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‘Giant’ Reba McEntire no stranger to success

On Nov. 18, Reba McEntire adds another line to her resume, officially becoming the first of Country Music Television’s ‘Giants.’
/ Source: The Associated Press

She’s had a lot of names, like Betsy, Burgundy, Lily, Lizzie, Mrs. Hart and Dr. Green.

She’s had a lot of jobs, like singer, actress, Broadway star, author, clothing designer and philanthropist.

She’s had a lot of success: Her 30 albums have sold over 49 million copies and won her two Grammys and dozens of awards. She was nominated for a Golden Globe and received a Drama Desk award and an Outer Critics Award for her acting.

On Saturday (8 p.m., EST), Reba McEntire adds another line to her resume, officially becoming the first of Country Music Television’s “Giants.”

In a 2½-hour special, Dolly Parton, Trisha Yearwood, Wynonna Judd, Martina McBride, Faith Hill, LeAnn Rimes, Jennifer Nettles, Megan Mullally and Kelly Clarkson sing McEntire’s songs while former President Bush, Loretta Lynn, Barbara Mandrell, Dakota Fanning, James Denton, Vince Gill and others sing McEntire’s praises.

“This is the best show I’ve ever been a part of,” she told husband and business partner Narvel Blackstock. His response, she recounted: “Well of course it is, they all talked about you.”

“I know,” she told him. “Isn’t it great?”

Getting serious, she added: “It just touched my heart.”

‘She appeals to all genders and ages’McEntire, 51, was chosen as the first of the “Giants” by a small group of people at CMT who went looking for the finest in country music and something more, said Sarah Brock, a CMT executive and executive producer of the show.

“She was the absolute best choice. ... Reba really carries the flag into a lot of different worlds for us, but in her heart and in her sound she’s country music.”

The show was taped at the Kodak Theatre here, where fans roared their approval of CMT’s choice.

“It’s amazing how she appeals to all genders and all ages,” said one of those fans, Cyndie James, 37, of Alta Loma.

During the show, McEntire paid tribute to those who feted her: “Being in country music has given me a lot of things, but the things I cherish the most are my friends, my girlfriends, my buddies, the ones who got up and sang tonight for me. Y’all, that’s priceless.” She also saluted her family, friends, staff, crew and band.

In 1991, seven members of McEntire’s band and her road manager were killed when their plane crashed after taking off from a San Diego airport. Mandrell and Yearwood dedicated several minutes of the show to their memory.

Born Reba Nell McEntire in Chockie, Okla., she was discovered at the National Finals Rodeo in 1974 as she sang the national anthem. She put out her first album in 1977 and has had 33 No. 1 hits since.

Multi-tasking comes naturally
McEntire is working on a duets album, and her TV comedy “Reba” begins its sixth season on the CW network on Friday. She is Betsy the cow in “Charlotte’s Web,” due in theaters in December and Dixie the dog in “The Fox and the Hound 2,” out on video in December, adding to the list of characters she has played in movies and on TV and Broadway over the years.

Her “Reba” clothing line (“I wore hand-me-downs all my life”) is featured on her TV show each week and sales of her clothing at Dillard’s is up 83 percent from last year, she said. She has a bedding line that will make its debut in March, with shoes and handbags to follow.

And there’s more.

She has written two books, she has 12,000 photos in her laptop from just the last three years (“I am a picture fanatic”) and she is thoroughly enjoying life. She doesn’t want to eliminate any of her jobs or hobbies. “I like doing all of it,” she said.

She takes pictures from her vacations (she and her family went to Bora Bora and Tahiti this year), adds music and home movies and then she narrates the trips. Her MacBook Pro got so sluggish, she took it to the repair shop where they told her it was full, she said. Before she left the store, she’d bought 250 more gigabytes of storage.

McEntire says she cooks and sews “very badly” but she did help design the two dresses she wore on the special. Her teal-colored dress, she said, “reminds me of the water in Cancun.”

And even though she’s been singing “Fancy” since 1990, she’s never done it in a beaded, red-fringed dress.

She worked with Terry Gordon and John Hayles to make it, she said. Hayles “also made the dress Marilyn Monroe wore over the subway vent,” McEntire added.

She changed into the eye-catching red dress for the finale. “That’s why I felt so frisky up there on stage,” she said.

“Reba singing ‘Fancy’ was the highlight of the show,” said Sharon Smith, 44, of Yucaipa, who won her show tickets off of Sugarland’s Web site.

The TV special flashes back to another red dress — one with a plunging neckline that McEntire wore for the CMA awards in 1993. After that show, her father asked her, “Reba, do you have that thing on backwards?”

Wiz in the kitchen?McEntire may claim she is a poor cook, but a lot of friends and relatives look forward to her hamburger beans and Mexican corn bread.

She gladly shares the recipe: “Hamburger meat, pinto beans [soaked overnight], grilled onions, carrots, green beans and corn, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, ketchup and mustard.”

McEntire doesn’t own up to any bad habits, though others might feel differently, she said.

“I love a good Wild Turkey and 7, that’s my drink. I love beer and margaritas too.” She doesn’t smoke and only cusses once in a while.

“I’m perfect in my eyes, you know,” she laughed.

Her sense of humor obviously helps her keep up with her grueling, cross-country schedule.

The crowd was from across the country, too, many fans winning plane and concert tickets from their hometown radio stations.

“It was just phenomenal. I could not believe that I got to see all these great people that I have admired for some time on one performance,” said fan Nita Sherman, 36, of Redlands.

Who will be next in the yearly “Giants” series? CMT’s Brock isn’t saying, but “there is short list right now.”

McEntire said she would have made Dolly Parton the first recipient.