Reba McEntire has been a household name for so long that it’s easy to forget how much she struggled before she made it big.
Reba McEntire was initially signed to Mercury, where she released a long string of singles that didn’t quite break through. The country icon didn’t score her first No. 1 hit until her 14th single, “Can’t Even Get the Blues,” in 1983. She’d even scored a few successes, including Top 10 hits with “(You Lift Me) Up to Heaven,” “Today All Over Again” and “I’m Not That Lonely Yet.” But McEntire didn’t land her true breakthrough without a fight.
Back then, Mercury was considering “Can’t Even Get the Blues” for another Mercury artist, Jacky Ward. McEntire had to argue with producer Jerry Kennedy to include the song on her own new album. Kennedy believed that McEntire’s voice was better suited to ballads. But he ultimately relented, and “Can’t Even Get the Blues” was the final song that McEntire recorded for her Unlimited album.
McEntire’s instincts turned out to be correct. Released as the second single from Unlimited, “Can’t Even Get the Blues” — which was written by Tom Damphier and Rick Carnes — reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart on Jan. 8, 1983, and McEntire followed it up with another No. 1 hit, “You’re the First Time I’ve Thought About Leaving.”
She departed Mercury after just one more album. Later revealing that she had fought with the label over the pop-country direction they wanted to take her in, among other issues. In 1984 McEntire’s second album for MCA, My Kind of Country, gave her two more No. 1 hits with “How Blue” and “Somebody Should Leave.” And in that same year she won an ACM Award for Top Female Vocalist, as well as a CMA Award for Female Vocalist of the Year. Setting her on the path to becoming one of the most iconic country singers of all time.