How Kelly met Reba

Inquiring minds might want to know: What is a 26-year-old pop Idol doing with a country diva twice her age?

The short answer is that Clarkson is signed to Starstruck Entertainment, the management company run by Reba McEntire's husband, Narvel Blackstock.

It was the result of a blowup between Clarkson and almighty RCA chairman Clive Davis. He wanted Clarkson to replace five songs from Clarkson's passionate third album "My December," fearing the whole affair was too "negative" and "dark." Clarkson, who wrote or co-wrote all of the songs, stood up to the man and won, parting with management in the process.

It didn't come without setbacks. Just before the release of "My December" last summer Clarkson planned to tour the outdoor sheds. When Live Nation got a look at the sales figures, the tour was scrapped in favor of a smaller theater tour, followed by an Australian run. Davis watched "My December" debut at No. 2 on the charts (behind Hannah Montana) and become a critical and commercial success.

All the while, Clarkson had one foot in the country scene, because she is from Texas, after all, and rockers from Bon Jovi to David Lee Roth are dipping into Nashville.

Plus, she grew up listening to Reba and got to perform a duet with her on "American Idol" in 2002.

"When I was in junior high, my friend told me I had to listen to this song," Clarkson told a crowd last week in Salt Lake City. "She popped in a CD, and it was Reba. I loved all the songs. We were poor, but the only thing I asked for Christmas that year was a Reba CD. My mom got me five."

Kelly and Reba turned Clarkson's "Because of You" into a duet at the Academy of Country Music Awards in May 2007 and then joined forces again for a CMT Crossroads special at the Ryman Auditorium a month later. The version of "Because of You," which appeared on "Reba: Duets," hit No. 2 on the country charts and earned them Grammy and CMA nominations.

When Clarkson signed to Starstruck in July 2007, McEntire told Elle magazine, "It's pretty heavy, what happened to her. She was thrown into the ocean without a life preserver. And she handled it. I don't know that I could have. Back in the day, female artists were told to perform and then go sit in the corner. Thank God for people like Dolly Parton who took charge. Kelly is the same way. She knows what she wants. She's had a rough go of it in the music business. People think she just won 'Idol' and everything else was easy. Not so. She's had to fight."

Last November, it was announced that the pair would set out on the 2 Worlds, 2 Voices Tour, begging the questions: Do Reba fans want Kelly? Do Kelly fans want Reba? Judging from the 15 sold-out shows, the answer is yes. The Mellon Arena show Friday is part of a larger second leg that runs through late November.

Unlike most other co-headlining events, they take the stage together and blend their sets, trading off songs and duets with a country girl's twang and a rocker's wail.

This could raise new possibilities. Barry Manilow and Toby Keith are also clients at Starstruck. Can we look forward to that tour in the near future?

Scott Mervis can be reached at or 412-263-2576. First Published October 16, 2008 4:00 AM


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