Country Queens

Reba McEntire has delighted the world on stage and screen with her power ballads, quick wit, acting prowess, and her defining accent and mop of red curls that make her a standout in the industry.

With a sparkle in her eye and a stunning inflection in her voice, the “Queen of Country” rose to the top, recording 33 studio albums over the past 45 years and selling more than 75 million records. Now known simply as Reba, the singer still looms large in the music world and is an inspiration to many.

One singer hoping to find her own success in Nashville, unexpectedly did receive some golden advice when she was compared to McEntire one night.

“I was singing in a band trying to get a record deal in Nashville and somebody told me I looked like Reba McEntire because I had long, curly red hair,” Wendy T recalled. “They said, ‘You can make a lot of money in Las Vegas doing tributes.’ I said, ‘You can?’ Because all I ever thought of was Elvis impersonators. So I looked into it and I worked on a bunch of Reba songs and peppered some into my band because we were doing a show at Billy Bob’s in Minneapolis, a big country bar. So I just started working in a bunch of Reba songs, which were popular at the time anyway. I started working on the look and the mannerisms and I did that organically inside my band.”

To capture Reba’s distinct voice, Wendy enlisted a little help.

“It’s easier to sing the song because you’re mimicking the song, but to talk like her was a little bit difficult because I had to really listen to her voice,” she said. “I worked with a comedian in Minneapolis who did voices to get my Reba speaking voice down. Now I sound like her so much I could go on the radio and do an interview as Reba!”

After mastering the voice, Wendy set out to really start her career as a tribute act, joining one of the most well-known productions.

“I went to Las Vegas and auditioned for John Stuart with Legends in Concert years ago,” she said. “He didn’t have a Reba yet so he put me in the show and that’s how I got into doing Reba. I worked with Legends all over the United States. I didn’t have to live in Las Vegas because it wasn’t a sit-down gig at the Legends in Las Vegas. I traveled quite a bit — Myrtle Beach, Branson, Missouri, Atlantic City — I played all those theaters.”

Her uncanny resemblance and spot-on vocals make Wendy a highly sought-after Reba impersonator. Show producer Leonard Quenneville knew she would be perfect for his show, Simply Reba, which he has brought to Laughlin a few times now. Wendy will return in her role at the Riverside Resort July 28-31.

“I’m excited about coming back, I always like playing there,” Wendy said. “The crowds are so wonderful and they come for Reba, so every song hits. Leonard put together a great band — Leonard of course is on keys and he’s producing it. Mike Hege is the bass player, I’ve worked with him before. Shon McKee is incredible on drums, he’s in a band in Vegas called Crashing Wayward. Then the guitar player used to play with L.A. Guns, his name is Stacey Blades (also in Crashing Wayward). So we’re going to have a rockin’ show!”

A special guest, Jilla Webb, will be joining Wendy for this stop, performing as Patsy Cline, who was a big influence to Reba. This is the first time the two ladies will appear together in Laughlin, but they have been performing together for several years.

“Jilla and I have known each other since we were young,” Wendy said. “We were in a band together so we’ve known each other forever. She’s an amazing singer! We do a lot of duets together. Reba McEntire was very inspired by Patsy Cline and used to close her show with ‘Sweet Dreams’ by Patsy Cline. So we do ‘Sweet Dreams’ together and we do the Kelly Clarkson song, ‘Because of You.’ Then we also do ‘Does He Love You,’ because everyone loves that duet too.”

Webb has always been immersed in the music world, growing up with a mother who was a famous big band singer with the Harry James Orchestra. This encouraged Webb to form her own bands from a young age. She found her way to the tribute world through Wendy and other friends.

“My dear friend Wendy has been doing this for a long time and she and some other friends of mine had always been encouraging me to do some characters,” Webb said. “Then I moved to Las Vegas, and everybody in Las Vegas does some sort of character. So I’ve done a number of characters over the years and it’s really fun. Wendy and I have been friends and working together since I was 19 years old, so we’ve had a really long special friendship and working relationship. We have been on stage so many times so it’s really fun to get to do this with her.”

How did she decide on Cline for her character?

“Are you kidding, she’s awesome!” Webb said. “I love her music and her voice. As a singer, her voice is a challenge. I kind of feel a kinship to such an outspoken woman. Her attitude was just so great. She broke down so many barriers as a woman in this industry, that helped pave the way for what it is that many other women, and myself, are able to do. She was influential in the early days, so doing a character like her is meaningful to me on so many different levels. I love her, I love the music, I love what she stood for and she’s just fun!”

With an untimely accident, Cline’s life was cut short, robbing the world of her massive talent. Webb has studied countless hours of tape to be able to give audiences an authentic recreation of the late legend.

“I listened to all the interviews I could get my hands on and all of her live stuff so I tried to just get a feel of who she was. I try to bring that representation to the stage with me,” Webb said. “She was an incredible person and an incredible character to get to play. I feel very honored that I get to continue her legacy and help keep her alive in the minds and hearts of those who love her music.”