Growing up in rural McAlester, Oklahoma, in a family that championed Western sports, Reba spent a bit of time on the rodeo circuit as a kid. If you’ve ever been to a rodeo, you know that everyone takes off their cowboy hats, places their hand over their heart, and points toward the flag as the national anthem is sung before bucking stock and barrel racers enter the arena.
A young Reba McEntire had a pretty “decent” voice, so she often worked as the opening act, eventually leading to her discovery moment. Reba singing the “Star Spangled Banner” at the 1974 National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City kickstarted her stardom as attendees were enthralled with her natural talent.
Over the years, she has gone back to her rodeo roots, performing the “Star Spangled Banner” at various rodeos, including her 2017 at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas (the Super Bowl of the rodeo circuit, if you will). Still, nothing hits like the 1974 performance that started it all for her.
Reflecting on the song that put her name on the map, Reba said it was a push from her father that helped her land her big break:
“He said to get a job singing the national anthem. So I did, and I guess if I hadn’t done that, then I wouldn’t have a recording contract today.”
During her episode of CMT Giants, the program took a walk down memory lane, reliving the famed performance. With the American flag translucently overlayed on her face, Reba confidently belts out the anthem as flag horses stand around the arena.
Throughout her performance, listeners still hear her deep Oklahoma twangs, but they do not overpower the song’s sentiments. Reba does it best by staying true to her sound but keeping the integrity of the meaningful anthem.
The rest is history for Reba after this performance…and man, I bet everyone in that arena knew she had something special but did not know that they would be one day telling their kids they saw the performance that launched Reba’s career.
Reba is the queen of the “Star Spangled Banner,” and I can’t wait to hear it again during The Super Bowl.