Reba McEntire and The Grand Ole Opry are two of the most “country” things out there. But her first time at the Opry wasn’t exactly an auspicious beginning to the relationship. She tells the story of almost not getting on stage–and getting her act cut short thanks to Dolly Parton.
“She’s not on the roster”
Now that she’s in the Country Music Hall of Fame with a slew of hits behind her, there’s not much chance of Reba going anywhere without being recognized. But this is 2017. 40 years ago, things were quite different.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” says McEntire. “It was going to be the weekend of September 17th, 1977. I called Mama, so Mama and Daddy and Alice, my older sister, drove from southeastern Oklahoma to see me on the Grand Ole Opry.”
It looked like things were going as planned. But the night was still young.
“We pulled up to the back gate, and Daddy says, ‘I got Reba McEntire here to sing at the Grand Ole Opry tonight.’ The guard looks at his clipboard [and] says, ‘Nope, she’s not on the roster here, so she’s not singing tonight.’ Daddy says, “Oh sure she is, she’s right back here in the backseat.’ He says, ‘Well sir, I don’t have her on the list, so she’s not singing.’ I said, ‘Daddy, let’s go back over across the interstate to that Get-n-Go and I’ll call my booking agent. They’ll work it out.’”
She said she called her agent and he worked it out. They returned and had a parking spot.
It seemed things were looking up. However, fate was not yet done with her.
Bumped for Dolly
After she finally arrived backstage, the staff told her she couldn’t sing all three of her songs because Dolly Parton had arrived.
This was fine with Reba because, well, it was Dolly Parton!
When told that Parton would be taking one of her songs, Reba said, “‘Shoot, she can take both of them. Can I meet her?’ They said, ‘No, we just need one of them.'”
“Dolly walked by and she was in this beautiful black pantsuit,” McEntire continues. “Black chiffon with butterfly rhinestones on it, and her hair was just beautiful. I thought she was the most beautiful woman I ever saw in my life.”
Eventually, Reba made it on the stage. “I got my little outfit on, and I sang ‘Invitation to the Blues’ — the Four Guys walked me out to the center of the stage and Charlie Walker introduced me.”
Now she’s an official Opry member. How things change.