Reba McEntire surprised guests at her No. 1 party Wednesday (Aug. 4) by closing the celebration with a nine-song set of her hits and newer material. The focal point of the festivities, held at Nashville's Rocketown nightclub, was "Somebody," the 22nd No. 1 single of McEntire's career and her first in six years.
During a brief press conference preceding the party, the still vivacious redhead scolded celebrities who bring politics to their shows -- but made it perfectly clear that she backs President Bush.
Dressed in a glittery white tank top and form-flattering blue jeans, McEntire told reporters that her WB sitcom, Reba, continues to be designed for family viewing. She will start shooting the fourth season next week. "We want to be family friendly," she stressed, conjuring up the vision of everyone from kids to grandparents gathered around the set in the living room.
McEntire has historically included socially-conscious songs in her albums, ranging from the plight of immigrants in "Just Across the Rio Grande" to the problem of spouse abuse in "The Stairs" to a sympathetic view of mercy killing in "Bobby." Asked if she seeks out such songs, she replied, "I don't make it a point to go looking for songs like that, but I sure do love it when I find them." As an example, she cited "She Thinks His Name Was John," which deals with a woman who's contracted AIDS from an impetuous one-night stand. She said it was the last one played in a batch of songs a publisher was pitching her, but that she knew from the moment she heard it that she wanted to record it.
Another reporter asked what she thought about stars who try to impart their own politics to fans. She said she opposed it: "I feel that people who are my fans really respect my opinions, and I don't want to sway anybody's opinions." Then she added, "I know who I'm going to vote for. I voted for him the last time."
Having conquered country music, Broadway (with Annie Get Your Gun) and now television, McEntire said she enters each new venture without dwelling on the prospect of failing. Explaining that she never even thought about the possibility of flopping on Broadway, she said, "I just wanted to be Annie Oakley."
No matter how many No. 1's she scores, she told reporters, each one seems important. She observed, "You never hear, 'How many No. 3s have you had?'" In spite of having acted in several movies, McEntire said she isn't being offered any movie scripts. But, she added, television suits her fine, especially the way production is scheduled. She said she gets off early enough on Fridays to do weekend concerts.
McEntire announced that her next single will be "He Gets That From You," which is about seeing an absent father in the face and actions of his young son. In the original version, she said, the father is absent because of a "bitter divorce." Not liking that angle, she asked the songwriters to rewrite the lyrics to suggest that the father has "passed away." Fans helped pick the new single, she said, by voting for it on the Reba.com Web site.
Following the press conference, McEntire dashed off for a series of TV interviews, which were conducted on a balcony overlooking the spacious -- but packed -- party room. One of the partygoers was Terri Clark, who, without her habitual hat, moved about relatively unnoticed, dressed in a black T-shirt and denim cutoffs.
Luke Lewis and James Stroud, co-chairmen of Universal Music Group Nashville, called the party to order. "I grew up around rich kids who'd inherited money, " Lewis began, "and I resented them. Then, a couple of years ago, I inherited Reba McEntire." (He was referring to his taking the reins at MCA Records, McEntire's label.)
Stroud told the story of his first recording session with McEntire. He said he'd come to Nashville as a young drummer looking for work and was overjoyed when McEntire's producer hired him for the session. McEntire greeted him warmly and put him at ease, he recalled, until she noticed he was playing a new-fangled set of electronic drums. "She said, 'Those drums go and so do you,'" Stroud reported. "She fired me!"
McEntire stood at the back of the room with her mother, sister and other family members until Stroud and Lewis called her to the stage for the presentation of dozens of awards -- to her; producers Norro Wilson and Buddy Cannon, "Somebody" songwriters, Dave Berg, Sam Tate and Annie Tate and their publishers. Indeed, the award presentations went on so long that Lewis was compelled from time to time to ask the crowd to be patient.
That patience was eventually rewarded when everyone left the stage except McEntire, and the curtain lifted to reveal her nine-piece band. Her husband and manager, Narvel Blackstock, was at the back of the room, vigilantly monitoring the soundboard.
McEntire opened the show with "Can't Even Get the Blues," her first No. 1, from 1982. She told the crowd that she was at a garage in De Soto, Texas, waiting for her bus to be repaired, when she got the news that the song had hit the top of the charts. The first thing she did, she said, was call her mother.
"Can't Even Get the Blues"
"How Was I to Know"
"Whoever's in New England"
"The Fear of Being Alone"
"Fallin' Out of Love"
"I'm a Survivor" (the Reba theme)
To view photos from the party, visit Reba McEntire's artist page at CMT.com.