The Story Behind the Touching Tribute Reba McEntire Wrote for Her Late Father, “Daddy”

Years before Reba McEntire broke through in country music, she told the story of her father Clark a family man and champion steer roper, who was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1979. “Daddy,” featured on her second album Out of a Dream in 1979, was never released as a single but was a song that remained close to McEntire’s heart.

It also marked the first time a song written by McEntire was featured on one of her albums.

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‘He Wanted More Out of Life For Us’

McEntire’s lyrics read like a biography of Clark and his Oklahoma roots from ranching and wrangling cattle, roping at the rodeo, and bringing his family along where he went. She also sings about how he wanted more for his children, which prompted them to start performing.

My daddy is a rancher
He’s wrangled cattle dang near all his life
He also liked to rodeo
He traveled around with four kids and a wife

Well his old ranch is rocky
But his ropes sail smooth for several years
He worked real hard
And roped real good
And tried to get his ranch out in the clear

He didn’t want us kids to rodeo
He wanted more out of life for us
Maybe banking, or a lawyer
Or maybe even driving some old bus

Well that’s when we took up singing
And his pride grew greater day by day
And I know his eyes grew misty
The night I sang up on the Opry stage

NASHVILLE – CIRCA 1976: Country singer Reba McEntire poses for a portrait session in Nashville, Tennessee in circa 1976. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

By high school Reba and her siblings started performing as The Singing McEntires and released their debut single “The Ballad of John McEntire” in 1971 about their grandfather John Wesley McEntire, who was also a champion steer roper. After finishing high school, Reba’s father encouraged her to take on a job singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which helped launch her music career.

“Daddy” moves on through Clark McEntire’s later life, retirement from the rodeo, memories, and how Reba found success in music.

Now his ranch is so much bigger
The days when he first started
The grass grows now where none used to be
His roping got him started
Cattle prices made it better
And he’s trying to get his ranch out in the clear

Five years ago September, he bought more steers and hung up all his
But he often tells the stories about the rodeos he won and cowboy jokes
Well it’s funny that the first big roping that he won some thirty years
Was the same day that I sang on the stage of the Grand Old Opry show

“Just Like Them Horses”

Clark McEntire died on October 23, 2014, at age 86. In 2016, Reba dedicated the music video for her song “Just Like Them Horses,” written by Liz Hengber and Tommy Lee James on her 2015 album Love Somebody, to her father.

“This is a song about goodbye, closure, and letting go,” said Reba of her piano ballad. 

The black and white music video shows McEntire walking through her family farm in Chockie, Oklahoma with shots of horses and her real mother, Jacqueline Smith, who died in 2020 at 93, driving in a truck to meet up with her daughter.

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

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