Thirty-eight years ago today, on Jan. 8, 1983, Reba McEntire earned her first No. 1 hit with “Can’t Even Get the Blues.” The song, McEntire’s 14th single, was from her fifth studio album, Unlimited, which was released on Mercury Records.
“Can’t Even Get the Blues,” which was written by Tom Damphier and Rick Carnes, was one of the first uptempo songs that McEntire released as a single — and she had to fight to even record it. The tune was being considered for Jacky Ward, another artist on Mercury, and McEntire argued with her producer, Jerry Kennedy, over the right to include the track on her own new record.
“Can’t Even Get the Blues” was the last song that McEntire recorded for Unlimited. Although Kennedy maintained that McEntire’s voice was better suited for ballads, he relented, and McEntire proved that her instincts were correct.
Unlimited‘s first single, “I’m Not That Lonely Yet,” landed in the Top 3 on the charts. McEntire followed ”Can’t Even Get the Blues” with another ballad, ”You’re the First Time I’ve Thought About Leaving,” also from her Unlimited album; that song hit No. 1 as well.
Earning back-to-back No. 1 singles gave McEntire the career boost she needed: In 1984, she won the ACM Award for Top Female Vocalist, as well as the CMA Award for Female Vocalist of the Year. She would go on to win both awards three more consecutive times, through 1987.
McEntire included “Can’t Even Get the Blues” on several of her compilation albums, including The Best of Reba McEntire in 1985, Oklahoma Girl in 1994 and Reba #1s in 2005.
This story was originally written by Gayle Thompson, and revised by Annie Zaleski.
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