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What a Doll Dolly Parton came to Reba McEntire's aid after country singer's band and crew killed in plane crash

"We had three planes. I was on one, half the band and crew were on one, and half the band and crew were on the third one.

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Dolly Parton was straight on the phone to Reba to help out after the tragedy

Dolly Parton was straight on the phone to Reba to help out after the tragedy

Reba's new box set.

Reba's new box set.

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Dolly Parton was straight on the phone to Reba to help out after the tragedy

AMERICAN country superstar Reba McEntire has revealed how Dolly Parton came to her aid after eight members of her band and crew were killed in a horrific plane crash.

The 1991 tragedy occurred as they took a night flight out of San Diego after a show - with Reba, her then husband, Narvel, and her stylist opting to stay overnight and travel the next day.

As it left the airport that night, one of the planes clipped the side of a mountain and crashed in a ball of flames, killing all on board, including the two pilots.

In an exclusive interview as she releases a box set of her music, including a duet with Dolly, Reba tells the Sunday World: "We had three planes. I was on one, half the band and crew were on one, and half the band and crew were on the third one.

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Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire

"The band were going on to Fort Wayne, Indiana, that night on two planes, so that they'd be there for a sound check the next day. And then my plane was going to go the next day for the show that night."

"The plane that crashed took off first. The second plane carrying two more band members took off three minutes later, not realising what had happened.

Reba was devastated when she got the news in the early hours of the morning. "It was such a shock, and it happened so fast that you don't know how to regroup and get back on your feet, much less getting back on stage," Reba tells me.

"I'll never forget Vince Gill calling me saying, 'Buddy, are you OK?' I said, 'How am I ever going to get back on stage and turn around and they're not there?' He said, 'I'll get on stage with you, I'll help you, I'll play guitar.

"Dolly even called me and said, 'You can take my band until you get your band together. She sent Billy Smith, her piano player, to put a band together for me."

Later that same year, Reba released an album called For My Broken Heart, dedicated to the eight colleagues who lost their lives that fateful night.

"It seems your current emotional status determines what music you'd like to hear," the iconic artist says in the liner notes for For My Broken Heart.

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Reba McEntire has come through hard times

Reba McEntire has come through hard times

Reba McEntire has come through hard times

"That's what happened on the song selection for this album. If for any reason you can relate to the emotion packed inside these songs, I hope it's a form of healing for all our broken hearts."

Looking back today on the recording of that album, Reba tells me: "Leland Sklar was the bass player in the studio and he came in after about the third or fourth song and he said, 'Reba, are you going to let us play any uptempo or happy songs?'

And I looked at him and said, 'Not this time.' And I couldn't sing happy songs and I love them."

Twice-married Reba has faced many adversities in life, including the break-up of her second marriage to Narvel Blackstock in 2015, which left her heartbroken. But she has always bounced back.

Despite becoming a multi-millionaire country queen with an €82 million fortune, Reba came from a tough background. She was reared on a cattle ranch where hard, manual graft was the order of the day for children and adults.

"I grew up on a working cattle ranch and I was one of four kids," she says. "We worked on the ranch, and there were times in the fall when we'd have to get up before daylight, catch the horses and be gathering cattle to ship them out.

"And then we'd get in the car and Mom would take us to school. We worked hard, but I think that really helped me later in my profession - knowing how to work hard, show up, be on time, be prepared and don't waste anybody else's time.

"And also to be able to take direction. When Daddy told you to do something you'd better do it and don't talk back, don't say, 'In a minute' or 'I'll get to it when I can,'… it was RIGHT NOW. It was very like being in the army."

Life is good for Reba these days. She's found love again with CSI: Miami actor Rex Linn and says she's like "a giddy teenager."

"We'd know each other since '91 and met when we were doing The Gambler movie with Kenny Rogers," she reveals.

The couple met for dinner in January 2020 when Reba was visiting Los Angeles where Linn lives.

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Reba's new box set.

Reba's new box set.

Reba's new box set.

"That dinner led to us communicating and talking, and then the pandemic hit. We talked probably three hours a day until he finally came to Nashville in June last year and we saw each other in person again.

"During the time we were apart he was sending me food from all over the country - pecan pies, Lousiana cajun food, ice cream from California. We had the best time. I was waiting by the door for Federal Express to bring the next package from Rex."

The way to a woman's heart is through her stomach? "He knows me well," she laughs.

Reba has a love affair with Ireland and has been here several times, both as a performer and as a tourist with her family. "I love being there in Ireland, performing and getting to go sightseeing," she says.

"The Eagles were performing when my family and I were there vacationing one time and we got tickets to go see them in Dublin. We've always had good times there in Ireland."

Reba McEntire's three-part boxset, featuring new takes on her songs, including a duet with Dolly Parton on Does He Love You, is out now.

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