Reba McEntire was just a 20-year-old newcomer with big dreams when she signed her first record deal on Nov. 11, 1975.

The flame-haired Oklahoma native wasn't entirely a stranger to the music scene prior to signing with Mercury Records. She was singing in a group with her brother, Pake, and her sister, Susie, billing themselves as the Singing McEntires. According to the Boot, that group performed at rodeos and released one single, "The Ballad of John McEntire." Reba was not sure she wanted to pursue music full-time, however, so she enrolled at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, planning to follow in her mother's footsteps and become an elementary school teacher.

McEntire landed a solo gig singing the national anthem at the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City while she was still in college, and country singer Red Stegall happened to be in attendance. He offered to help McEntire secure a deal in Nashville, and after she recorded a solo demo tape, he made the rounds on Music Row, eventually landing her a contract with Mercury.

McEntire recorded her first song for the label, "I Don't Want to Be a One-Night Stand," Jan. 22, 1976. Released as the first single from her self-titled debut album, it failed, as did several subsequent singles. McEntire would score a few Top 10 hits over the next few years, including "(You Lift Me) Up to Heaven," "Today All Over Again" and "I'm Not That Lonely Yet," but incredibly, it would take the determined aspiring star until 1983 to score her true breakthrough single. McEntire nabbed her first No. 1 hit with her 14th single, "Can't Even Get the Blues," launching her on a trajectory to become one of the most influential female country artists of all time.

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