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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

 

Man who signed Reba McEntire featured on TV

By Mary Madewell

Country Music Television producers tell Pattonville native and career musician Glen Keener they have been looking for him for two years.

CMT folks found him earlier this year, asked questions about Reba McEntire and requested he send pictures of himself and the Oklahoma ranch girl he gave a start in the country music business 30 years ago.

A photograph of Keener with the then 21-year-old McEntire, and the story about her career, can be viewed at 7 p.m. Friday on CMT's hour-long special "Reba's Greatest Moments."

"Reba pretty much tells the story of how I signed her," Keener says. "She's talked about me on Larry King and other shows, but this is the first time anyone has contacted me for information."

"The CMT people told me they found my address by calling the musician's union in Nashville," Keener explained.

Keener is also mentioned in Reba biographies as well as a book about Charlie Pride. Keener traveled two years as guitar player with Pride’s band.

After about 30 years in the music business as studio musician, songwriter, producer and owner of a publishing business, Keener returned to Pattonville in 1977.

"I sold out to Lawrence Welk," Keener said of Antique Music. "They bought up a lot of publishing companies and I moved back to Texas and retired from the music business."

Keener on occasion still can be talked into picking up the guitar, but he says he doesn’t enjoy playing as much as he used to.

The musician earned 18 Super Picker Awards from 1974 to 1977 as a studio musician playing on No. 1 hits for stars including Barbara Mandrell, Ronnie Milsap, Charlie Pride, Tanya Tucker, Jim Ed Brown, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Tom T. Hall, Marty Robbins, Barbara Fairchild and Charlie Rich.

He played guitar on No. 1 hits on Jones' "The Grand Tour;" Milsap's "What Goes On When The Sun Goes Down," "Pure Love," "Daydreams About Night Things," and "All Together Now, Let's Fall Apart," among others; Pride's "It's Going To Take A Little Longer" and "She's Too Good To Be True," among others; Robbins' "El Paso," Hall's "I Like Beer;" Tucker's "Don't Believe My Heart Can Stand Another You" and "You've Got Me To Hold On To," among others; Mandrell's "When We're Married But Not To Each Other:" Fairchild's "The Teddy Bear Song;" Rich's "Most Beautiful Girl;" and the Jones-Wynette duet "We're Gonna Hold On."

Keener tells the story of signing Reba.

"A guy brought me this demo while I was working as a producer for Mercury Records," Keener recalled. "I liked the demo and called her. She and her mother came to see me in my office."

Later he played her demo tape for Mercury's board of directors in Chicago.

"Mercury had never had a female artist to do anything, and at the time we were looking to sign a female," Keener said. "A lot of times these people that get signed just happen to be in the right place at the right time."

Keener brought two demos along with him that day in Chicago — one of Reba and another of a girl he said "was more pop."

"I played Reba's tape and everybody agreed I could sign her," Keener said. "I never played the other girl's tape."

"Reba's asked me who the other girl was, but I can't remember," Keener said.

Keener owns a single copy of the 45 record he said didn't go very far on the charts. "I Don’t Want To Be A One Night Stand" was on the A side and the B side was "I'm Not Your Kind of Girl."

Reba would experience "ups" and "downs" in Nashville before attaining super-stardom, Keener said.

"The thing about signing Reba is I knew she was aggressive, and if you are going to be in the music business you've got to be aggressive," Keener said. "If you get knocked down; you've got to get up and keep going. I knew she had the spunk to hang in there, and that is what she did."

The son of the late Clinton Keener and Edna Keener, a cotton farmer and a part-time musician, Keener says he knew early in life he had rather pick a guitar than cotton for a living. He began playing with his father’s band at the Red River Valley Jamboree at the Lamar County Fairgrounds.

The young musician graduated from East Lamar schools and attended Paris Junior College before going to Nashville. His photograph hangs in the PJC student center as a Distinguished Alumnus.

Keener also has experienced success as a songwriter with Jim Ed Brown's "Pop A Top" being his first number one song. He published Tanya Tucker's "You've Got Me To Hold On To" as well as "Coming Home Alone."

Tucker traces her roots to Lamar County, as do other country stars such as Gene Watson and Duane Allen, as well as Anthony Bazanni, who plays keyboard part-time in the George Strait band and was with Ray Price for several years.

Keener has also done cross-over music, publishing "Please Come To Boston," sung by Dave Loggins; "Pieces of April" by Three Dog Night and La Costa's "Lov’in Somebody On A Rainy Night."

At 65, Keener says he enjoys being retired.

"I don’t miss it," he says of the music business. "It’s like any other job, when you do it for 40 years you get tired."

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