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Kenny Rogers (born 21 August 1938) is a multi award winning, multi-platinum Country singer-songwriter, actor and record producer hailing from Houston, Texas.

Born Kenneth Donald Rogers, the now legendary country musician had a difficult upbringing, growing up in a housing project in the south, with his six siblings and parents.

Rogers first tried his hand at music in the 1950’s, often taking the role of lead singer in a variety of bands including Rockabilly group The Scholars and folk band The New Christy Minstrels, before forming Kenny Rodgers and The First Edition in 1967. The First Edition was Rogers first taste of success, as the band had a number of chart topping country, pop and hippie influenced psychedelic rock hits that saw them tour the world for the next ten years.

When the band split for various reasons in 1976, Rogers decided to ditch his moderately hippy image, cutting his long hair short and removing his earring, giving himself a more mainstream appeal in a bid to launch his solo career. His first album was reasonably successful but it was his second LP, “Kenny Rogers” that founded his status as a bonafide country star, with single “Lucille” leading the album to over five million sales worldwide.

Rogers didn’t rest on his laurels however, going on to release various collaborative albums with country singer Dottie West and more hit solo material including the album anyone should listen to before a trip to Las Vegas, “The Gambler”.

Kenny Roger’s distinctive traditional country sound and prolific ability to write a hit song are elements of his near unrivalled staying power in the music industry. Since the 1970’s he has recorded 32 studio albums and registered 30 number one singles worldwide, including the international smash hit “Islands In The Stream” which featured fellow country megastar Dolly Parton.

He recently collected the Willie Nelson Lifetime Award and was also inducted into the Country Hall of Fame in 2013 for his contributions to music, which further established his legendary status within the genre and the music industry as a whole.

Live reviews

Like so many of his country contemporaries, Kenny Rogers is a bona fide icon in the United States, where he remains one of the most successful artists amongst a hugely popular genre; the fact that country is largely a niche style elsewhere in the world certainly won’t make much difference to him, either, given that he can fall back on global album sales of in excess of one hundred and sixty five million, and being voted the ‘favourite singer of all time’ by readers of both USA Today and People magaizine in the eighties. His career has now spanned more than half a century, with an apparently endless stream of hits in that time including ‘Islands in the Stream’ ‘We’ve Got Tonight’ and ‘Love Will Turn You Around’. In his native U.S., he continues to play huge amphitheatres on a regular basis, and so powerful is his cult appeal that he manages to play arenas even in countries that aren’t known for their love of country; back in 2009, a rare lap of the UK saw him playing to huge crowds at the likes of Manchester’s MEN Arena and Birmingham’s NIA. Now seventy-five, Rogers shows no real signs of slowing down, continuing to tour and record; don’t be surprised if another major UK jaunt is lined up before too long.

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A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, there is no denying Kenny Rogers has a universal appeal when it comes to his music. It is clear proof that despite being well into his 70s, he continues to tour globally because fans want to hear his music and he simply loves performing to the adoring masses.

A natural showman with a surpassable amount of talent with a guitar, despite having a discography of over thirty albums he seems to make the best choices to really delight his fanbase. Stood in the summer sunshine, he was easily one of the most relaxed performers at Glastonbury and he seemed to really soak up the vibe of the laid back festival. He showcased his best material and the crowd were receptive throughout applauding and cheering in all the right places. His rapport and jamming ability with the tight backing band demonstrated his skill that is by no means wavering with age. The iconic track 'Islands in the Stream' evokes huge singalong and proves that Rogers is very much one of the icons of Country.

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Kenny Rogers is my favorite Singer I'd go see him every day if possible.This was my 4th time seeing you in concert I absolutely loved every minute of it.I was so in Love with Kenny I named my 1st Son Kenneth Michael.Oh yes and my 1st Granddaughter was born on August 21st Kennys Birthday Just wanted to share with you I'm forever grateful for your music I Love Love Love You

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Rip kenny rogers, a very loved man rest in peace, i have listened to this man for years now, every single day, and what a voice he has, going to be missed by so many, what a legend

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Kenny Rogers

Award-winning singer/songwriter Kenny Rogers enjoyed enormous success on both the country and pop charts with hits like "Lucille," "The Gambler" and "Islands in the Stream."

kenny rogers

(1938-2020)

Who Was Kenny Rogers?

Early life and career.

Singer and songwriter Kenneth Donald Rogers was born on August 21, 1938, in Houston, Texas. While his name was "Kenneth Donald" on his birth certificate, his family always called him "Kenneth Ray."

Rogers grew up poor, living with his parents and six siblings in a federal housing project. By high school, he knew that he wanted to pursue a music career. He bought himself a guitar and started a group called the Scholars. The band had a rockabilly sound and scored a few local hits.

Breaking out on his own, Rogers recorded the 1958 hit single "That Crazy Feeling" for the Carlton label. He even got to perform the song on Dick Clark 's popular music program American Bandstand . Changing genres, Rogers then played bass with the Bobby Doyle Trio, a jazz group.

Moving on to a folk-pop style, Rogers was asked to join the New Christy Minstrels in 1966. He left after a year, along with a few other members of the group, to form the First Edition. Fusing folk, rock and country, the group quickly scored a hit with the psychedelic "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)." The band soon became known as Kenny Rogers and the First Edition and landed their own syndicated music show. They scored a few more hits, such as Mel Tillis' "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town."

Mainstream Success

In 1974, Rogers left the group to go solo again and decided to focus his energy on country music. "Love Lifted Me" became his first solo top 20 country hit in 1975. Two years later, Rogers reached the top of the country charts with the mournful ballad "Lucille," about a man being left by his wife. The song also did well on the pop charts, making it into the top five and bringing Rogers his first Grammy, for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male.

Quickly following up on this success, Rogers released The Gambler in 1978. The title track was again a huge country and pop hit and gave Rogers his second Grammy. He also showed his tender side with another popular ballad, "She Believes in Me." Kenny (1979) featured such hits as "Coward of the County" and "You Decorated My Life." Around this time, he wrote the advice book Making It With Music: Kenny Rogers' Guide to the Music Business (1978).

Duets With Dottie and Dolly

In addition to his solo work, Rogers recorded a series of hits with country legend Dottie West. The two reached the top of the country charts with "Every Time Two Fools Collide" (1978), "All I Ever Need Is You" (1979) and "What Are We Doin' in Love" (1981). Also in 1981, Rogers held the No. 1 spot on the pop charts for six weeks with his version of Lionel Richie 's "Lady."

By this time, Rogers was a true crossover artist, enjoying enormous success on both the country and pop charts and collaborating with such pop stars as Kim Carnes and Sheena Easton . Turning to acting, Rogers starred in television movies inspired by his songs, like 1980's The Gambler , which spawned several sequels, and 1981's Coward of the County . On the big screen, he played a race car driver in the comedy Six Pack (1982).

In 1983, Rogers scored one of the biggest hits of his career: a duet with Dolly Parton called "Islands in the Stream." Written by the Bee Gees, the tune went to the top of both the country and pop charts. Rogers and Parton won the Academy of Country Music Award for Single of the Year for their efforts.

After this, Rogers continued to thrive as a country music performer. Among the hits from this period is his duet with Ronnie Milsap, "Make No Mistake, She's Mine," which won the 1988 Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance, Duet.

Photography and Businesses

In addition to music, Rogers also demonstrated a passion for photography. Images that he took while traveling around the country were published in the 1986 collection Kenny Rogers' America . "Music is what I am, but photography would probably be second," he later explained to People magazine. The following year, Rogers published another collection called Your Friends and Mine .

Continuing to act, Rogers appeared in such TV movies as Christmas in America (1990) and MacShayne: Winner Takes All (1994). He also began exploring other business opportunities, and in 1991 he launched a restaurant franchise called Kenny Rogers Roasters. He later sold the venture to Nathan's Famous, Inc. in 1998.

That same year, Rogers created his own record label, Dreamcatcher Entertainment. He also starred in his own off-Broadway Christmas show, The Toy Shoppe, around that time. Releasing his next album, She Rides Wild Horses , in 1999, Rogers enjoyed a return to the charts with the hit "The Greatest," which told the story of a boy's love of baseball. He scored another hit with "Buy Me a Rose" off the same album.

Later Years

In 2004, Rogers and his fifth wife, Wanda, welcomed twin boys Jordan and Justin in July — just a month before his 66th birthday. "They say that twins at my age will either make you or break you. Right now I'm leaning towards break. I would kill for the energy they've got," Rogers, who already had three older children from his previous marriages, told People magazine. That same year he published his children's book, Christmas in Canaan , which was later turned into a TV movie.

In 2009, he celebrated his long career with Kenny Rogers: The First 50 Years , a musical retrospective. By that point, he had recorded dozens of albums and sold more than 100 million copies worldwide.

In 2012, Rogers published the autobiography Luck or Something Like It . He received recognition for his substantial musical contributions in 2013 when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. At the CMA Awards held that November, he also received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. Some of country's top performers turned out to honor Rogers, including Jennifer Nettles and Darius Rucker .

That same year Rogers released the album You Can't Make Old Friends , followed in 2015 by the holiday collection Once Again It's Christmas . Starting in December and going into 2016, the iconic singer/songwriter embarked on what he announced as his farewell tour.

In April 2018, after Rogers pulled out of a scheduled performance at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in North Carolina, the casino announced on Twitter that the singer was canceling the remaining dates of his final tour because of "a series of health challenges."

"I've thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to say farewell to the fans over the course of the past two years on 'The Gambler's Last Deal' tour," said Rogers in a statement. "I could never properly thank them for the encouragement and support they've given me throughout my career and the happiness I've experienced as a result of that."

Rogers died of natural causes at his home in Sandy Springs, Georgia, on March 20, 2020. He was 81.

A&E Biography Special

Biography: Kenny Rogers , premiered Monday, April 13 at 9/8c on A&E, and chronicled Rogers' life from his childhood, through the rise and fall of The First Edition, the iconic release of “The Gambler,” and to the height of his career as a successful solo artist, actor and pop-culture icon. The special utilized live performances and behind-the-scenes moments from Rogers’ 2017 star-studded farewell concert, All In For The Gambler, in Nashville, this “Biography” special paid tribute to a true country music legend. The two-hour documentary also featured exclusive photos, a never-before-seen interview and acoustic performance by Rogers himself as well as intimate interviews with family and fellow luminaries including Dolly Parton , Lionel Richie , Chris Stapleton , Reba McEntire , Little Big Town, Lady A, Jamey Johnson and more.

QUICK FACTS

  • Name: Kenny Rogers
  • Birth Year: 1938
  • Birth date: August 21, 1938
  • Birth State: Texas
  • Birth City: Houston
  • Birth Country: United States
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: Award-winning singer/songwriter Kenny Rogers enjoyed enormous success on both the country and pop charts with hits like "Lucille," "The Gambler" and "Islands in the Stream."
  • Astrological Sign: Leo
  • Death Year: 2020
  • Death date: March 20, 2020
  • Death State: Georgia

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Kenny Rogers

  • Inducted 2013
  • Born August 21, 1938
  • Died March 20, 2020
  • Birthplace Houston, Texas

Kenny Rogers parlayed a distinctive, husky voice and laid-back sex appeal into durable, lengthy international superstardom. Between 1977 and 1987, he logged twenty #1 country hits, many of which also climbed the pop charts.

A Career Before Country Music

Kenneth Ray Rogers entered country music with a broad musical background. Growing up in public housing in Houston, he was exposed to R&B, pop, and jazz in addition to country.

Rogers’s first professional group was a late-1950s vocal act called the Scholars, which had local hits in Houston. His doo-wop recording “That Crazy Feeling,” a 1958 solo hit on Carlton Records, earned him an appearance on American Bandstand .

During the early 1960s, Rogers played bass, and occasionally sang, in a Houston jazz trio. Membership in the New Christy Minstrels folk group spurred the founding of the First Edition, in which Rogers and other former Minstrels mixed folk, rock, and country sounds. The new group went #5 pop in 1967 with Mickey Newbury’s psychedelic “Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and gained several additional pop hits on Reprise Records.

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Solo Stardom

After the First Edition’s breakup in 1974, producer-executive Larry Butler signed Rogers to United Artists Records, on which he had modest hits until the stunning success of the mournfully catchy, Grammy-winning “Lucille” (#1 country, #5 pop) in 1977. For the next dozen years, Rogers logged hit after hit, including “The Gambler” (1978-‘79)—penned by Don Schlitz—”She Believes in Me” (1979), and “Coward of the County” (1979-‘80).

In 1980, on Liberty Records, Rogers’s #1 country hit “Lady”—a romantic ballad written by pop star Lionel Richie—ruled the pop charts for six weeks. His successful duets included “Every Time Two Fools Collide” (1978), with Dottie West, and the crossover smash “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer” (1980), with Kim Carnes.

As the country-pop era reached a peak, Rogers piled up three Grammys, five Country Music Association awards, and eight Academy of Country Music awards, adding to his stature as one of country’s first artists to sell out arena shows. Already a veteran television performer, Rogers gained further exposure through acting in TV movies, including a series of five treatments of “The Gambler,” and his hit “Love the World Away” was a theme song in the era-defining 1980 film Urban Cowboy .

As the country-pop era reached a peak, Kenny Rogers piled up three Grammys, five Country Music Association awards, and eight Academy of Country Music awards, adding to his stature as one of country’s first artists to sell out arena shows.

“Lady” with Lionel Richie

Country Music Association Awards, 1984

“The Gambler” music video

From left: Kenny Rogers, Kim Carnes, and Valerie Harper backstage at the Forum in Los Angeles, California, 1981.

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton at rehearsals for the Country Music Association Awards, 1978. Photo by Steven Goldstein.

Kenny Rogers at the inaugural Farm Aid, at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois, 1985. Photo by Raeanne Rubenstein.

Kenny Rogers at the Country Music Association Awards, 1978. Photo by Steven Goldstein.

Kenny Rogers at the Country Music Association Awards, held at the Grand Ole Opry House, 1999. Photo by Raeanne Rubenstein.

Kenny Rogers at the Country Music Association Awards, 1979. Photo by Steven Goldstein.

Kenny Rogers and Dottie West performing at the Country Music Association Awards, 1978.

Kenny Rogers (second from right) onstage with the First Edition, 1973.

Kenny Rogers, 1980s. Photo by Walden S. Fabry Studios.

From left: Wynonna Judd, Kenny Rogers, and Naomi Judd, 1980s.

More Crossover Success

The 1980s also saw Rogers earn hits on Liberty and RCA, including “Love Will Turn You Around” (1982), the Sheena Easton duet “We’ve Got Tonight” (1983), and the memorable Dolly Parton duet “Islands in the Stream” (1983), all country #1s that made the pop charts. Rogers appeared front and center in the megastar collaboration “We Are the World” (1985), scoring additional chart-toppers such as “Crazy,” “Real Love,” and the sensual, George Martin–produced “Morning Desire.” But the solo hit “Tomb of the Unknown Love” (1986) and “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine,” a Grammy-winning duet with Ronnie Milsap released in 1987, were Rogers’s last #1 country records until “Buy Me a Rose” (1999-2000), recorded with Alison Krauss and Billy Dean.

Rogers’s crossover approach began to work against him as pop took on a harder edge and younger country artists went back to the genre’s roots. Nevertheless, he invested in Branson, Missouri, ventures, published several well-received photography books, authored two children’s books, engaged in major philanthropic endeavors, and launched a chain of restaurants.

Though his chart success slipped in the late 1980s and ‘90s through stints with Giant, Atlantic, Reprise, and Magnatone, “Buy Me a Rose” (on Dreamcatcher) gave Rogers a boost at the outset of the twenty-first century. He continued to tour and to release hits collections and albums of new material, the latter including Water & Bridges (Capitol Nashville, 2006), which yielded the Top Twenty hit “I Can’t Unlove You.”

In 2015, Rogers announced his plans to retire from the road following an extensive farewell tour. A star-studded tribute concert, featuring Linda Davis, the Oak Ridge Boys, Chris Stapleton and more, celebrated his lengthy career and impending retirement in October 2017. Rogers—who was born with the middle name Donald but legally changed it to Ray because his family used that as his middle name—died in early 2020.

— Thomas Goldsmith

Adapted from the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s  Encyclopedia of Country Music , published by Oxford University Press

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Kenny Rogers Band - Through the Years

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Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton drop the mic on his final performance

who did kenny rogers tour with

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers closed “All In For The Gambler: Kenny Rogers’ Farewell Concert Celebration” at Bridgestone Arena Wednesday night the way their fans love to see them — side by side.

“How about me and you go out like rock stars?” Parton asked Rogers. The longtime friends held their microphones out in front of them, dropped them on stage and walked off arm-in-arm.

► More:  Kenny Rogers says Walk of Fame was ' last thing on my bucket list'

It was a definite ending to a night that was filled with sentimental moments and music’s biggest stars performing Rogers’ most famous songs. The concert was billed as the last time Parton and Rogers would perform their seminal duet Islands in the Stream . However, before the show, Parton maintained she wasn’t going to let Rogers retire completely.

“I’m just going to let him retire from the public and then we might even write some songs together, who knows?” Parton said.

“Oh man,” Rogers replied excitedly. “I didn’t think of that.”

► Nashville Then:    Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers concert at MTSU Nov. '86

Later, she brought audience members to tears when she spoke of her adoration for Rogers.

“I know I’m artificial, but I like to think my heart is real,” Parton told Rogers before she serenaded him with I Will Always Love You . "I have a spot (in my heart) for you that’s never ever going to be touched by anybody else."

Rogers, who struggles to stand for more than a few minutes at a time, soaked in Parton’s performance from a stool beside her.

He took a moment to thank the audience and the night’s performers. Parton asked him if he was ready for their final Islands in the Stream , then quoted the song saying there is no one with whom she’d rather sail away.

Parton was one of more than 20 artists who took the stage to honor Rogers, who in 2015 revealed plans to retire  after a final tour that ends later this year. Rogers, 79, and his wife Wanda watched from chairs on the side of the stage as performers ranging from Kris Kristofferson, Chris Stapleton, Lady Antebellum and Little Big Town to Lionel Richie, The Flaming Lips and Elle King honored Rogers.

Rogers’ music career stretches 60 years, more than 30 studio albums, and included 24 No. 1 hits, six CMA Awards and three Grammys. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013 and was voted the "Favorite Singer of All Time" in a joint poll by readers of both USA TODAY and People. He was a member of rock group Kenny Rogers and the First Edition from 1967-1976, and his former bandmates joined him on stage for a quick picture with the audience in the background.

The show’s creator and executive producer, Keith Wortman, said the diverse lineup for the farewell celebration was carefully vetted. He explained he “cast a wide net” for potential singers and that when they responded, he asked how long they’ve been a fan and how The Gambler  singer influenced their lives. He said the unexpected additions of King and The Flaming Lips stemmed from their love of First Edition songs.

I’m really excited to sing and see the show,” said King, who covered First Edition’s Tulsa Turnaround .” “I don’t know who said no or got kicked out so I got in, but I’ll take it.”

Rogers’ connection with the night’s other performers is much deeper.

Chris Stapleton covered Rogers’ signature hit The Gambler , on the back of which he built his acting career. The song inspired a successful television miniseries that served as his acting debut. Five additional television movies — all starring Rogers as gambler Brady Hawkes — followed, along with the 1982 major motion picture Six Pack  among other acting projects. Rogers appeared alongside Naomi Judd of The Judds on one of The Gambler projects, and she and daughter Wynonna Judd reunited for Wednesday night’s concert.

“We’re family here in Nashville. We stick together,” said Wynonna, who sang You Turn the Light On  before her mother Naomi Judd joined her for a performance of Back to the Well .  

Reba McEntire — who wore a bright yellow Kenny Rogers T-shirt while she sang his Reuben James  — described the backstage area as a “family reunion.”

Rogers’ relationship with Nashville dates back to the 1970s when Lucille  became his first substantial hit as a solo artist and crossed over to top the country charts. Justin Moore performed the song for Rogers on Wednesday night, having traveled from his home state of Arkansas with his wife and children and learned the song on two days’ notice.

Richie flew in from Australia to sing Lady  for his longtime friend to whom he gives credit for launching his solo career. Rogers acknowledged Richie for writing Lady  from the stage during a country music awards show decades ago. The spotlight swung from Rogers to Richie’s seat in the audience, and the Hello  singer said that was the moment his solo career took root.

“At that moment, I had a person to be my mentor because he was also in a group then transitioned to a solo act,” said Richie. “He answered every question I had. So, he’s very special.”

The Oak Ridge Boys also credit Rogers with launching their career. Before opening the show with Love or Something Like It , Oak Ridge Boy Joe Bonsall said Rogers took the group on country music’s first arena tour.

“Believe me, we learned a lot from Kenny,” Bonsall said. “Production-wise, song-wise, entertainment-wise, we learned all of that from Kenny.”

Linda Davis said there were “so many levels of special” about the evening. She’s on tour with Rogers now, and Davis’ daughter Hillary Scott from Lady Antebellum joined her on stage to sing Twenty Years Ago . Davis said it was “bizarre” how he was now helping a second generation of her family.

“He’s a part of our family,” Davis said. “It looks we are winding it down, that’s what farewell is. But tonight is celebrating all of these years and all of these relationships, and let’s not forget the fans. Because the fans, that’s why he’s been here this many decades and I see it every night.”

Reach Cindy Watts at 615-664-2227, [email protected] or on Twitter @CindyNWatts.

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Kenny Rogers Breaks Down His Biggest Duets: ‘There’s a Chemistry Between Us’

In part two of our look back at the career of Kenny Rogers to celebrate this week's release of his newest work, "You Can't Make Old Friends," we shine the spotlight on the collaborations that Rogers…

By Chuck Dauphin

Chuck Dauphin

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Kenny Rogers Breaks Down His Biggest Duets: 'There's a Chemistry Between Us'

In part two of our look back at the career of Kenny Rogers to celebrate this week’s release of his newest work, “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” we shine the spotlight on the collaborations that Rogers has been a part of. Aside from Willie Nelson, duets have perhaps been as much a part of his career as any artist in the format’s history. Billboard got a chance to ask Rogers his thoughts with some of those he has shared the spotlight with over the years….

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Dolly Parton

Kenny rogers.

Rogers’ musical relationship with Kim Carnes stretches back further than any of his other collaborators. The two were members of the New Christy Minstrels in the mid 1960s. Carnes and her husband, , wrote an entire album for the singer in 1980 titled Gideon – which included their hit single “Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer.” The two also joined forces with R&B great James Ingram for 1984’s pop hit “What About Me.”

Rogers on Carnes: “Kim was with me in the New Christy Minstrels. We were good buddies there, and I remember her being out on the road with all these guys, and we had this girl with us named Kiyoko Ito, who spoke no English, so Kim was the only girl who spoke English. I remember her crying on the bus because she was so lonely on the road. I had no idea that she had the ability to write that she does, and I was thrilled with Gideon, the album she wrote for me.”

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SHEENA EASTON

After bursting on the international scene with the success of “Morning Train (Nine To Five)” in 1981, Sheena Easton quickly became one of the biggest female acts in music. She joined musical forces with Rogers in 1983 for a cover of Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight.”

Rogers on Easton: “Sheena was on Capitol at the same time I was. Jim Mazza had found ‘We’ve Got Tonight,’ which was a Bob Seger song. He said that we should do the song as a duet instead of me trying to compete with Bob Seger. She was so hot at the time, and so gracious. She sang it so beautifully.”

In 2006, Rogers returned to his prior home of Capitol Nashville to release the well-received disc Water & Bridges. “Calling Me,” One of the singles from the project netted him a Grammy nomination – a duet with the legendary Don Henley. But, did you know there is a tie that binds the two singers?

Rogers on Henley: “Don and I go back a lot further than most people know. I discovered him in Linden, TX, took him to LA, and he stayed at my house with the rest of his group (Shiloh) for about four or five months. I produced an album on them. I had all of his publishing, and when he went with the Eagles, he said he couldn’t really do it if he didn’t have his publishing rights. So, I gave him his publishing back, and said ‘good luck,’ and look what’s happened to him!”

DOLLY PARTON

It was a duet pairing made in musical heaven. Country’s biggest male crossover star teams with the format’s biggest female crossover act. The two became synomonous with each other following the success of “Islands In The Stream,” and also topped the charts with “Real Love” in 1985. In addition, their 1984 “Once Upon A Christmas” disc has become a standard of the holiday season. Parton appears with Rogers on his new disc, singing on the emotional title cut. Watch the new video here .

Rogers on Parton: “There’s a chemistry between us that is truly unique. It doesn’t matter where I go. On stage, I’ll talk about being blessed to sing duets with some of the most talented and beautiful women. I’ll start with Dottie West, Kim Carnes, and Sheena Easton, and then I say Dolly Parton, and the whole place goes crazy. I know there is a passion there from the audience for us.”  

LIONEL RICHIE

Rogers has had an uncanny chemistry with Lionel Richie over the years. From Kenny’s 1980 original “Lady” to the 1981 Rogers album “Share Your Love” to their collaboration on “Lady” on the 2012 Tuskegee disc, Rogers has nothing but the highest of praise for his friend and recording partner. 

Rogers on Richie: “I think he’s one of the most talented people I have ever met. He did one of the smartest albums I have ever seen in “Tuskegee.” He took songs that everybody knew, and did them with artists that everybody loved. That’s why that album was such a big success.”

RONNIE MILSAP

Kenny Rogers’ signing with RCA allowed him to record with two of the label’s most successful artists – Parton and Ronnie Milsap. The two teamed up for the 1987 chart-topper “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine,” which coincidentially, was co-written by another Rogers duet partner – Kim Carnes.

Rogers on Milsap: “He came out on tour with me when I was working in the round. We had a six foot wide stage that was a circle, with the pit in the middle. Ronnie Milsap gets on that stage and literally ran around it. It literally scared me to death. I think he had put sandpaper on the side of it, but I didn’t know that. He’s so impressive and such a great singer.”

DOTTIE WEST

A chance meeting at the recording studio led to one of the most successful duet pairings in country music history. The two won several CMA and ACM Awards and tallied six top-40 records – with three going all the way to the top.  

Rogers on West: “I had been sitting in the studio listening to her for forty-five minutes. I had never met her, and she hadn’t met me. I was listening to her sing ‘Every Time Two Fools Collide,’ and she looked in through the glass and said ‘Larry, is that Kenny Rogers sitting next to you?’ He said sure, and she said ‘Well, you tell him I want to sing a duet with him.’ I said ‘Dottie, I think I’ve heard this song enough that I could sing it with you.’ So, we literally went in the studio, and did it that night.”

NEXT PAGE: Kenny Rogers’ Ten Biggest Billboard Country Hits

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Kenny Rogers Tribute Concert Special, Filmed Before His Death, Set for CBS Airing

By Chris Willman

Chris Willman

Senior Music Writer and Chief Music Critic

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A Kenny Rogers tribute concert special that was filmed before the country-pop superstar’s death, “Kenny Rogers: All In for the Gambler,” has been set for airing later this month on CBS.

Dolly Parton , Chris Stapleton, Lionel Richie, Reba McEntire, Little Big Town, Lady A and Idina Menzel are the guests who took part in the epic show at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Oct. 25, 2017 who also made the cut for the hour-long broadcast at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Sept. 23.

Rogers, who died on March 20, 2020, at age 81, participated in the 2017 show, which was billed as his swan song following a retirement announcement, although he didn’t sing at great length.

The grand finale of the salute had Rogers taking the stage for three final numbers with Parton, including duets of “You Can’t Make Old Friends” and “Islands in the Stream” that sandwiched a Parton solo rendition of “I Will Always Love You” that she sang with her arm around him.

Other highlights from that night that fans should expect to see reprised on the special included Richie performing “Lady,” Menzel and Lady A’s Charles Kelley doing a duet of “We’ve Got Tonight,” Lady A doing “She Believes in Me” on their own, McEntire singing “Reuben James,” Little Big Town doing “Through the Years” and Stapleton performing the show’s sort-of title song, “The Gambler.”

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The lineup for the special omits a good number of artists who weren’t able to be squeezed into the hour-long show — including the Flaming Lips, whose arrangement of “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” that night will still have to remain a mystery for now for those not in attendance.

“Kenny Rogers’ enormous impact on country music was matched only by the love all the artists and fans showed Kenny on this incredible night,” executive producers Keith Wortman and Ken Levitan said in a joint statement. “We are so thrilled to share this special with his friends, family and fans all around the world, as he will remain forever in our hearts.”

The concert was produced by Blackbird Presents , which already had one Rogers special in the form of “Biography: Kenny Rogers,” and has also been responsible for broadcast and/or live events saluting Willie Nelson, John Lennon, Dr. John, Mavis Staples, Gregg Allman, Emmylou Harris and Merle Haggard.

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Through the Years with the Kenny Rogers Band featuring Don Gatlin

who did kenny rogers tour with

No one knows the music of the legendary Kenny Rogers better than the musicians who backed him for more than 40 years. They knew that audiences still wanted to hear all the songs that the singer made famous. To honor Rogers and his music, they have put together the show, Through the Years , as a way of paying tribute to a singular artist and keeping his sound and his songs alive for a new generation. They’re not just sharing the music they played with him for so long, but first-hand stories of being on the road with “The Gambler.” They also share the unique perspective they have on Rogers and the songs because they knew him and the music best. The band presents the songs the way they and Kenny Rogers performed them as they traveled from Carnegie Hall to the Royal Albert Hall and from the Sydney Opera House to the Grand Ole Opry. They’ll play all of the mega-hits you’d expect, like “Lady” and “Lucille” and some favorites that didn’t always make it into the usual tour song list. That makes the show a special retrospective of an amazing career. Singer/songwriter Don Gatlin, who is featured in the show, knows a lot about Kenny Rogers, too. He had his dream of having one of his songs recorded by a superstar when Kenny Rogers recorded “I Won’t Forget.” Kenny was also a fan of Don’s voice and he asked Don and his band, Savannah Jack, to join him on the road. This led to 66 performances opening for Rogers. Gatlin grew up in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and he and his brother, Darryl, played at the Ponderosa Park in Ellsworth as teens. They recorded their first album in the early 1980s in Nashville after finishing second in a nationwide Seagram’s 7 Battle of the Bands. Don also won the Nashville networks, “You Can Be a Star,” in 1986. This was an early American Idol -type reality show and it won him a deal with Capitol Records. The brothers later signed with Epic Records under the name Darryl and Don Ellis, and they released two albums. Their singles went nowhere, as Gatlin remembers. “We were nominated for duo of the year seven times. We lost seven times to Brooks and Dunn.” After the brothers were dropped by Epic, Gatlin worked as a songwriter, co-writing songs with Ricky Van Shelton, Blake Shelton and others. He started Savannah Jack in 2003 because he just loved working with a band. They played Nashville and then moved on to Las Vegas, where they were regulars at The Sahara and The Tropicana. You’ve loved Kenny Rogers “Through the Years.” Come hear his music, played by his band and fronted by a powerhouse singer who know him well.

who did kenny rogers tour with

59 S.W. Flagler Avenue Stuart, FL 34994 Phone: (772) 286-7827 Fax: (772) 283-2374 Email: info@lyrictheatre.com

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Kenny Rogers, Country Music’s ‘The Gambler,’ Dead at 81

By Stephen L. Betts

Stephen L. Betts

From bold psychedelic rockers and cinematic story songs to sentimental country pop, Kenny Rogers covered considerable musical turf throughout six decades of recording and performing, using his gravel-tinged vocals to dramatic effect. Along the way, he also became a globally recognized actor, photographer, businessman, and philanthropist. When Rogers announced his final Nashville concert in 2017, after 60 years of performances, he acknowledged that his mobility had become more limited in recent years. Rogers died Friday night at age 81 from natural causes at home in Georgia, his rep confirmed in a statement.

“The Rogers family is sad to announce that Kenny Rogers passed away last night at 10:25 p.m. at the age of 81,” his rep said. “Rogers passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family. The family is planning a small private service at this time out of concern for the national COVID-19 emergency. They look forward to celebrating Kenny’s life publicly with his friends and fans at a later date.”

Featured on a staggering 30 Number One singles across the U.S. pop, country, and adult contemporary charts from 1977 to 1999, Rogers earned three Grammys, five CMA awards, and eight ACM awards, along with membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame. He sold more than 100 million records worldwide and charted internationally with enduring hits including “The Gambler,” “Lucille,” and “Islands in the Stream,” the breezy Bee Gees-penned 1983 collaboration with Dolly Parton.

“You never know how much you love somebody until they’re gone,” Parton wrote following news of Rogers’ death. “I’ve had so many wonderful years and wonderful times with my friend Kenny, but above all the music and the success, I loved him as a wonderful man and a true friend.”

In a statement to Rolling Stone , the Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb called Rogers “a musical force and a character to be reckoned with. He made a huge impact on our lives, and we will miss him greatly.”

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A founding member of folk-rock group the First Edition, Rogers was a staple on TV’s most influential variety series throughout the Sixties and Seventies, making regular appearances on shows hosted by Ed Sullivan, Johnny Cash, and Glen Campbell. His final Nashville concert, in October 2017, featured his last-ever performance with Parton and appearances from Reba McEntire, Alison Krauss, the Flaming Lips, and others.

Born on August 21st, 1938, Kenneth Donald Rogers was the fourth of eight children, raised in the San Felipe Courts, a public-housing project in Houston’s Fourth Ward. Exposed to everything from jazz and R&B to pop and country, Rogers played guitar and sang in a doo-wop vocal group he formed at Jefferson Davis High School in 1956 called the Scholars. In 1958, he (then billed on the label as “Kenneth Rogers”) scored a solo hit for Carlton Records called “That Crazy Feeling.”

Rogers would learn to play bass for his next gig as a member of the Houston jazz trio the Bobby Doyle Three. Moving to Los Angeles, he joined popular folk group the New Christy Minstrels. In 1967, Rogers and three of the Minstrels, plus non-Minstrel drummer Mickey Jones, formed the First Edition, the genre-defying group that would reach the Top Five with their sophomore single on Reprise Records, Mickey Newbury’s trippy “Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was In).” Featuring Glen Campbell on guitar, the tune was the first of the group’s seven Top 40 pop hits, which also included their chilling take on Mel Tillis’ “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.”

Rogers’ gruff, smoldering vocals would also distinguish another of the group’s biggest hits, the Mac Davis-penned “Something’s Burning.” In 1969, the group released their fourth LP, Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town , which also featured their version of Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee.” The LP cover was the first to credit the group as “Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.”

Rogers was signed to United Artists Records in 1975 by producer and Nashville label head Larry Butler, and his first LP there,  Love Lifted Me , produced only minor hits. But in 1977, he would earn his first Number One country smash (and first pop Top Five solo hit) with the mournful barroom ballad “Lucille.” A Number One in the U.K. and other countries, the Hal Bynum and Roger Bowling-penned weeper paved the way for Rogers’ conversational singing style to make blockbuster hits of story-to-screen tales, including “The Gambler” and “Coward of the County.”

With “The Gambler,” Rogers hit a musical trifecta: a ghostly allegory built around trains, the draw of the cards, and the wisdom of the aged. Nashville songwriter Don Schlitz would take home a Grammy and CMA Song of the Year honors for the song, but Rogers parlayed it into a mini empire, portraying fictional Old West gambler Brady Hawkes in five made-for-TV films from 1980 to 1994. The song also spawned a slot machine, a book series, and Rogers’ appearance in a humorous 2014 GEICO Insurance commercial , where his a cappella rendition of the song’s memorable chorus (“You got to know when to hold ’em/know when to fold ’em…”) annoys his fellow poker players.

Kenny Rogers Tour Canceled Due to 'Health Challenges'

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While “The Gambler” was a country-to-pop crossover hit, Rogers’ next several singles, alternating between ballads (“She Believes in Me,” the Grammy-winning “You Decorated My Life”) and story songs (“Coward of the Country”), kept his feet firmly planted in both worlds, culminating in a six-week Number One pop tune in “Lady,” penned by Lionel Richie. He also scored a smash duet, “Don’t Fall in Love With a Dreamer,” with Kim Carnes, who wrote   an entire concept album with husband Dave Ellingson at Rogers’ request. Gideon , which through its dozen tracks told the story of Texas cowboy Gideon Tanner, was Rogers’ fifth Number One country album and another Top 20 entry on the multi-genre Billboard  200. Interestingly, Rogers, with his former band the First Edition, had previously recorded a concept album about a California town,  The Ballad of Calico , in 1972.

Rogers, who was one of country music’s first acts to sell out arenas, released his Greatest Hits LP in 1980, a compilation that has sold in excess of 24 million copies worldwide. The 1981 LP Share Your Love featured appearances from Michael Jackson and Gladys Knight, and included four songs penned by Lionel Richie. Teaming with Dottie West in the late Seventies and early Eighties, the pair notched five massive hits, including the Number Ones “Every Time Two Fools Collide,” “All I Ever Need Is You,” and “What Are We Doin’ in Love.”

Rogers’ sole starring role in a feature film was as race car driver Brewster Baker in the 1982 comedy-drama Six Pack . He also sang the film’s hit theme song, “Love Will Turn You Around.” A year later, he had yet another hit duet, with Sheena Easton, on Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight.”

In 1984, he reunited with Dolly Parton to record the holiday LP Once Upon a Christmas . They also topped the country charts again in 1985 with “Real Love.” Other collaborations included the 1984 Grammy-nominated single “What About Me?” with Kim Carnes and James Ingram, and 1987’s “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine,” with Ronnie Milsap. Rogers was also a featured performer in the 1985 USA for Africa collaboration “We Are the World,” alongside Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, and Ray Charles. Rogers’ soft-rock-influenced 1985 LP, The Heart of the Matter ,  produced by George Martin , was the singer’s last to top the Billboard  Country Albums chart. In 1986, under the pseudonym “Joey Coco,” Prince penned the power ballad “ You’re My Love, ” for Rogers, who cut it for his  They Don’t Make Them Like They Used   To album.

From 1992 to 1994, Rogers hosted the A&E history series The Real West . His 1993 album If Only My Heart Had a Voice featured “Ol’ Red,” later a hit for Blake Shelton. He returned to his musical roots as a member of the Bobby Doyle Three with the 1994 collection of jazz standards, Timepiece . In 1999, Rogers’ own Dreamcatcher label issued the She Rides Wild Horses LP, featuring “The Greatest,” penned by Don Schlitz. A subsequent release from the album, “Buy Me a Rose,” with Alison Krauss and Billy Dean, marked Rogers’ return to the top spot on the Country Singles chart for the first time in almost 13 years. In 2005, Rogers and Parton topped CMT’s 100 Greatest Duets with “Islands in the Stream.” It marked the last time the pair performed together onstage until Rogers’ farewell concert in Nashville in 2017.

A co-founder of the Kenny Rogers Roasters restaurant franchise (which would form the basis of an entire 1996 episode of  Seinfeld ), the singer was involved in various ventures in the live-entertainment destination of Branson, Missouri. He also helped fund construction of the Kenny Rogers United Cerebral Palsy Center of Southeast Missouri, which was later rechristened the Kenny Rogers Children’s Center.

Rogers was an amateur photographer and published three photo books, including 2005’s This Is My Country , featuring black-and-white portraits of country stars Reba McEntire, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and others. In addition, he authored the children’s books The Greatest , based on his hit song, and The Toy Shoppe , inspired by his touring musical play presented during his popular annual Christmas tour.

Rogers was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013, and received a Grammy nomination with Dolly Parton the following year for their duet “You Can’t Make Old Friends.” Not long before his 2017 retirement, Rogers played to hundreds of thousands of attendees at iconic music festivals including Bonnaroo and Glastonbury.

“I tried not to compromise. I did songs I believed in, because you do them with more authority and you do them with a greater sense of belief,” Rogers said of his legacy as an artist to Rolling Stone Country in a previously unpublished 2017 interview. “If you do that … if you have something you believe in, you have to stick to it and you have to commit to it. That’s what I think I’ve done best. I’ve believed in things and I’ve stuck to ’em.”

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Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton Drop the Mic on Final Performance: 'I Will Always Love You'

Inevitably, what everyone had most waited for arrived – a final performance of the classic "Islands in the Stream"

who did kenny rogers tour with

One of the strongest lineups ever assembled in Nashville – including Reba McEntire , Lionel Richie , Lady Antebellum , Don Henley, Alison Krauss and Chris Stapleton – hit the stage Wednesday night for Kenny Rogers ’ farewell tribute concert, but they all turned out to be mere warmup acts for the showstopping main event: the final performance of one of country’s most beloved duos, Rogers and Dolly Parton .

After Rogers, 79, had spent the entire concert watching the event from the side of the stage, he finally took his rightful place, center stage, with Parton about three hours into the show, and the two set about to demonstrate their timeless chemistry.

“We’ve been so excited about this because he says, of course, he’s retiring ,” Parton, 71, began playfully. “Kenny, I just wanted to say that I’m really, really proud of you, and I just hope many, many years from now when I’m older” – she paused to laugh at herself – “I’ll know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.”

The play on “The Gambler” lyrics soon turned into something else as Parton couldn’t resist poking fun at the years of tabloid rumors. “Anyway, you’ve been accused of it all through the years, but you are retiring … you want to hold ’em now?” she asked, gesturing to her ample endowment . “I’ll try not to embarrass you.”

Her comic foil wasn’t taking the bait. “I’m not sure that embarrassed me,” Rogers teased.

The two were off and running, regaling the crowd with reminiscences about their first meeting, their recording sessions, their tours together – all liberally seasoned with Parton’s spicy humor and Rogers’ deadpan retorts.

But they knew what Bridgestone Arena’s sellout crowd had come for – their songs – and they obliged, first blending their voices for a tender reading of their 2013 hit “You Can’t Make Old Friends.”

Parton turned serious to introduce the next song, telling Rogers, “I’ve always thought there’s a part of me that’s never, ever going to be touched by anybody else, and I’m going to hold you there forever, and I’m going to sing you a song … ”

The crowd gasped and sighed, realizing she was about to sing her signature “I Will Always Love You” – a song she wrote for her original duet partner, Porter Wagoner, but the poignant lyrics took on new relevance as she directed them to a rapt Rogers.

RELATED VIDEO: Kenny Rogers Shares Adorable Story About His Classic Dolly Parton Duet, ‘Islands in the Stream’

Inevitably, what everyone had most waited for arrived – a final performance of the classic “Islands in the Stream” – though by then no one wanted the night to end. Soaking in the cheers and applause as they closed, Parton looked at Rogers and beckoned: “Kenny, how about we go out like rock stars?”

“Absolutely,” Rogers obeyed, and he counted, “One, two three …”

With arms outstretched, both ceremoniously dropped their mics with a loud thud, turned and walked upstage into the darkened lights.

It was a perfect finish to an evening that would have been unforgettable even without its topper. In a career that’s spanned 60 years, Rogers has made countless friends in the industry, and an astonishing array accepted the invitation to pay tribute to the icon. Their performances of his hits underscored the magnitude of his impact.

The Oak Ridge Boys, whose career was jumpstarted by a Rogers tour, kicked off the night with “Love or Something Like It,” and Justin Moore – a young artist deeply influenced by Rogers – turned in “Lucille.”

Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott was joined by her mother, Rogers’ most recent touring partner Linda Davis, for a duet of “Twenty Years Ago.” An even more surprising mother-daughter act, The Judds, clutched hands as they turned in “Back to the Well.”

The reuniting of the famously tempestuous duo was at Rogers’ behest, Wynonna revealed before the show: “Because when Kenny Rogers sends you a personal note and says, ‘I love you Wynonna, I want you to sing, and I want you to bring your mom,’ I go, ‘Yes, sir.’”

Lionel Richie provided another highlight, singing “Lady,” a song he wrote for Rogers. Richie drew a hearty laugh from Rogers, sitting side stage with his wife, Wanda, when the pop singer tried to approximate Rogers’ well-known vibrato.

Don Henley and Kris Kristofferson were both surprise additions to the lineup, and they offered trademark songs that Rogers had recorded – Henley’s “Desperado” and Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee.”

Alison Krauss lent her angelic voice to “Love the World Away”; Idina Menzel brought her Broadway chops to “You Decorated My Life”; and Lady Antebellum creatively turned “She Believes In Me” into a dialogue between the lyrics’ two characters. Little Big Town offered a celestial vocal blend to “Through the Years,” and Reba McEntire kept it country for “Reuben James.”

Chris Stapleton was tapped for the unenviable task of delivering “The Gambler,” and he ably met the challenge with a soulful rendering.

But the night – which was filmed for eventual broadcast – still belonged to the teaming of Rogers and Parton, and before the concert she offered assurance it won’t be the end, if only for their own enjoyment.

“He’s only retiring from show business with the public now,” she said. “We’re still gonna be buddies. We’ll get to sing every once in a while.”

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Michael Jordan and Woody Harrelson: Tales from the Kenny Rogers Classic Weekend

Kenny Rogers, the white in his beard matching the color of his jersey, took the pass at the left elbow. The famous country singer, playing on his home court at his farm near Athens, Ga., squared and looked at the basket. He saw what was coming.

A 25-year-old Michael Jordan leaped to block the shot, his right hand extended high. Rogers pulled back. “A fake!” famed broadcaster Chick Hearn said on the telecast. “Kenny Rogers puts Jordan in the popcorn machine.” Rogers took a step to his left and swished a 21-foot jumper.

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The Gambler had just roasted MJ.

The crowd erupted. Rogers smiled. Teammate Dominique Wilkins rushed over to slap five. Thirty-six years later, this remains the most popular highlight from an event seldom duplicated.

For three years, Rogers hosted the “Kenny Rogers Classic Weekend” at Beaver Dam Farms. He invited 15 sports stars and television celebrities for a weekend competition of basketball, golf, tennis and bass fishing. And NBC televised it.

Jordan was there. Larry Bird was there. Julius Erving, Isiah Thomas and Charles Barkley participated at different times. Tennis legends John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. Golf pros Raymond Floyd and Payne Stewart. Actors Mark Harmon and James Caan, as well as R&B and soul singer Smokey Robinson.

In 1989, Woody Harrelson, who played the affable bartender on the sitcom “Cheers,” skipped the Emmy’s — when he was nominated for best supporting actor in a comedy series (and won!) — to attend the Rogers event.

“There wasn’t a lot of thought that went into it,” Harrelson said at the time. “I wanted to play some hoops with my boys.”

Part of it was the setup. This was a first-class event with big sponsors. Rogers sent a helicopter to pick up the stars from the Atlanta airport. Everyone stayed on his 1,200-acre ranch, which featured an 18-hole golf course, two clay tennis courts and several stocked lakes.

Kenny Rogers with Isiah Thomas, Dominique Wilkins, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan.

And part of it was the camaraderie. A chance to hang with stars from different arenas. After competing during the day, everyone hung out at night. Rogers had a sit-down dinner. He performed. Robinson performed. Dolly Parton and Gladys Knight came in and performed. One year, Harrelson got on stage and sang “Jailhouse Rock.” McEnroe jammed on the guitar.

Pro athletes are used to big events. This was different.

“One morning I went up to Kenny’s house for breakfast and it was me, Michael Jordan and Smokey Robinson sitting there eating breakfast together,’’ golfer Tim Simpson said. “And I’m like, ‘This is pretty damn cool right here.’ ”

“One night, we went out to the golf range at 2 a.m. and watched Jerry Pate hit golf balls off beer bottles,” said tennis pro Mikael Pernfors, referring to the golfer who won the 1976 U.S. Open. “He cleaned those babies like you wouldn’t believe. There was not a bottle broken until the rest of us tried.”

Harrelson made a putt to clinch a victory for his team and called it “the single most exciting event in my entire life.”

Bird was no-nonsense, always intense. Or maybe annoyed. It was hard to tell.

“I had just won the British Open and I kind of thought I was a little bit of a big deal,” golfer Mark Calcavecchia said. “I was in the kitchen looking in the refrigerator for something to eat and Larry Bird walked around the corner. I’m a big fan of his. I said, ‘Hey, Larry. Mark Calcavecchia.’ He goes, ‘Yeah, whatever,’ and kind of pushed me out of the way. That was my first introduction to Larry Bird.”

And, of course, everyone was in awe of Jordan, not just for what he did in the basketball competition but also in the other sports (and the side bets he made with Barkley). MJ was just entering his prime.

“That was one of the cooler events I’ve done just because of the type of event it was,” said Wilkins, the nine-time NBA All-Star and basketball Hall of Famer. “To be there with stars in different professions, that was cool because you never saw anything like that. It was special.”

The idea sprouted not long after Rogers had moved from Southern California to Georgia. In addition to his singing and acting careers, Rogers, who died four years ago at 81, also had been a sports nut.

Rogers was so serious about tennis that he had a pro named Kelly Junkermann travel with him while he was on tour. At each stop, he and Junkermann would visit a club and play doubles against the club pro and his assistant. Eight times out of 10 they would win.

Rogers also enjoyed golf and called himself “obsessive-compulsive.” Once he tried something, he couldn’t stop until reaching a respectable level. At Beaver Dam Farms, he had an 18-hole golf course built, making it as difficult as possible.

One day, Rogers asked Junkermann: “How well do you think a professional golfer would enjoy this course?”

“I don’t know,” Junkermann said, a scene captured in Rogers’ memoir, “Luck or Something Like It.”

Junkermann suggested having a “Gambler’s Invitational,” similar to what they had done when Rogers had lived in Beverly Hills.

For that tennis tournament event, Rogers invited talk show host Johnny Carson, who lived three houses down, musician/singer Lionel Richie, game-show host Bert Convy, actor Robert Duvall and former Olympian Bruce Jenner, along with their accompanying pros. Each person put up $500 in a winner-take-all format.

Junkermann said they could expand the concept at Beaver Dam Farms.

“Remember when we were all kids?” Junkermann said. “Every kid was good at something, right? One kid was good at basketball. One kid was good at tennis. One kid became a singer. So, I said, ‘What we’ll do, we’ll all be kids. But everybody has to play everybody else’s sport.’ ”

Let’s do it, Rogers said.

Steve Wynn, the casino mogul, put up $500,000. Prize money was set at $400,000. Ticket prices ranged from $40 to $75 with proceeds going to the construction of a homeless shelter.

Junkermann said the first call went to Jordan, hoping the golf aspect would appeal to him.

“Back then you could call an athlete and have an athlete call you back,” Junkermann said.

Jordan said he was in. The next call went to McEnroe. He said he was in. Bird, a big Rogers fan, said he would come.

“You know the only guy we didn’t get?” Junkermann said. “We had the big three, right? We had Jordan. We had Bird. We had Isiah Thomas, who had just won the NBA title. It was Magic (Johnson). Magic was the one guy — he was like too big.”

Once the stars and celebs arrived at Rogers’ ranch, they were floored. Beaver Dam Farms was incredible.

“I was absolutely gobsmacked,’’ tennis pro Kevin Curren said. “Kenny was obviously making a lot of money in those days. The place that we stayed, we thought it was a spectacular home. They said, ‘No, no. That’s just one of like three or four places on the estate.’ And the fact that he had this horse barn that was for very high-end horses, and he could put a basketball floor and the whole thing in there with stands, it was phenomenal.”

Especially the golf course.

“The first tee, when you stepped out of Kenny’s kitchen door, I mean, literally right beside his table, when you stepped out his door you stepped onto the first tee,’’ Simpson said. “I’m like, ‘Kenny, you could not have made this any more convenient.’ ’’

Kenny Roger Classic poster

Before the competitions began, the athletes and celebs — the 15 invitees along with Rogers — were divided into four teams. Outside of bass fishing, the other three sports were set up so that the star in that sport could not dominate. For example, in basketball, the pros could score only 12 points in a game to 22.

On the basketball court, tennis pro Roscoe Tanner was matched up against Calcavecchia. Tanner relaxed and thought: “ He’s a golfer. I can handle this.”

But then the ball moved and the tennis pro found himself matched against Bird.

“He looks down at me and starts laughing,” said Tanner, who won the 1977 Australian Open. “I felt like a little kid guarding their dad.”

Tanner played off the Celtics legend and dared him to shoot.

“No, no. I’m waiting for you,” Bird said.

So Tanner rushed out, grabbed Bird’s gym shorts and said: “If you shoot, your shorts are coming down.”

“Not a problem,’’ Bird said.

“He stood dead still,” Tanner said. “Shot a 3-pointer, made it and looked at me like, ‘What an idiot.’ ’’

McEnroe, the tennis Hall of Famer, grew up in New York. He could hoop. Harrelson had game. Calcavecchia and fellow golfer Lanny Wadkins weren’t bad. Most everyone else was just trying to survive against NBA stars. It wasn’t easy.

Calcavecchia thought he would set a screen on Jordan — a legit basketball play. Jordan responded with an elbow to the golfer’s abdomen. “Right where it knocks the wind out of you,” Calcavecchia said. “On the old VHS I had of (the event), you could hear me go ‘WHOOYA,’ right when he elbowed me. The whole crowd heard it. I could barely move after that.”

“They took it pretty seriously,’’ said former University of Georgia basketball coach Hugh Durham, who officiated the basketball games. “Michael drove in one time and he says, ‘That guy fouled me.’ I said, ‘You’re the best player in the world. Just think what that guy’s got to think for the rest of his life.’ And Michael said, ‘We’re playing for a lot of money!’ ’’

On the tennis court, Jordan made up for his inexperience with athletic ability. (And confidence. One year, Curren, the tennis pro, remembered Jordan and Barkley arguing over who was the better athlete. They decided to play a set of tennis for $10,000. Jordan won easily.)

“It was the absolute dream to play basketball with Jordan, and then I played tennis with him,” said Curren, who won doubles titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. “That was even more fascinating to witness his movement on the court.

“As a tennis player, you can see when a shot is hit, before it’s hit, how it’s developing. They would do a drop shot and I would have like a two-step start on him. Next thing I would see this guy coming past me and his steps are like three times the size of my steps.”

The only place Jordan’s explosiveness didn’t translate — the fishing competition. Each team had a bass boat along with a fishing guide. Jordan had no interest. The water made him nervous. However, golfer Raymond Floyd put the basketball star’s mind at ease.

“Michael, if you fall overboard, just stand up,’’ he said. “It’s only 5-feet deep. You’ll be fine.”

As it turned out, Jordan caught the biggest bass his first year, which netted him $5,000. According to Rogers’ memoir, the world’s greatest basketball player offered Floyd half of the prize money to take the fish off the hook.

The 1989 event came down to Harrelson. Instead of attending the 41st Primetime Emmy Awards, the “Cheers” star stood over a 5-foot putt, needing to sink it to give his team, which included Jordan, the event championship.

Through the years, the Rogers weekend featured light moments. In his memoir, Rogers wrote about shooting dice with Thomas and losing $1,000 in about three minutes. Simpson said his 8-year-old son Chris slipped a frog inside the pocket of Barkley’s workout pants.

“And I tell you what, Charles lost it ,” Simpson said. “I mean, you would’ve thought he put a rattlesnake in his pocket. It was hilarious .”

One year, Tanner missed a putt, costing his team $10,000, and then-wife Charlotte stormed over and hurled his putter into a nearby lake.

But this was serious.

Simpson watched Harrelson line up the putt. It was all wrong.

“He’s lining up a foot and a half to the right, and it’s a dead straight putt,’’ Simpson said. “And I said, ‘Ho, ho, ho.’ I squatted down behind him and said, ‘I’m going to line up the putter’. And it was just like the movie “Caddyshack.” Larry Bird and my buddy Payne Stewart are over there saying, ‘Miss it! Miss it! Miss it!’ I told Woody: ‘Now take one look and hit it.’ ”

With his blue hat pulled backward, Harrelson holed the putt. He raised his arms and yelled. Jordan, Calcavecchia and Curren rushed over and embraced him.

“They’re jumping around like they had just won the NBA championship,” Junkermann said.

To this day, Simpson has a photo of the Harrelson putt displayed in his basement. Curren still has the miniature trophies he won. Tanner said it was one of the best weekends he’s ever had. Which begs the question:  Could something like this happen today?

Celebrity golf tournaments are common, but events like the Rogers Weekend are not. Years ago, Junkermann considered a similar event with country star Garth Brooks but the idea didn’t get far. Without Beaver Dam Farms, which Rogers sold in 2003, location was an issue.

“Yeah, there’s probably no way,’’ Wadkins said. “The money has gone up so high. They probably wouldn’t do something like this and in a lot of ways jeopardize their career by doing something out of the norm for a pretty small amount of money compared to what people get paid today.”

Others disagree.

“Basketball players, I know they have contracts and things that kind of prohibit them from doing things where they might get hurt,” Calcavecchia said. “But a little half-court game and golf, fishing and tennis, the odds of getting hurt are pretty slim, quite honestly. Basketball’s probably the most risky of the four. But you could even throw bowling in there. I know (basketball star) Chris Paul loves to bowl and he has a celebrity tournament.”

Maybe someday everything will line up again. The timing. The host. The celebs. The location. Until then, the Rogers event will live on through memories.

“It was a blast,” Wadkins said. “It really was. Just a one-of-a-kind thing.”

(Photo illustration: Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic ; photos courtesy Kelly Junkermann)

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Doug Haller

Doug Haller is a senior writer based in Arizona. He previously worked 13 years at The Arizona Republic, where he covered three Final Fours and four football national championship games. He is a five-time winner of the Arizona Sportswriter of the Year award. Follow Doug on Twitter @ DougHaller

  • Country Music
  • Kenny Rogers
  • Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire Always Regretted Never Telling Kenny Rogers That Vince Gill Was Chosen Over Him For Her 1993 Duet “The Heart Won’t Lie”

by Tina Benitez-Eves May 21, 2024, 8:33 am

When Kenny Rogers asked Kim Carnes to write him a duet he could sing with another female artist, she teamed up with Donna Terry Weiss—who co-wrote the Jackie DeShannon song “ Bette Davis Eyes ,” which Carnes took to No. 1 in 1981—and wrote “The Heart Won’t Lie.” At first, Rogers was set to sing the duet with Reba McEntire , before her partner was switched during early production. At the time Rogers had recently featured a duet with Gladys Knight , “If I Knew Then What I Know Now,” on his 1989 album Something Inside So Strong  and had a preliminary recording for the duet with McEntire, which ultimately fell flat. “‘Heart Won’t Lie’ was a song we were trying to get a duet on with Kenny Rogers, and the keys just would not work,” revealed McEntire in 2021 on I Miss … ’90s on Apple. “Then I took the song, and did the duet with Vince [Gill].”

Videos by American Songwriter

McEntire and Rogers first became friends when he asked her to appear in his 1991 TV movie  The Gambler Returns, The Luck of the Draw . McEntire credited Rogers with saving her “sanity” by asking her to do the movie, months after she lost seven members of her band and her tour manager in a plane crash in in 1991.

“I was still in a state of disbelief and not knowing what I’m gonna do moving forward after the plane crash,” said McEntire reflecting on the time, shortly after Rogers’ death in 2020 at age 81.

[RELATED: From ‘Evening Shade’ to ‘Young Sheldon’: 5 TV Shows That Starred Reba McEntire (1993-2023)]

A Moment of Regret with Rogers

Shortly after the release of her duet, Rogers approached McEntire about recording the song with Gill and not him. “I didn’t tell Kenny, which was my mistake, totally,” said McEntire . “Kenny approached me at the CMA Awards. He said, ‘Why did you do that?’ I said, ‘Kenny, I am so sorry. We were just going so fast. It’s a great, wonderful song. I never even considered coming back and talking to you about that, and that’s one of the things I totally regret.'” McEntire continued, “I hugged his neck, and I told him I was terribly sorry. But I did not do that maliciously.” Released as the fourth single from McEntire’s 18th album It’s Your Call in 1992, “The Heart Won’t Lie” went to No. 1 on the  Billboard  Hot Country Songs chart in 1993. The song also marked the first duet by a country duo—who weren’t Brooks & Dunn —to top the charts since  Dolly Parton  and Ricky Van Shelton’s 1991 hit “Rockin’ Years.” The song also picked up a CMA nomination for Vocal Event of the Year in 1993. Gill and McEntire, who previously duetted on Gill’s 1990 hit “Oklahoma Swing,” performed “The Heart Won’t Lie” at the 1992 Academy of Country Music Awards. They reappeared and performed the song together on the TV sitcom Evening Shade, starring Burt Reynolds and Marilu Henner, on the episode “Ava Takes A Shower.”

‘Sometimes Life Gets in the Way’

In the ballad, Gill and McEntire trade off lyrics singing as old lovers who are denying that they still have feelings for one another. Looking back over the years Of all the things I’ve always meant to say But the words didn’t come easily So many times through empty fears Of all the nights I tried to pick up the phone So scared of who might be answering You try to live your life from day to day But seeing you across the room tonight Just gives me away

[RELATED: Remember When: Reba McEntire Lost 7 Members of Her Band and Her Tour Manager in a Plane Crash]

‘Cause the heart won’t lie Sometimes life gets in the way But there’s one thing that won’t change I know I’ve tried The heart won’t lie You can live your alibi Who can see you’re lost inside a foolish disguise The heart won’t lie Long after tonight Will you still hear my voice through the radio? Old desires make us act carelessly Long after tonight, after the fire After the scattered ashes fly Through the four winds blown and gone Will you come back to me?

who did kenny rogers tour with

For “The Heart Won’t Lie,” director Jon Small loosely based the video “mini-movie” on the 1982 drama  An Officer And A Gentleman , featuring McEntire as a U.S. Navy officer, who falls for her sergeant. McEntire first caught the acting bug when she filmed the music video for her 1986 song “Whoever’s in New England,” the title track of her tenth album. From that point on, her music videos became more cinematic with deeper storylines, including her portrayal of a waitress and mother who goes back to school in the 1992 video for “Is There Life Out There,” which was the premise for the TV movie, starring McEntire as Lily Marshall, in 1994. After making her film debut in  Tremors  in 1990, starring alongside  Kevin Bacon , McEntire later starred with Rogers in  The Gambler Returns , along with  The Man from Left Field  (1993),  North  (1994),  The Little Rascals  (1994),  Buffalo Girls  (1995),  Forever Love  (1998),  Secret of Giving  (2001), and  One Night at McCool’s  (2001), and more throughout her career. In 2001, she also made her Broadway debut as Annie Oakley in the musical  Annie Get Your Gun and also took on her namesake show,  Reba,  which aired for six seasons through 2007, and more television and film roles through the 2020s.

[RELATED: 4 Songs You Didn’t Know Reba McEntire Wrote Solo]

Always Friends

Despite the hiccup over “The Heart Won’t Lie,” McEntire and Rogers remained friends throughout his life. Both co-headlined a tour in Australia in 1998 and continued to perform together throughout the years, including a duet of his 1980 song—which Rogers originally sang with Carnes—”Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer.” McEntire also released her cover of Rogers’ 1977 song “Sweet Music Man” on her 2001 compilation Greatest Hits Volume III: I’m a Survivor.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The Voice

What Time Does ‘The Voice’ Start Tonight? How Long Is Season 25 Finale Part 2?

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who did kenny rogers tour with

The Truth About Dolly Parton And Kenny Rogers' Relationship

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers laughing

What's the truth about Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' relationship? When it comes to country music, few stars are more iconic than Dolly Parton . Known for her huge mass of blonde hair, her unforgettable catchy tunes, and her incredible rags-to-riches story, it's easy to see why Parton has racked up such an impressive collection of fans over the years. 

As any true Dolly Parton fans know, the singer owes a huge portion of her success to her long-time collaboration partner and friend, Kenny Rogers, a hugely successful musician and actor in his own right. Since their fated  meeting in in the '70s , Rogers and Parton have collaborated on a series of duets , and have appeared on stage together on dozens of occasions. Their undeniable chemistry has often been the subject of romance rumors , even though the pair always denied being anything more than friends. There's a reason that Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers never dated , as it turns out.

Curious to learn more about what really went on between this legendary music duo? Here is the truth about the decades-long relationship between Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers met in Nashville and began working together quickly

Long before Dolly Parton — who's undergone a stunning transformation — and Kenny Rogers were a classic country music duo, they were simply solo artists at the beginning of their burgeoning careers. The pair first met in the '70s, when Parton was headlining a television show called Dolly . 

As Rogers explained in his 2012 autobiography Luck or Something Like It,  he was invited to appear on Parton's show in the '70s. However, the pair didn't exactly hit it off immediately. "I would like to say that we became immediate friends, but we didn't," Rogers wrote. "I was just another guest in the mix of her very busy schedule" (via The Atlantic ). 

By the sounds of things, the iconic duo didn't really have a chance to get to know each other in their initial meeting. As it turns out, they might have never collaborated at all if it hadn't been for one of the Bee Gees bringing them together to sing "Islands in the Stream" much later in 1983!

Kenny Rogers knew that Dolly Parton would make Islands in the Stream a hit

The second meeting between Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton was actually the real start to their relationship. It all started when Rogers asked Barry Gibb of Bee Gees fame to produce his 1983 album. Rogers was struggling during the recording of "Islands in the Stream." As he explained in his memoir Luck or Something Like It, "I had worked on the song with Barry for at least four days, something I was not used to doing. I finally told him I didn't even like the song anymore," (via The Atlantic ). Apparently, Gibb immediately suggested that they turn the song into a duet by bringing in Dolly Parton.

Luckily enough, Parton happened to be in the same studio on the same day. "She came marching into the room, and once she came in and started singing, the song was never the same," Rogers explained to People (via The Washington Post ). The duet became a massive hit, and went on to become one of the best-known country duets of all time (via  Billboard ). No wonder it was one of Kenny Rogers' favorite songs he ever did.

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' many similarities helped them stay close over the years

Throughout the many years of their friendship, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers have stayed pretty close. In fact, the pair have seemingly always been as thick as thieves. In the late '80s, Rogers made an appearance on Parton's show, Dolly , and the pair discussed the many similarities that have helped to keep them friends for so long. "I think one of the things that affects a relationship when you're working with someone is your upbringing and your background," Rogers explained. 

Rogers went on to share that both singers had been through similar struggles to reach success in the music industry when they were young. He then added, "I think our religious backgrounds are the same, and our family orientation is the same, so I think it gives us a lot of common denominators to draw on for our friendship." 

Rogers also called Parton a "special person," and said that she occupies a special place in his heart. Awww!

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers shared this touching moment while recording their final duet, You Can't Make Old Friends

After decades of friendship and collaboration, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers recorded their final duet in 2013. In 2017, Rogers spoke to Southern Living about the experience of recording the song; apparently, something incredibly touching happened in the studio. Rogers explained how he looked up during the recording, and noticed that Parton had left her place in the studio and had come up to his microphone. "She put her arms around my neck and she said, 'Kenny I think you should know, I could never sing at your funeral,'" Rogers recalled. Naturally, Rogers was a little taken aback by the morbid comment!

Nevertheless, Rogers called the moment his favorite memory of his friend. "I love her for that," he gushed. "You never know she's going to say, but it always comes from love." Talk about a touching, meaningful moment — no wonder Rogers held the incredible memory so close to his heart!

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers toured together and became like family

Like most country music stars, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers spent a lot of time on the road throughout their careers. As their partnership became more and more popular, the duo started to tour together. It was on these trips that Parton and Rogers' friendship truly solidified. "We'd eat, hang out, and we found we really liked each other," Parton recalled in an interview with  People . She also shared that their respective band members all got along well together too. "Everybody was like family," she gushed. "Kenny was always like a relative to me." How adorable!

When Rogers appeared on Parton's show, Dolly , in the '80s, the two reminisced about a recent trip to Australia. Parton called it "one of the best times I've ever had in my life." Rogers then revealed that he tended to wake up early to take photos, while Parton would sleep in until the early afternoon. 

Despite their differing schedules, it's evident that the pair had great synergy when they were on the road! 

Dolly Parton felt that she could be playful with Kenny Rogers

One thing's for certain about Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' relationship: the pair always had fun when they were together. Whether they were performing live on stage , or were being filmed in rehearsals , they were constantly laughing and teasing one another. Their unique relationship was due in part to how comfortable they evidently felt in each other's company. As Parton once explained, she used to take a seriously playful tone with her friend (via Biography ). "I was always such a feisty little thing and I was always doing stuff backstage or onstage," she explained. "You know, pinch him on the butt or whatever."

Anyone who's seen the pair in one of their many performances or interviews can attest that  Parton's playfulness certainly shines through. Whether she's making funny gestures, play-slapping his hand away, or bumping him with her rear end, you can tell Parton loved egging Rogers on.

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' chemistry was undeniable on stage -- and fans could not get enough

It's impossible to discuss Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' relationship without mentioning what made them famous: their incredible chemistry! Watching these two on stage, you can't help but think they were born to work together. In 2012, Rogers spoke to CBS News about what made their relationship so special for fans. "I think what we had was a real chemistry and we loved people talking about it," he said.

And people certainly did talk about it! As Deseret noted in 1990, their electric chemistry during an '80s concert was "as if the two had been married for years." Apparently, they "anticipated each other's moves and understood each other's strengths and weaknesses," like an old married couple. It makes you wonder what Kenny Rogers' ex-wife had to say about Dolly Parton!

Parton summed it up best in the " You Can't Make Old Friends " music video: "There was just something about mine and Kenny's chemistry with each other, our friendship, people really sensed what we really feel." No wonder people couldn't get enough of watching these two perform together.

You Can't Make Old Friends was written about Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' friendship

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers' final duet was a touching, heartfelt song about an old friendship called "You Can't Make Old Friends." In the song, Parton and Rogers sing about what life would be like if the other was gone. 

"You Can't Make Old Friends" was co-written by Don Schlitz, Ryan Hanna King, and Caitlin Smith. According to The Boot , Rogers asked Schlitz to write the song for him and Parton to sing. As Schlitz explained, the song is "obviously very meaningful for the two of them."

At the end of the music video for " You Can't Make Old Friends ," Rogers explained that they had "connected personally" doing this duet. After all, most of their previous duets had a romantic feel, while this final duet was about a meaningful and long friendship. Parton then added, "We got to do this song that fits so many people and certainly fits us." What a sweet and incredibly important book end for their long journey as a musical duo.

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers have collaborated on dozens of duets and even made a Christmas album

Professionally speaking, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers had a hugely successful partnership. After their first duet, "Islands in the Stream," was released in 1983, it reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 list, according to Billboard . They went on to record dozens of other songs together, including "Real Love" in 1985, which peaked at No. 13 on the charts. The pair even recorded a joint Christmas album in 1984 (via A Taste of Country )! It's clear that their working relationship just, well, worked.

Parton and Rogers spoke about their favorite songs from their long career in a video interview . Parton mentioned "You Can't Make Old Friends," because of how personal it was to them as a pair. She also reminisced about the time they sang, "I Will Always Love You" together. However, both agreed that "Islands in the Stream" holds the most memories for them both. We can't say we blame them for having a hard time picking just one favorite song! However,  Dolly Parton does have a favorite song she wrote .

Dolly Parton offered both physical and emotional support to Kenny Rogers during his last tour

In 2017, Kenny Rogers finally said goodbye to the music industry, giving one final tour before retirement. As A Taste of Country reported, Dolly Parton was, of course, present for the farewell tour. Apparently, Rogers was suffering from pain in his knees and other ailments during the show, and Parton was there to support him both physically and emotionally.

In a clip from the concert, you can see that Parton was eager to give Rogers the send off he deserved — while still teasing him as usual! "How about a hand for this guy right here, is he not something!" she screamed as they entered the stage. She later said, "Kenny, of course, says he's retiring." She then playfully added, "I want to see what condition your condition is really in. He looks good to me!" 

Just looking at Rogers' loving smiles as Parton speaks, it's crystal clear that he seriously appreciated having her there for his last few shows.

Did Dolly Parton ever make a move on Kenny Rogers?

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers always firmly denied rumors of romance. However, in a 2020 Closer Weekly interview with Marianne Gordon, Kenny Rogers' ex-wife opened up about Dolly Parton , sharing new details about their relationship.

Gordon and Rogers were together for 16 years, until their divorce in 1997. And while Gordon explained that she was never worried about Parton and Rogers becoming romantically involved, she revealed that she thought that Parton may have made a move at one point. "It's entered my mind," she explained, "because she always said she thought like a man." Perhaps that masculine energy is  one of the reasons Dolly Parton never had kids .

Gordon went on to explain that Rogers had been open about his feelings and intentions at the time. "He sincerely felt they, [Rogers and Parton], had a cute thing going," Gordon said, "and if anything happened between them, they'd ruin that."

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers have never been more than friends -- but they did engage in some harmless flirting

Almost every Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers fan has probably wondered if the famous country music singers were ever an item. After all, the pair have been asked in plenty of interviews about whether their friendship has ever blossomed into something more. And while they've always denied the speculations, they have admitted to indulging in quite a lot of flirting over the years.

The pair spoke to Today in 2017 about why a romance never happened. "I'm a believer that tension is better if you keep it than if you satisfy it," Rogers explained. Then Parton chimed in, saying, "We were almost like brother and sister, and it would almost be like incest." In a later interview with Today , Rogers said that while they didn't have an affair, they "just flirted together for 30 years." He explained that it was more fun!

Plus, both singers had pretty eventful love lives of their own. Rogers has been married five times, while Parton has been married to Carl Dean for decades (via People ). What's the real reason you never see Dolly Parton's husband , anyway?

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers were friendship soulmates

It's pretty evident that there was a whole lot of love between Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. In fact, even though the pair were never romantically involved, they still regard each other as soulmates. "Kenny's friendship means more to me than our hit records," Parton told AskAnythingChat in 2017. "Actually, we're kind of like little soulmates." 

Rogers also feels the same was that Parton does about their connection. In the duo's " You Can't Make Old Friends " music video, he referred to themselves as "soul partners." Parton explained, "There are different kinds of soulmates."

When Rogers appeared on the Bobby Bones Show , he told a funny story about how their special friendship worked. He explained that the pair could go three years without seeing each other, and pick up right where they left off when the reconnected. However, Rogers didn't know Parton's phone number or email; instead, the pair communicated solely by fax, thanks to Parton's preference for the medium. What a seriously adorable friendship!

Kenny Rogers' death hit Dolly Parton hard

Sadly, Kenny Rogers passed away in 2020, according to a statement from his representative obtained by Rolling Stone . Naturally, it was no surprise that his old friend Dolly Parton was heartbroken by his death. She posted a touching tribute to her longtime collaborator on Twitter , writing, "You never know how much you love somebody until they're gone...I loved him as a wonderful man and a true friend." In the tearful video that accompanied the text, she said, "My heart's broken, and a big old chunk of it has gone with him today." We're so sorry for your loss, Dolly.

A few days later, Parton spoke to  Today  about his passing. She explained that the news shook her, and left her feeling extremely emotional for several days. However, she also shared, "I've kind of put it in a peaceful place, knowing that he's at peace....I'll always miss him, but I'll always treasure what we had together." We think it's safe to say that all of their fans feel the same way.

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  • May 25, 2024 Setlist

Kenny Chesney Setlist at Commanders Field, Landover, MD, USA

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  • Living in Fast Forward Play Video
  • Beer in Mexico Play Video
  • Keg in the Closet Play Video
  • Here and Now Play Video
  • Reality Play Video
  • Til It's Gone Play Video
  • Summertime Play Video
  • Save It for a Rainy Day Play Video
  • No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems Play Video
  • Somewhere With You Play Video
  • I Go Back Play Video
  • Get Along Play Video
  • Never Wanted Nothing More Play Video
  • Take Her Home Play Video
  • When the Sun Goes Down Play Video
  • Drift Away ( Mentor Williams  cover) Play Video
  • All the Pretty Girls Play Video
  • Young Play Video
  • American Kids Play Video
  • Setting the World on Fire Play Video
  • Everything's Gonna Be Alright ( David Lee Murphy  cover) Play Video
  • How Forever Feels Play Video
  • Anything but Mine Play Video
  • Don't Happen Twice Play Video

Edits and Comments

6 activities (last edit by funkhouse9 , 27 May 2024, 04:50 Etc/UTC )

Songs on Albums

  • Anything but Mine
  • Keg in the Closet
  • When the Sun Goes Down
  • American Kids
  • Save It for a Rainy Day
  • Til It's Gone
  • Beer in Mexico
  • Living in Fast Forward
  • All the Pretty Girls
  • Setting the World on Fire
  • Somewhere With You
  • No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems
  • Drift Away by Mentor Williams
  • Everything's Gonna Be Alright by David Lee Murphy
  • Take Her Home
  • How Forever Feels
  • Don't Happen Twice
  • Here and Now
  • Never Wanted Nothing More

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Commanders Field

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  • Kenny Chesney This Setlist Start time: 8:50 PM 8:50 PM

Kenny Chesney Gig Timeline

  • May 16 2024 Hard Rock Live Hollywood, FL, USA Start time: 9:00 PM 9:00 PM
  • May 18 2024 Mercedes-Benz Stadium Atlanta, GA, USA Add time Add time
  • May 25 2024 Commanders Field This Setlist Landover, MD, USA Start time: 8:50 PM 8:50 PM
  • Jun 06 2024 Blossom Music Center Cuyahoga Falls, OH, USA  –  Find tickets Add time Tickets Add time
  • Jun 22 2024 American Family Field Milwaukee, WI, USA  –  Find tickets Add time Tickets Add time

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who did kenny rogers tour with

who did kenny rogers tour with

Sanders, Boozman, Womack tour storm damage in Benton County

B ENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Rep. Steve womack and Sen. John Boozman helped out at the Meals that Matter event in Rogers and toured storm damage in the rest of Benton County.

The three lawmakers spent their Memorial Day touring damage in the community. They started the day in Rogers and Decatur, where the county saw some of the most significant damage.

Womack says it’s important for them to lead by example in a time like this.

“That makes people want to do more. I think it inspires people to do their part and that’s how you get on the road to recovery,” Womack said.

Sanders did an aerial review of storm damage. She then moved on to the Marion County Fairgrounds in Summit.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to KNWA FOX24.

Sanders, Boozman, Womack tour storm damage in Benton County

Darius Rucker’s memoir may surprise you. But he wants to be honest.

The country star and lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish reflects on the ups and downs in the music industry and his own journey in “Life’s Too Short.”

who did kenny rogers tour with

Back in the mid-1990s when Hootie & the Blowfish’s first album was selling millions of copies, you might remember that the band’s feel-good brand of alt-rock was also mocked for being too nice, too tame, too cookie-cutter. So anyone who recalls those days might be a bit surprised by the first chapter of lead singer Darius Rucker’s new memoir.

“Hootie & the Blowfish reigned supreme in two not altogether unrelated areas: selling records and doing drugs,” Rucker writes near the beginning of “Life’s Too Short,” noting that the band spent lots of time “smoking, snorting or swallowing” various substances. “One time, a roadie, British guy who had worked with several rock and roll bands known for their contribution to the music world as well as their record-breaking drug consumption, stared at the mountain range of the snowy-peaked white powder we’d laid out on the table in front of us, and said, ‘I’ve been around a lot of bands and nobody comes close to you guys, not close .’”

While anecdotes about the band’s penchant for drinking and drug use are a small part of the book, Rucker’s decision to include such details upfront sends a message: There’s a lot more to the Hootie & the Blowfish story than the massive success that made them both Grammy winners and a cultural punchline. There’s also a lot more to Rucker, who became a solo country music star after the band parted ways in 2008, racking up hit records and albums and becoming the third Black artist in history to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. As the memoir shows, his chill demeanor and infectious laugh often mask a complex inner life.

In an interview, Rucker, 58, said that people have been asking him to write a book for years, but he wanted to wait until his three kids were adults. And yes, he said, he was hesitant to reveal the extent of his and the band’s drug use; at one point in the book, he thanks his ex-wife, Beth Leonard, for saving his life 20 years ago when he quit using cocaine and ecstasy after she gave him an ultimatum to stop partying.

“I was like, ‘Am I really going to put that out there?’” Rucker said. However, he realized, “The one thing I always said to myself was that I was going to be honest. … And so I just figured I had to say it. I had to tell the story.”

Rucker’s story is a compelling one. He’s the second youngest of six siblings, raised by a single mother in Charleston, S.C., in a house where money was tight but the rooms were filled with the sounds of Al Green, Gladys Knight, the Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson and many more. Rucker never took a vocal lesson, though he sensed as a child that singing was his future.

“Since the age of six, my voice has simply been a part of me, as real and as natural as my breath,” he writes. When asked about what he does to maintain that powerhouse, slightly raspy, instantly recognizable baritone, Rucker is straightforward: He does nothing. “I don’t warm up before shows. I don’t do anything. It’s just a gift,” he said. “I should probably take care of it more so I can have it longer.”

He parlayed that gift into a college band in the mid-1980s at the University of South Carolina, which started out as a fun side gig with friends until they started regularly selling out clubs. In 1993, the four members — Rucker, Dean Felber, Mark Bryan and Jim “Soni” Sonefeld — scraped together cash to independently release an EP, which sold so many copies that it caught the attention of Atlantic Records. Two songs from the EP (“Hold My Hand” and “Only Wanna Be With You”) wound up on “Cracked Rear View,” their debut record that became one of the top-selling albums in music history and was certified 21 times platinum.

Rucker, who wrote the book with Alan Eisenstock, gives a thorough rundown of the band’s roller coaster journey and delves into what it’s like to suddenly become a celebrity, including the complicated balance of navigating fame and staying true to your art. During the age of grunge with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Hootie’s inoffensive, upbeat tunes were repeatedly skewered by critics and fellow musicians. An executive at their own label even worried that releasing a Hootie & the Blowfish album would make him a “laughingstock.”

Summer reading

who did kenny rogers tour with

“We tried dabbling with harder-edged songs. For a minute. We couldn’t do it,” Rucker writes. “We have a social conscience, for sure, and our songs can be deeply emotional. But at the end of the day and into the night, we’re having a party, and you’re invited. We’re pretty much the opposite of grunge.”

He’s candid about the psychological toll of the criticism, particularly when follow-up albums couldn’t meet the historic expectations set by the first record. However, when the group reunited for the 25th anniversary of “Cracked Rear View” in 2019, nostalgia was all the rage and they sold out amphitheaters filled with ecstatic fans. And then there was the apologetic discourse.

In an Esquire piece that year titled “ How Our Cruelty Killed Hootie and the Blowfish — and Damaged Our Souls ,” former MTV VJ Dave Holmes wrote: “We never really stopped liking Hootie and the Blowfish, we just began to concern ourselves with whether our peers did. We thought that our neighbors thought that Hootie was no longer cool and, afraid of appearing uncool ourselves, we threw them overboard.”

Rucker certainly appreciated the tonal and critical shift. “It was really cool to see some people admit when we went back on tour and really realized ‘These guys were pretty good,’” he said. “I mean, yeah — you don’t suck and sell 22 million records.”

Working on a memoir brought up some feelings for Rucker that he didn’t expect, such as the pain of writing about his estranged father: “I didn’t realize how much that affected me until I wrote the book,” Rucker said. He covers grief in several chapters, particularly his devastation over the death of his mother, Carolyn.

He also writes about the emotional side of being in a band, and the struggle to find your own identity when the band breaks up. Rucker always wanted to sing country music, and when Hootie & the Blowfish members went their separate ways, he decided to take a chance and head to Nashville. Though considering how few Black artists had commercial success in the nearly all-White genre, he had doubts.

“What am I thinking? It’ll never work. I hear the arguments against me,” writes Rucker, adding he dreamed of being “Charley Pride 2.0,” following the format’s groundbreaking Black superstar of the 1960s and 1970s. He just wasn’t sure if that was realistic: “A Black guy trying to break into country music. Nobody will take me seriously.”

Rucker found a champion in Mike Dungan, the former chairman and chief executive of Universal Music Group Nashville, as well as famed producer and songwriter Frank Rogers. Dungan told Rucker that he called 13 influential Nashville “tastemakers,” and Rogers was the sole person who thought that signing Rucker as a country singer wasn’t a crazy idea.

“From the moment Mike said it, it made sense,” said Rogers, who has produced almost all of Rucker’s country albums. He always thought Rucker sounded like a country artist, and was impressed by his vocal prowess and storytelling. The pair co-wrote more than half the songs on Rucker’s 2008 debut country record, “Learn to Live.”

Nashville isn’t always kind to musicians who cross over from other genres — yet Rucker’s debut single, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” went No. 1, making him the first solo Black singer to top the Billboard country chart since Pride’s “Night Games” in 1983. (In the book, Rucker writes that the news made him start “blubbering like a baby.”) He has continued with a string of No. 1 singles, platinum albums and a monster hit with his 2013 cover of “Wagon Wheel,” earning him a Grammy for country solo performance.

“He’s one of the few people in the history of country music that deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame,” Rogers said.

Rucker has become a mentor for newer country artists, such as Chapel Hart, a family trio and a breakout act from “America’s Got Talent” in 2022. He sang with the women on an episode of “AGT” and asked them to collaborate on “Ol’ Church Hymn,” a track on his latest album, dedicated to the memory of his mother.

Group member Trea Swindle said Rucker often advises them to “remain true to who we are and don’t be afraid to say no to things that aren’t going to serve us, but don’t be afraid to say yes to things that could be new opportunities,” she said. “To have someone in your corner who has already done and has already accomplished so much — it means the world to us.”

Rucker has thought a lot about his legacy as he worked on the memoir, and worked to become more comfortable talking about personal subjects. It was necessary for book promotion, but also because this past February, he was arrested on misdemeanor drug charges stemming from a 2023 traffic stop in Tennessee where police said they found him in possession of marijuana and psychedelic pills. Rucker briefly, jokingly addressed the incident — “57 years and they finally got me” — and said his lawyers are handling it.

During this particular time in his life, nothing is off-limits. A goal with this memoir was to look back and not shy away from anything.

“One of the main things I hope [people] take away is that I tell my story and the ups and downs of everything, but I never make excuses,” Rucker said. “I just live my life.”

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who did kenny rogers tour with

IMAGES

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  3. Kenny Rogers

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  4. Kenny Rogers Discusses His Life, Legacy and Final World Tour on RFD-TV

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  5. Kenny Rogers Reveals Farewell Tour Dates: The Ram Report

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  6. Kenny Rogers Announces Farewell Tour For Australia And New Zealand

    who did kenny rogers tour with

VIDEO

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  3. Kenny Rogers Tour Bus

  4. Rick Nelson & Kenny Rogers (Rollin' On The River TV Show

  5. Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits [Full Album]

  6. Kenny Rogers Explains "The Gambler" And His Influences

COMMENTS

  1. Kenny Rogers Concert & Tour History

    Kenny Rogers has had 1,540 concerts. Kenny Rogers is most often considered to be Pop, United States, Country, Soft Rock, Mellow Gold, Adult Standards, Male Vocalists, Classic Country Pop, Oldies, Nashville Sound, and Classic Country. The last Kenny Rogers concert was on May 24, 2022 at Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska, United States.

  2. Kenny Rogers Tour Dates & Concert History

    Biography. Kenny Rogers (born 21 August 1938) is a multi award winning, multi-platinum Country singer-songwriter, actor and record producer hailing from Houston, Texas. Born Kenneth Donald Rogers, the now legendary country musician had a difficult upbringing, growing up in a housing project in the south, with his six siblings and parents.

  3. Kenny Rogers

    Kenny Rogers (August 21, 1938 - March 20, 2020) was an American singer and songwriter. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013. ... In announcing the tour, Rogers indicated at the time that his final tour appearance would be on NBC's Today show.

  4. Kenny Rogers: Country Singers, Death, Family & Songs

    Early Life and Career. Singer and songwriter Kenneth Donald Rogers was born on August 21, 1938, in Houston, Texas. While his name was "Kenneth Donald" on his birth certificate, his family always ...

  5. Kenny Rogers

    Kenny Rogers (born August 21, 1938, Houston, Texas, U.S.—died March 20, 2020, Sandy Springs, Georgia) was an American country music singer known for his raspy voice and multiple hits such as "Lady," "The Gambler," "Lucille," and "Through the Years.". Rogers grew up poor in a Houston housing project. In 1956, while in high school, he started his first band, the Scholars.

  6. Kenny Rogers

    A Career Before Country Music. Kenneth Ray Rogers entered country music with a broad musical background. Growing up in public housing in Houston, he was exposed to R&B, pop, and jazz in addition to country. Rogers's first professional group was a late-1950s vocal act called the Scholars, which had local hits in Houston.

  7. In Praise of Bloodline, Kenny Rogers' Band Since 1976

    For 41 years, Steve Glassmeyer has toured with Kenny without interruption. Chuck Jacobs and Randy Dorman joined the band later in the '70s, and they're still with the group today. Other ...

  8. Tour Schedule

    2023-24 TOUR SCHEDULE. Apr 13, 2024 - Scottville, MI - 2:00 & 7:30pm. West Shore Community College - buy tickets. Apr 19, 2024 - Auburndale, FL. Camp Margaritaville - Auburndale, FL. June 9, 2024 Alto, New Mexico. July 13, 2024 Beaver, PA. Call 724-650-3960 to reserve your spot. July 19, 2024 - Franklin, TN - Franklin Theatre.

  9. Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton drop the mic on his final performance

    Parton was one of more than 20 artists who took the stage to honor Rogers, who in 2015 revealed plans to retire after a final tour that ends later this year. Rogers, 79, and his wife Wanda watched ...

  10. Kenny Rogers Breaks Down His Biggest Duets: 'There's a Chemistry

    In addition, their 1984 "Once Upon A Christmas" disc has become a standard of the holiday season. Parton appears with Rogers on his new disc, singing on the emotional title cut. Watch the new ...

  11. Kenny Rogers Farewell Concert Celebration: All In for the Gambler

    Thursday, March 9, at 8 PM. On October 25, 2017, friends, fans and music legends gathered to celebrate the life and career of Kenny Rogers as he bid farewell to the town he loved: Nashville. Featuring performances by some of today's most popular artists as well as humorous anecdotes from his longtime musical collaborators, KENNY ROGERS ...

  12. See Kenny Rogers Say Goodbye at All-Star Farewell Concert

    Like his 1981 song promised, Kenny Rogers went out in a blaze of glory Wednesday night in Nashville. The Country Music Hall of Fame member was honored at All in for the Gambler: Kenny Rogers ...

  13. Kenny Rogers Concert Map by year: 1980

    1. United States. 54. 2. Canada. 4. View the concert map Statistics of Kenny Rogers in 1980!

  14. Kenny Rogers Tribute Special, Filmed Before His Death, Set ...

    A Kenny Rogers tribute concert special that was filmed before the country-pop superstar's death, "Kenny Rogers: All In for the Gambler," has been set for airing later this month on CBS ...

  15. Kenny Rogers Tickets, 2024 Concert Tour Dates

    If I'm that witty and an entertainer at 79, I'd be happy. Buy Kenny Rogers tickets from the official Ticketmaster.com site. Find Kenny Rogers tour schedule, concert details, reviews and photos.

  16. Kenny Rogers & The First Edition Concert Map by year: 1969

    1. United States. 8. View the concert map Statistics of Kenny Rogers & The First Edition in 1969!

  17. Through the Years with the Kenny Rogers Band featuring Don Gatlin

    The band presents the songs the way they and Kenny Rogers performed them as they traveled from Carnegie Hall to the Royal Albert Hall and from the Sydney Opera House to the Grand Ole Opry. They'll play all of the mega-hits you'd expect, like "Lady" and "Lucille" and some favorites that didn't always make it into the usual tour ...

  18. Kenny Rogers and The First Edition

    Early days. Kenny Rogers and The First Edition were mostly made up of former members of the New Christy Minstrels who felt creatively stifled. [citation needed] The exception was Mickey Jones, who had been part of Bob Dylan's backing group on his first electric world tour.[citation needed] In 1967, with the help of Terry Williams' mother, who worked for producer and executive Jimmy Bowen, they ...

  19. Kenny Rogers Farewell Concert Celebration: All In for the Gambler

    Celebrate Kenny Rogers' farewell to Nashville with Dolly Parton and other special guests. More. My List. Kenny Rogers Farewell Concert Celebration: All In for the Gambler is presented by your ...

  20. Kenny Rogers Dead at 81

    Rogers died Friday night at age 81 from natural causes at home in Georgia, his rep confirmed in a statement. "The Rogers family is sad to announce that Kenny Rogers passed away last night at 10: ...

  21. Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton Drop the Mic on Final Performance

    RELATED VIDEO: Kenny Rogers Shares Adorable Story About His Classic Dolly Parton Duet, 'Islands in the Stream' ... The Oak Ridge Boys, whose career was jumpstarted by a Rogers tour, ...

  22. Michael Jordan and Woody Harrelson: Tales from the Kenny Rogers Classic

    A 25-year-old Michael Jordan leaped to block the shot, his right hand extended high. Rogers pulled back. "A fake!" famed broadcaster Chick Hearn said on the telecast. "Kenny Rogers puts ...

  23. Reba McEntire Always Regretted Never Telling Kenny Rogers That Vince

    McEntire and Rogers first became friends when he asked her to appear in his 1991 TV movie The Gambler Returns, The Luck of the Draw.McEntire credited Rogers with saving her "sanity" by asking ...

  24. The Truth About Dolly Parton And Kenny Rogers' Relationship

    In 2017, Kenny Rogers finally said goodbye to the music industry, giving one final tour before retirement. As A Taste of Country reported, Dolly Parton was, of course, present for the farewell tour. Apparently, Rogers was suffering from pain in his knees and other ailments during the show, and Parton was there to support him both physically and ...

  25. Kenny Chesney Setlist at FedExField, Landover

    Get the Kenny Chesney Setlist of the concert at FedExField, Landover, MD, USA on May 25, 2024 from the Sun Goes Down Tour and other Kenny Chesney Setlists for free on setlist.fm!

  26. Sanders, Boozman, Womack tour storm damage in Benton County

    Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Rep. Steve Womack and Sen. John Boozman helped out at the Meals that Matter event in Rogers and toured storm damage in the rest of Benton County.

  27. Darius Rucker discusses his memoir

    Darius Rucker's new memoir, "Life's Too Short," looks back at his time in Hootie & the Blowfish and his transition to country music. (Jim Wright) 9 min. Back in the mid-1990s when Hootie & the ...