the show's not over. It wasn't a number one record for me, but everybody knows that's Reba's song," she said. "I recorded it years later, because it was a rags-to-riches song. I love rags-to-riches stories, Annie Oakley, Cinderella. It's just interesting that if you were born poor, if you have the want to and the fortitude and the vision, you can make something out of yourself."
Reba has done that. She's made herself into a one-name brand known around the world. And, she says now, at 62, life is sweeter than ever.
"It's just a lot of fun. What I'm getting to do in my life right now. I'm happier than I've ever been in my life," she said. "I think when you hit a certain time in your life, you get to breathe, do what you want to do. And everybody is happy and healthy, and you just can't beat that in your life."