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Kenny Rogers
KennyRogers.jpg
Rogers in January 1997
Background information
Birth name Kenneth Ray Rogers
Born (1938-08-21)August 21, 1938
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Died March 20, 2020(2020-03-20) (aged 81)
Colbert, Georgia, U.S.
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actor
  • record producer
  • entrepreneur
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • bass guitar
  • harmonica
  • fiddle
Years active 1957–2017
Labels
Associated acts

Kenneth Ray Rogers (August 21, 1938 – March 20, 2020) was an American singer, songwriter, actor, record producer, and entrepreneur. He was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Though he was most successful with country audiences, Rogers charted more than 120 hit singles across various music genres, topped the country and pop album charts for more than 200 individual weeks in the United States alone, and sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.

In the late 1950s, he started his recording career with jazz-singer Bobby Doyle, and joined the folk ensemble the New Christy Minstrels in 1961, playing double bass and bass guitar as well as singing. In 1967, he and several members of the New Christy Minstrels left to found the group the First Edition, with whom he scored his first major hit, "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)", a psychedelic rock song which peaked at number five on the Billboard charts. As Rogers took an increased leadership role in the First Edition, and following the success of 1969's "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town", the band gradually changed styles to a more country feel. The band broke up in 1975–1976, and Kenny Rogers embarked on a long and successful solo career, which included several successful collaborations, including duets with singers Dolly Parton and Sheena Easton, and a songwriting partnership with Lionel Richie. His signature song, 1978's "The Gambler", was a cross-over hit that won him a Grammy award in 1980 and was selected in 2018 for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. He would develop the Gambler persona into a character for a successful series of television films starting with 1980's Emmy-nominated Kenny Rogers as The Gambler.

Two of his albums, The Gambler and Kenny, were featured in the About.com poll of "The 200 Most Influential Country Albums Ever". He was voted the "Favorite Singer of All Time" in a 1986 joint poll by readers of both USA Today and People. He has received numerous awards such as the AMAs, Grammys, ACMs and CMAs, as well as a lifetime achievement award for a career spanning six decades in 2003. Later success included the 2006 album release, Water & Bridges, an across the board hit, that hit the Top 5 in the Billboard Country Albums sales charts, also charting in the Top 15 of the Billboard 200. The first single from the album, "I Can't Unlove You", was also a sizable chart hit. Remaining a popular entertainer around the world, he continued to tour regularly until his retirement in 2017.

He acted in a variety of movies and television shows, most notably the title roles in Kenny Rogers as The Gambler and the MacShayne series for The NBC Mystery Movie, and the 1982 feature film Six Pack. He was a co-founder of the restaurant chain Kenny Rogers Roasters in collaboration with former Kentucky Fried Chicken CEO John Y. Brown Jr.

Early life and Career

TheGamblerAlbumCover
The Gambler was released December 1978

Rogers was born the fourth of eight children in Houston, Texas. His parents were Lucille Lois (née Hester; 1910–1991), a nurse's assistant, and Edward Floyd Rogers (1904–1975), a carpenter. Rogers is of Irish and Native American ancestry. Rogers attended Wharton Elementary School.

Love Lifted Me
Love Lifted Me is the first solo studio album by Kenny Rogers 1976

In a recording career dating back to the 1950s, Rogers moved from teenage rock'n'roll through psychedelic rock to become a country-pop crossover artist of the 1970s and 1980s. He had a minor solo hit in 1957 called "That Crazy Feeling". After sales slowed down, Rogers joined a jazz group called The Bobby Doyle Three, who got a lot of work in clubs thanks to a reasonable fan following.

The group recorded for Columbia Records. They disbanded in 1965, and a 1966 jazzy rock single Rogers recorded for Mercury Records, called "Here's That Rainy Day", failed. Rogers also worked as a producer, writer and session musician for other performers, including country artists Mickey Gilley and Eddy Arnold. In 1966 he joined the New Christy Minstrels as a singer and double bass player.

Solo career

Kenny rogers-coward of the county s
Cover art for the single Coward of the County

In 1976 Rogers signed a solo deal with United Artists. Producer Larry Butler and Rogers began a partnership that would last four years.Rogers first outing for his new label was Love Lifted Me. The album charted and two singles, "Love Lifted Me" and "While the Feeling's Good", were minor hits. The song "Runaway Girl" was featured in the motion picture Trackdown.

KennyRogersKenny
Kenny is the eighth studio album by Kenny Rogers 1979

Later in 1976, Rogers issued his second album, the self-titled Kenny Rogers, whose first single, "Laura (What's He Got That I Ain't Got)", was another solo hit.

The single "Lucille" (1977) was a major hit, reaching number one on the pop charts in 12 countries, selling over five million copies, and firmly establishing Rogers' post-First Edition career. On the strength of "Lucille", the album Kenny Rogers reached No.1 in the Billboard Country Album Chart. More success was to follow, including the multi-platinum selling album The Gambler and another international Number 1 single, "Coward of the County", taken from the equally successful album, Kenny.

Retirement

Dolly Parton, 2011
Rogers final concert in Nashville included a special appearance by long-time friend Dolly Parton

In 2015, Rogers announced his farewell tour, titled The Gambler's Last Deal. In announcing the tour, Rogers indicated at the time that his final tour appearance would be on NBC's Today show. Concert dates were scheduled through 2018 and included visits to the United States, Australia, Scotland, Ireland, England, The Netherlands and Switzerland. On April 5, 2018, it was announced that Rogers canceled his remaining tour as advised by doctors due to a series of health challenges.

Rogers' final concert in Nashville took place on October 25, 2017 at the Bridgestone Arena where he was joined by an array of guest artists including Linda Davis, Elle King, Little Big Town, Lionel Richie, Billy Currington, Lee Greenwood, The Flaming Lips, The Oak Ridge Boys, Justin Moore, Travis Tritt, The Judds, Kris Kristofferson, Alison Krauss, Chris Stapleton, Lady Antebellum, Idina Menzel, Crystal Gayle, Reba McEntire and Jamey Johnson.

The concert also included a special appearance by long-time friend Dolly Parton, who performed "You Can't Make Old Friends" and "Islands in the Stream" with Rogers for the final time. His most successful final show was in Toledo, Ohio at the Huntington Center to a sold out audience.

Six-pack-movie-poster-1982
Six Pack is a 1982 American comedy-drama film starring Kenny Rogers

Acting and other ventures

Rogers also had success as an actor. His 1982 movie Six Pack, in which he played a race-car driver, took more than $20 million at the United States box office, while made-for-TV movies such as The Gambler series, Christmas in America, and Coward of the County (based on hit songs of his) topped ratings lists. He also served as host & narrator for the A&E historical series The Real West.

Logo for Kenny Rogers Roasters
The logo used since 2012

As an entrepreneur, he collaborated with former Kentucky Fried Chicken CEO John Y. Brown Jr. in 1991 to start up the restaurant chain Kenny Rogers Roasters. The chicken and ribs chain, which is similar to Boston Market, was famously featured in an episode of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld called "The Chicken Roaster". Season four of the TV series Fresh Off the Boat depicts the chain as owning a share of Louis Huang's Cattleman's Ranch restaurant and then filing for bankruptcy.

Rogers put his name to the Gambler Chassis Co., a Sprint car racing manufacture. The company used the name from Rogers' hit song The Gambler. During the 1980s and 1990s, Gambler was one of the fastest and widely used Sprintcars, Gambler sprintcars were also successful in Australia.

Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and Tex Ritter Museum IMG 2956
Kenny Rogers was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame on August 12, 2017

Rogers appeared in a 2004 episode of Reno 911! as himself being subjected to incompetent security provided by starstruck sheriff's deputies to comical effect.

In October 2012, Rogers released a book Luck or Something Like it: A Memoir about his ups and downs in his musical career. With Mike Blakely, he has written a novel, What Are the Chances, that was released September 1, 2013.

In 2014, Rogers appeared as himself in a GEICO commercial, singing part of his song "The Gambler" a cappella while acting as the dealer in a card game.

Personal life and death

At his estate in Colbert, Georgia, Rogers kept a pet goat named Smitty, having originally acquired the animal from a friend in 2008. According to Rogers, the goat was "(his) center", providing a calming influence after long and stressful touring schedules.

Marriages

Kenny Rogers was married five times (with each marriage lasting longer than the previous one) and had five children. He married Janice Gordon on May 15, 1958; they divorced in April 1960 with one child. Rogers married Jean Rogers in October 1960 and divorced her in 1963. He married Margo Anderson in October 1964 and divorced her in 1976 with one child. Rogers married Marianne Gordon on October 1, 1977, and divorced her in 1993 with one child. Rogers married for the fifth and final time when he married Wanda Miller on June 1, 1997. The couple had twin sons together.

Death

On March 20, 2020, Rogers died at his home from natural causes, a representative for the singer said in a statement. Due to the national COVID-19 emergency, the family is planning a small private service at this time with a public memorial planned for a later date.

Awards and honors

Year Award Category
2017 Texas Country Music Hall of Fame Inductee
2013 Country Music Association Awards Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award
2013 Country Music Hall of Fame Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame
2010 American Eagle Award American Eagle Award
2009 ACM Honors Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award (w/ Jerry Reed, Randy Travis, Hank Williams Jr.)
2007 ASCAP Golden Note Award ASCAP Golden Note Award
2007 CMT Music Awards Album of the Year — Water & Bridges
2005 CMT Music Awards Favorite All Time Country Duet — "Islands In the Stream" (w/ Dolly Parton)
2004 CMT's 100 Greatest Cheating Songs "Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town" — No. 6
2003 International Entertainment Buyers Association Lifetime Achievement Award
2003 CMT's 100 Greatest Country Songs "The Gambler" — No. 26
2002 CMT's 40 Greatest Men of Country Music Ranking — No. 19
2000 TNN Music Awards Career Achievement Award
1999 BBC's Greatest Country Singer Ranking — No. 2
1988 Grammy Awards Best Duo Country Vocal Performance — "Make No Mistake She's Mine" (w/ Ronnie Milsap)
1986 USA Today Favorite Singer of All Time
1985 American Music Awards Favorite Country Album — Eyes That See In the Dark
1985 American Music Awards Favorite Male Country Artist
1983 Academy of Country Music Awards Single of the Year — "Islands In the Stream" (w/ Dolly Parton)
1983 Academy of Country Music Awards Top Vocal Duet — (w/ Dolly Parton)
1983 American Music Awards Favorite Pop/Rock Country Artist
1983 American Music Awards Favorite Country Single — "Love Will Turn You Around"
1983 ASAP Awards Favorite Single — "Islands In the Stream" (w/ Dolly Parton)
1982 American Music Awards Favorite Country Album — Greatest Hits
1981 American Music Awards Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist
1981 American Music Awards Favorite Country Album — The Gambler
1981 American Music Awards Favorite Country Single — "Coward of the County"
1980 American Music Awards Favorite Male Country Artist
1980 American Music Awards Favorite Country Album — The Gambler
1980 Music City News Country Single of the Year
1979 American Music Awards Favorite Male Country Artist
1979 American Music Awards Favorite Country Album — 10 Years of Gold
1979 Country Music Association Awards Male Vocalist of the Year
1979 Country Music Association Awards Vocal Duo of the Year — (w/ Dottie West)
1979 Country Music Association Awards Album of the Year — The Gambler
1979 Music City News Country Male Artist of the Year
1979 Music City News Country Single of the Year — "The Gambler"
1979 Grammy Awards Best Male Country Vocal Performance — "The Gambler"
1978 American Music Awards Favorite Single — "Lucille"
1978 Country Music Association Awards Vocal Duo of the Year — (w/ Dottie West)
1978 Academy of Country Music Awards Entertainer of the Year
1978 Academy of Country Music Awards Top Male Vocalist
1977 Country Music Association Awards Single of the Year — "Lucille"
1977 Academy of Country Music Awards Top Male Vocalist
1977 Academy of Country Music Awards Single of the Year — "Lucille"
1977 Academy of Country Music Awards Song of the Year — "Lucille"
1977 Grammy Awards Best Male Country Vocal Performance — "Lucille"

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