We’ve just about given up all hope for country music to be featured doing the Halftime Show of the Super Bowl. It’s been 30 years since The Judds, Clint Black, Travis Tritt and Tanya Tucker performed, marking that last time country music was prominently featured during the NFL’s big game. And since the Halftime Show is produced by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, it might be another 30 years before we see one.
But the consolation prize is that country music seems to have a lock on performing the National Anthem, at least over the last few years. In 2023, Chris Stapleton performed it, and was nails. So was Mickey Guyton in 2022. In 2021, Eric Church performed the National Anthem with Jazmine Sullivan, which was a little weird, but fine.
In 2024, it will be country legend and Hall of Famer Reba McEntire performing the National Anthem. For Reba, it will be a full circle moment.
In 1974 while a sophomore in college at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Reba McEntire performed the National Anthem at the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, or NFR (see video below). In the crowd that day was legendary country songwriter and performer Red Steagall.
“After the rodeo, we all went up to the Justin [boots] suite at the Hilton and we were all in this big suite and the guys were passing the guitar around, and somebody asked me to sing ‘Jolene,’ no ‘Joshua,’” Reba later recalled. Red Steagall was so impressed, he decided he wanted to help Reba get a recording contract.
Reba’s mother Jacqueline tried to convince Red Steagall to get all three of her daughters singed to a Nashville record label. The three sisters were taught how to harmonize from an early age, and performed as The Singing McEntires. After traveling back to Nashville, Steagall informed Reba’s mother, “I can’t take all three. But I could take Reba. She’s got something a little different.”
At first, Reba McEntire was a little reluctant to pursue a music career. She would eventually finish her degree in education at Southeastern Oklahoma State. On her first trip to Nashville, Reba kept making excuses to stop or turn the car around. Reba’s mom eventually said, “Now Reba, let me tell you something. If you don’t want to go to Nashville, we don’t have to do this. But I’m living all my dreams through you.”
This is what finally convinced Reba that she should go forward with music. Eventually she recorded a demo tape, and was singed to PolyGram/Mercury Records.
Over the years, the National Anthem has been a gateway for many country stars to find their first opportunities. LeAnn Rimes got her start singing the “Star Spangled Banner,” and Mickey Guyton was inspired to pursue music after seeing LeAnn Rimes sing it at a baseball game.
When Reba McEntire sings the National Anthem at the Super Bowl on Sunday, she will be doing so as a multi-millionaire, multi-Platinum Country Music Hall of Fame singer with a successful acting career to boot. Many now refer to Reba as the modern Queen of Country Music. But it all started in Oklahoma with one performance.