Reba McEntire on Her Challenging Childhood: 'I Had to Fight for Attention'

If Reba McEntire had been the oldest in her family, or an only child, she might have never been a singer. The Oklahoma native instead was a middle child, raised in the tiny town of Chockie, who realized as a 5-year-old that singing was a way to make her stand out.

"Best attention I ever got," McEntire told the Washington Post. "I was the third of four kids. I wasn't a boy. I wasn't the youngest or the oldest. I was in the middle ... I had to fight for attention."

The daughter of Clark McEntire, a stern three-time world champion steer roper, who never told any of his children that he loved them, became her biggest advocate for her singing career, although not in the most loving way.

"Reba, why do you always want to do something you're not good at?" "McEntire recalled him asking. "[Like] barrel racing, playing basketball, all that other stuff except singing."

McEntire's mother, Jacqueline, wasn't as insistent as Clark. Still, as an aspiring singer, who gave up her own musical ambitions to raise her children, she saw an opportunity her daughter had that she never did.

"If you don't want to go to Nashville, we don't have to do this," McEntire recalled her mother saying. "But I'm living all my dreams through you."

McEntire did move to Music City, but success didn't come quickly, or easily. In fact, it took six albums before McEntire had her first No. 1 hit, with "Can't Even Get the Blues." Although the wait was trying for her, in hindsight it was also the very best thing that could have happened.

"I was very blessed, very lucky and very thankful," the country music icon said, referring to the delay in her success, adding that those years "molded me, they taught me."

"Slowly, the foundation grew," she continued. "If I had a first No. 1 hit after my first single, I wouldn't have known anything."

McEntire credits her work ethic and tenacity with being the biggest factor in all that she's accomplished – far more than her talent.


"There's a lot of people, a lot of girl singers, who are 10,000 times better than me," McEntire insisted. "They don't have the drive. They don't have the work ethic. They don't have the want-to, and they don't love it as much as I do. And they're not willing to sacrifice what it takes to do this."

Photo Credit: Getty images/CBS Photo Archive