The country star remembers the woman who introduced her to music—her mom.

Season 2Episode 26: November 30, 2021

Reba McEntire wasn't the only one in her family who dreamed of becoming a performer. Her mother, Jacqueline (who died in March 2020 at the age of 93), did too. "Mama wanted to be a singer," Reba said in an interview on the Southern Living Biscuits & Jam podcast. "[She] had a friend, and they were a duo. They wanted to go to California and pursue a career, but Grandpa wouldn't let them because he needed help there at home."

Instead, Jacqueline stayed in Oklahoma, became an elementary school teacher, and married Clark, a future world champion steer roper. She raised three girls and a boy on a cattle ranch in the tiny town of Chockie, and the family spent much of their time on the road, pulling a horse trailer from one rodeo event to the next. Reba became a talented barrel racer, and on those long trips, she also learned to sing. "When we were rodeoing, we didn't have a radio or an air conditioner," Reba recalled. "We barely even had an armrest. So, to keep us kids out of trouble, Mama taught us four-part harmony. That's how we would pass the time."

Reba and her mother Jacqueline
Credit: Courtesy Reba’s Business, Inc.

Jacqueline enjoyed big band, blues, jazz, country, and everything in between. "Johnny Horton, Johnny Tillotson, Johnny Cash—all the Johnnys were covered," Reba said. Her mother also loved Christmas music. "The first time I was ever behind a microphone was when I was singing 'Away in a Manger' at the holiday program in first grade," she said.

Years later, when the McEntires decided to take Reba to Nashville, it was Jacqueline who helped steady her daughter's nerves. "I was really missing my rodeo family, wondering if I was going to be torn away from them completely," Reba said. "I made a lot of excuses to stop—you know, 'I have to use a bathroom' or 'Can we get something to drink?' She got fed up with it and said, 'Reba, if you don't want to do this, we don't have to do it. We can just turn around and go home. But if you go through with it, I just want you to know that I'll be living all my dreams through you.' I said, 'Well, shoot. Why didn't you say that in the first place? Let's go.' "

When Reba's career was getting started, her mom even traveled with her and, every now and then, performed with her onstage. In 2017, at the age of 90, Jacqueline joined Reba and her two other daughters at the Ryman Auditorium to sing "I'll Fly Away," which they had recorded together for a gospel album. "That was just a dream come true for me," said Reba. And it clearly was for Jacqueline too.

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