Reba McEntire spent her Tuesday morning with more than 600 Middle Tennessee schoolchildren at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. She talked about topics ranging from her favorite country singer (Dolly Parton) to her favorite stage outfit (a red dress) to who was there to pull her out of her depression following the 1991 plane crash that killed many of her band members.
"I didn't know how I would go back on stage," McEntire said of coming to grips with the loss of her band. "Vince (Gill) called and said, 'Buddy, I'll play guitar for you.' And Dolly said, 'You need my band, take my band. I'm here for you.'"
The loss still makes McEntire emotional and the conversation didn't linger there for long. But Parton's name did pop up a few times over the course of the conversation — a Q&A session led by Bill Cody that allowed schoolchildren the opportunity to ask McEntire questions.
McEntire said "Fancy" was her favorite hit to sing, that she also enjoyed Celtic music and classic rock and revealed that Parton – who went on to induct McEntire into the Country Music Hall of Fame – crashed her "Grand Ole Opry" debut.
McEntire said her family drove 700 miles from Oklahoma to watch her debut on the "Opry" in 1977. When they pulled up to the backstage area, McEntire's name wasn't on the list, and the security guard wouldn't let them in. She and her parents had to drive to a gas station and call her booking agent, who then made a call and had her name placed on the list.
With that debacle behind her, McEntire was given two songs to sing her first time out — but at the last minute, she was told she would could only sing one song. Parton had just pulled into the parking lot and was going to take one of McEntire's songs.
"Dolly came walking in, and she was like a vision," McEntire said. "It was worth the drive from Oklahoma just to see Dolly."
McEntire told them Parton "could have all the songs."
McEntire's exhibit "Reba: All the Women I Am" will be open at The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum through June 8. Parton's new album "Blue Smoke" is in stores today.