Reba McEntire honors late band members in heartbreaking tribute – asks for prayers

Reba McEntire, widely celebrated as the Queen of Country Music, has faced significant heartbreak throughout her life. Music has been her solace during times of immense loss, including the devastating passing of her mother, Jacqueline.

Recently, McEntire, 68, revealed that she almost quit music after her mother died from cancer in March 2020. She shared a poignant moment when she and her sister Susie were sorting through their parents’ belongings. During this reflective time, she considered stepping away from her singing career.

“I was looking through pictures and said, ‘I just don’t think I’m gonna do this anymore.’ My sister asked, ‘What?’ and I replied, ‘Sing. I always did it for Mama.’ She reassured me, ‘Oh, you’ll get it back.’ And I did.”

Years before her mother’s death, McEntire endured an even greater tragedy. Thirty-two years ago, she lost several band members in a horrific plane crash. On March 16, 1991, after a performance in San Diego, the band members and the tour manager boarded a flight to Fort Wayne, Indiana. McEntire, her manager and then-husband Narvel Blackstock, and her stylist stayed behind in San Diego to rest.

The first plane, carrying her band members and tour manager, crashed just ten miles from the airport, killing everyone on board, including guitarist Chris Austin, singer Paula Kaye Evans, bassist Terry Jackson, bandleader Kirk Cappello, guitarist Michael Thomas, drummer Tony Saputo, keyboardist Joey Cigainero, tour manager Jim Hammon, and pilots Donald Holms and Chris Hollinger.

In a 2012 interview with Oprah Winfrey, McEntire recounted the traumatic event. “The wing of the plane struck a boulder on the edge of Otay Mountain. Narvel approached our pilot and informed him of the situation as soon as we received the news,” she said. Later that evening, Blackstock returned to the hotel room where McEntire was waiting. She asked about her friends, and he replied, “I don’t think so.” Even decades later, McEntire admitted that the pain never truly goes away.

During this difficult period, McEntire found comfort in the support of fellow musicians like Dolly Parton and Vince Gill, who offered their bands to help her continue touring. However, she declined and instead focused on writing and recording her album “For My Broken Heart” in memory of her lost band members. The album resonated deeply with her fans, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and selling four million copies.

Every year on the anniversary of the plane crash, McEntire honors her late bandmates. She often takes to social media to commemorate their passing and ask for prayers from her fans. On the 25th anniversary of the tragedy in 2016, she posted a heartfelt tribute on Instagram after visiting the crash site in San Diego. “Today is the 25th anniversary of the plane crash,” she wrote. “I couldn’t help but feel that those who have passed on are aware of how much we miss them. For all the families and friends impacted by this tragedy, please accept my heartfelt condolences and sincere prayers.”