Country singer remembers rural Kansas roots

By Ron Wilson

The Indianapolis 500 is about to begin. It’s time for the singing of the national anthem. The Star Spangled Banner is sung magnificently by a lovely woman with a wonderful voice. This singer has made her mark at the top of the country and pop music charts, but she hasn’t forgotten her small town roots. This superstar singer comes from rural Kansas.

Martina Mariea Schiff was born on July 29, 1966, in Medicine Lodge, Kan., to Daryl and Jeanne Schiff. Two years to the day later, her brother Martin was born. They grew up in a rural area of Barber County. Their mother, Jeanne Schiff, says they would sit on the back porch and play and sing and listen to the radio.

Their father, Daryl Schiff, was a farmer, cabinet shop owner, and country music lover. In fact, he had a band called The Schiffters, which was a play on their last name.

When Martina was just eight years old, she had a chance to sing with the band, and her amazing talent became recognized. By the time she was ten, she and her brother became regular features of the band and sang all through high school. After graduation, she moved to Wichita and sang with a band there.

In 1987, she formed her own band and was looking for rehearsal space. She began renting space from a studio engineer named John McBride. They were married in 1988.

In 1989, they set their sights on a career in Nashville. John and Martina McBride loaded up a trailer and moved to Tennessee. She worked in a restaurant and he got a job on Garth Brook’s sound crew. She performed at a talent showcase and caught the eye of a record company. It was her big break.

“Martina called us and said, `You guys are going to have to sit down. I’m going to be opening for Garth Brooks!” Jeanne Schiff said. “It was like a miracle.”

That was the beginning of a phenonomenal Nashville career. Martina McBride went on to have 25 top 10 hits and six No. 1 hit singles. She has sold more than 18 million albums. Her brother Martin plays guitar in her band and sings backup harmony.

Martina McBride has an incredible career. She won music video of the year, female video of the year three times, the Academy of Country Music Female Vocalist of the Year award three times, and the Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year four times. 

Her hit songs include My Baby Loves Me, Independence Day, A Broken Wing, Wrong Again, I Love You, When God-Fearin’ Women Get the Blues, Blessed, Anyway, Teenage Daughters, and I’m Gonna Love You Through It.  Her song This One’s For the Girls is a favorite for several females I know. Her song Teenage Daughters is also fitting, since she and John have three young daughters themselves.

Another side to Martina McBride is her humanitarian work. She is the spokeswoman for the National Domestic Violence Hotline as well as for the National Network to End Domestic Violence and has assisted with many charity events. In 2003, she won the ACM Humanitarian of the Year award. Martina sang O Holy Night as part of a Christmas album and How Great Thou Art as part of a gospel compilation.

She has not forgotten her home state of Kansas and returns frequently.

“She loves to come here,” said her mother, Jeanne. “The kids do too. They get to run all over out here, which you can’t do in Nashville.”

In 2005 Martina McBride was named Kansan of the Year by the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas. In 2007, a park was named for her back in her rural hometown, the Barber County town of Sharon, population 209 people. Now, that’s rural.

The Indianapolis 500 is about to begin, and a country superstar from rural Kansas has sung the national anthem. We commend Martina McBride for making a difference with her hard work and incredible talent, while remaining true to her rural Kansas roots. As her song title said, this one’s for the girl.

The writer is director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

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