Reba McEntire’s Band Died in a Plane Crash, But What Happened?
Reba McEntire talked about the plane crash that killed seven members of her band and her tour manager almost immediately after it happened in 1991. Those interviews, a powerful acceptance speech at the ACM Awards and original news reports allow newer country music and Reba fans to appreciate the depth of the tragedy and the strange twists of fate that spared some lives, but not others.
Two planes took off from a southern San Diego airstrip at about 1:45AM on March 16, 1991, after McEntire played a private show in the area. They were to fly to Fort Wayne, Ind., for a concert the next day. At the time McEntire was at the height of her popularity, having won eight combined Female Vocalist of the Year trophies and an Entertainer of the Year prize, and having just begun an acting career. Minutes after takeoff — according to the L.A. Times — the first plane crashed into Otay Mountain, a 3,500-foot peak about 10 miles east of the airstrip. Everyone onboard died.
The crash, what caused it, why McEntire wasn't on it and the eerie connection to a different country queen killed in a plane crash are the focus of this week's episode of The Secret History of Country Music. The "Fancy" singer spoke with People less than two weeks after the plane crash in 1991, and in recent years has soberly reflected on that day, how she heard of the crash and how she and then-new-husband Narvel Blackstock responded.
Those on the second plane have gone on to have successful careers in music with support from the loved ones of those who died. It was Debbie Hammon, McEntire told the magazine, who emphatically told her she needed to press on.
"He’d kick your butt if you thought about quitting,” the then-36-year-old recalled the widowed wife of her tour manager saying. Years later, several generations of fans are grateful for the advice.
The Secret History of Country Music is a new weekly series hosted by Taste of Country News host Ania Hammar. We'll go deeper inside the stories of country music's biggest hits, moments and figures. Be sure to subscribe to Taste of Country's YouTube channel so you never miss a new episode.
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