PUSHING THE ENVELOPE

Martina McBride owes her success to enormous talent, some old-fashioned moxie - and a big purple envelope.

In 1991, Martina was just another hopeful singer with a demo tape - a non-professional recording of her singing. One day, she and husband John went to the RCA Nashville label's office to drop off a copy of the three-song cassette, but were shown a sign in the lobby that posted the company's official policy toward music "from the street." It read no unsolicited material accepted.

''So John and I turned around and went home," says Martina. "We put the tape into a large purple envelope and on it, in big letters, we wrote requested material - and somehow it got through!''

Two weeks later, RCA vice president Randy Talmadge was sorting through his mail when he came across the eye-catching purple envelope. Seeing the words "requested material," he figured he must have asked for it - so he opened it up, put on the tape and listened.

"I couldn't recognize where I knew this person from," he says sheepishly. "But after the first song, I thought, 'Wow, she's real good!''' Talmadge recalls being bowled over by Martina's "powerful, Linda Ronstadt-like voice, the song quality and finally the good production.''

Read the entire story of Martina's break into stardom in the current Newsstand Issue!

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