Kenneth Ray "Kenny" Rogers (born August 21, 1938, in Houston, Texas) is an American country music singer-songwriter, photographer, record producer, actor and entrepreneur. He has been very successful, charting more than 70 hit singles across various music genres and topping the country and pop album charts for more than 420 individual weeks in the United States alone.
Two of his albums, The Gambler and Kenny, are featured in the About.com poll of "The 200 Most Influential Country Albums Ever". He was voted the "Favorite Singer of All-Time" in a 1986 joint poll by readers of both USA Today and People. He has received hundreds of awards for both his music and charity work. These include AMAs, Grammys, ACMs and CMAs, as well as a lifetime achievement award for a career spanning six decades in 2003.
Success in recent years include the 2006 album release, Water & Bridges, an across the board hit, that peaked at #5 in the Billboard Country Albums sales charts, also charting high in the Billboard 200. The first single from the album, "I Can't Unlove You," was also a chart hit. Remaining a popular entertainer around the world, the following year he completed a tour of the United Kingdom and the Ireland telling BBC Radio 2 DJ Steve Wright, his favorite hit of his was "The Gambler". He has also acted in a variety of movies and television shows, most notably the title roles in "Kenny Rogers as The Gambler" and the MacShayne series. As of 2009, Rogers lives in Nicholson, Georgia
Kenny Rogers was the fourth of seven children born to Floyd Rogers, a carpenter, and his wife Lucille, a nurse. Rogers graduated from Jefferson Davis High School in Houston. According to the Texas birth records, his middle given name is Ray and he is sometimes credited in his film roles as "Kenneth Ray Rogers".
He has been married five times. His fourth wife was the actress Marianne Gordon Rogers. His current wife is the former Wanda Miller. He has a daughter and four sons, including twins born when Rogers was 65.
As of 2005, Rogers has become an avid Atlanta Thrashers fan, and can often be seen at Philips Arena taking in a game. He was also a singer in the song "We Are the World".
His career began in the mid-1950s, when he recorded with a doo-wop group called The Scholars who had some success with a single called "Poor Little Doggie". Rogers was not the lead singer of the group and after two more singles they disbanded when their leader went solo.
Now on his own, Kenneth Rogers (as he was billed then) followed the break up with his own single, a minor solo hit called "That Crazy Feeling" (1958). After sales slowed down, Rogers joined a jazz group called The Bobby Doyle Trio, who got a lot of work in clubs thanks to a reasonable fan following and also recorded for Columbia Records. The group disbanded in 1965, and a 1966 jazzy rock single Rogers recorded for Mercury Records, called "Here's That Rainy Day" failed. Rogers also worked as a producer, writer and session musician for other performers; including country artists Mickey Gilley and Eddy Arnold. In 1966 he joined the New Christy Minstrels as a singer and double bass player.
Feeling that the Minstrels were not offering the success they wanted, Rogers and fellow members Mike Settle, Terry Williams and Thelma Camacho left the group. They formed The First Edition in 1967 (later renamed "Kenny Rogers and The First Edition"). They chalked up a string of hits on both the pop and country charts, including "Somethings Burning", "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town", "Reuben James" and "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)." In his First Edition days, Rogers had something of a hippie image, with long brown hair, an earring, and pink sunglasses. Known affectionately in retrospect as "Hippie Kenny", Rogers had a much smoother vocal style than in his later career.
When the group split in 1976, Rogers launched his solo career. Rogers soon developed a more middle of the road sound, with a somewhat rough but tuneful voiced style that sold to both pop and country audiences; to date, he has charted more than 60 top 40 hit singles (including upwards of 25 #1's) and 50 of his albums have charted. His music has also been featured in top selling movie soundtracks, such as Convoy, Urban Cowboy and The Big Lebowski.
After leaving The First Edition in 1976, after almost a decade with the group, Rogers signed a solo deal with United Artists. Although producer Larry Butler had no doubts about Rogers' talent, he was advised by several colleagues not to sign Rogers, who some saw as a has-been. Nevertheless, Butler and Rogers began a partnership that would last four years.
Rogers first outing for his new label was Love Lifted Me. The album charted and two singles "Love Lifted Me" and "While The Feeling's Good" were minor hits. The song "Runaway Girl" was featured in the motion picture Trackdown. Later in 1976, Rogers issued his second album, the self-titled Kenny Rogers, whose first single "Laura (What's He Got That I Ain't Got)", was another solo hit.
However, the single "Lucille" (1977) was a major hit, reaching number one on the pop charts in 12 countries, selling over five million copies, and firmly establishing Rogers' post-First Edition career. On the strength of "Lucille", the album Kenny Rogers reached #1 in the Billboard Country Album Chart. More success was to follow, including the multi-million selling album The Gambler and another international Number 1 single, "Coward of the County", taken from the equally successful album, Kenny. In 1980, the Rogers/Butler partnership came to an end, though they would occasionally reunite: in 1987 on the album I Prefer The Moonlight and again in 1993 on the album If Only My Heart Had A Voice.
In the late 1970s Kenny teamed up with close friend and country singer Dottie West for a series of albums and duets. Together the duo had three hit albums, selling out stadiums and arenas while on tour. Their hits together "Every Time Two Fools Collide", "Anyone Who Isn't Me Tonight" and "What Are We Doin' in Love" became Country standards. Of West, Kenny stated in a 1995 TNN interview "She, more than anybody else I ever worked with sang with such emotion that you actually believed what she sang." Rogers was with West when she died after sustaining injuries in a 1991 car accident. In 1995 he starred opposite Michele Lee in the CBS biopic Big Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story.
In 1980 his duet with Kim Carnes "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer" became a major hit. Later in 1980 came his partnership with Lionel Richie who wrote and produced Rogers' #1 hit "Lady". Richie went on to write and produce Rogers' 1981 album Share Your Love, a chart topper and commercial favorite featuring hits such as "I Don't Need You" (Pop #3), "Through the Years" (Pop #13), and "Share Your Love with Me" (Pop #14). In 1982, Rogers released the album Love Will Turn You Around. The title track reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the country and AC charts. Shortly after he started working with producer David Foster in 1983 recording the smash Bob Seger cover "We've Got Tonight", a duet with Sheena Easton.
He went on to work with the Bee Gees to record and produce his 1983 hit album Eyes That See in the Dark, featuring the title track and yet another #1 hit "Islands in the Stream," a duet with Dolly Parton. The Bee Gees had originally written the song for Diana Ross. The partnership with Bee Gees only lasted one album, which was not a surprise considering that Rogers' original intentions were to work with Barry Gibb in only one song but Barry insisted on them doing the entire album.
"Islands in the Stream", the first single to be released from Eyes That See in the Dark in the United States, quickly went to #1 in the Billboard Hot 100. It was the last country single to reach #1 on that chart until "Amazed" by Lonestar did so in 2000. However, RCA insisted on releasing the title track as the first UK single, and the song stalled at a disappointing #61 there, although it did stay in the top 100 for several weeks (when it was eventually released in the US, it was more successful, charting high on the Adult Contemporary chart and making the country top 30). "Islands in the Stream" was issued as a follow up single in Britain and sold well, making #7. The album itself reached #1 on the country charts on both sides of the Atlantic and enjoyed multi-million sales. "Buried Treasure," "This Woman" and "Evening Star"/"Midsummer Nights" were also all successful singles from the album.
Shortly afterwards came the album What About Me?, a hit whose title track, a trio performance featuring Rogers, James Ingram and Kim Carnes, was also a hit. While it didn't go very high on the country charts, the single "Crazy" (not to be confused with the Willie Nelson-penned Patsy Cline hit) topped the country charts. David Foster was to work again with Kenny Rogers in his 1985 album The Heart of the Matter, although this time Foster was playing backing music rather than producing, a role given to George Martin. This album was another success, going to #1, with the title track making to the top ten category in the singles charts.
The next few years saw Kenny scoring several top country hits on a regular basis, including "Twenty Years Ago," "Morning Desire," "Tomb of the Unknown Love," among others. On Rogers was one of the 45 artists who recorded the worldwide charity song "We Are the World" to support hunger victims in Africa. The following year he played at Giants Stadium.
On January 1987, Kenny Rogers co-hosted the American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. By 1988 to 1990, Kenny Rogers had reached the pinnacle of his career and new artists like Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson were emerging at a rapid clip. During that time, he released some albums but, while he still made the top 20, he was no longer the chart topper he had been previously.
His success is worldwide. He has played many well-attended concerts in Europe and the Far East, where he has charted numerous singles and albums from the 1970s through to the present day. New Zealand was a big stronghold during his First Edition days. Rogers 1985 greatest-hits package, The Kenny Rogers Story, reached #1 on the UK country chart and four years later (in 1989), was still at #2. He also charted internationally during that time with a series of studio albums.
In 1983, Rogers signed to RCA for a record breaking US$20 million advance. Although, following the success of his label debut, the Bee Gees produced Eyes That See in the Dark album, Rogers wasn't doing as well as in previous years. Nonetheless, he was still among the world's top stars. Between 1983 and 1990 alone he charted no less than 23 top 40 singles and 10 top 40 albums.
Although in the 1990s with the emergence of Garth Brooks, it was noted that this new talent was selling records like no one else had ever in country music, Rogers was nonetheless a dominant force in mainstream music and at his height, was charting singles (and albums) which were racing up the top 40 on the pop charts around the world, songs like "Lucille", "Coward of the County", "The Gambler" and "Lady" became favorites and have remained such, making Rogers one of the most popular entertainers on the touring circuit.
Success in the 1990s
In the 1990s Rogers continued to chart with singles such as "Crazy In Love", "If You Want To Find Love" and "The Greatest". From 1991 to 1994, Rogers hosted The Real West on A&E, and on The History Channel since 1995 (Reruns only on The History Channel.). He also visited Miller's during this time period. From 1992 to 1995 Rogers co-owned and headlined Branson, Missouri?s 4,000 seat Grand Palace Theatre. In 1994, Rogers released his "dream" album titled Timepiece on Atlantic Records. It consisted of 30's and 40's jazz standards; it was the type of music he performed in his early days with The Bobby Doyle Three in Houston. In 1996 he released an album Vote For Love where the public requested their favorite love songs and Kenny performed the songs (several of his own hits were in there). The album was the first for the TV shopping channel QVC's record label, onQ Music. The album, sold exclusively by QVC, was a huge success and was later issued in stores under a variety of different titles. It reached #1 in the UK country charts under the title Love Songs (a title also used for various compilations) and also crossed over into the mainstream charts.
In 1999 Rogers scored with the single "The Greatest". A song about life from a child's point of view (looked at through a baseball game). The song reached the top 40 of Billboard's Country singles chart and was a Country Music Television Number One video. It was on the Rogers' album "She Rides Wild Horses" the following year (itself a top 10 success). In 1999, Rogers also produced a song specifically for the ABC show "Home Improvement" (Starring Tim Allen and Patricia Richardson). The song was produced for the series finale. It's called "We've Got It All". The series finale of Home Improvement is called "The Long And Winding Road". It is three parts. The song is at the end of the second part. The song is not on any album. There was a cd made for it from the show, which sells for a high sum at auction.
Beyond the 1990s
In the 21st century, Rogers was back at #1 for the first time in more than a decade with the 2000 single "Buy Me a Rose", making him, at 61, the oldest artist in the history of country music to reach the chart summit. In doing so, he broke a 26-year-old record held by Hank Snow (who, in April 1974, was 59 years and 11 months old when he scored with "Hello Love"). Rogers held the record until 2003, when then 70-year-old Willie Nelson became the oldest artist to have a No. 1 on the country charts with his duet with Toby Keith, "Beer For My Horses."
Rogers also released the critically acclaimed album Back to the Well.
Although Rogers didn't record new albums for a couple of years, he continued to have success in many countries with more greatest hits packages. In 2004 42 Ultimate Hits, which was the first hits collection to span his days with the First Edition to the present, reached Number 6 on the American country charts and went gold. It also featured two new songs, "My World Is Over" with Whitney Duncan and "We Are the Same". "My World Is Over" was released as a single and was a minor hit. In 2005 The Very Best of Kenny Rogers, a double album, sold well in Europe. It was the first new solo Kenny Rogers hits album to reach the United Kingdom for over a decade, despite many compilations there that were not true hits packages.
Rogers also signed with Capitol Nashville Records and had more success with the TV advertised release 21 Number Ones in January 2006. Although this CD did contain 21 chart-toppers as the title claims (recorded between 1976 and the present day), this was not a complete collection of Rogers' #1 singles, omitting such singles as "Crazy in Love" and "What About Me?"
Much of his success was with Capitol from 1976 to 1983 (called United Artists/Liberty at the time). It is very rare for an artist of Rogers' age to be signed to a major label. Capitol followed 21 Number Ones with Rogers' new studio album, Water And Bridges, in March 2006 on the Capitol Nashville Records label. The first single from the album was "I Can't Unlove You" which peaked at #17 on the country charts, after spending over 6 months on the hit list, more than 50 years after he formed his first group and 38 years after his first major hit as leader of The First Edition; the song remains in recurrent airplay on some radio stations today. "I Can't Unlove You" was followed up with the second single from the album, "The Last Ten Years (Superman)," in September 2006. The third single, "Calling Me," which features Don Henley, became popular in early 2007, and was nominated for a Grammy Award at the 2007 Grammy Awards. Also in 2007, the 1977 "Kenny Rogers" album was re-issued as a double play CD, also featuring the 1979 "Kenny" album and this once again put Kenny's name into the sales charts worldwide. The following year, another compilation album ("A Love Song Collection") also charted. He currently lives in Atlanta.
In 2003, Kenny Rogers made a guest appearance in two episodes of Reno 911 as himself.
To date Rogers has recorded 65 albums, won practically every award there is to win, and sold over 120 million records.
On August 26, 2008, Rogers released "50 Years" exclusively at Cracker Barrel stores. The album includes some of Rogers' greatest hits, plus 3 new songs. The release is designed to celebrate Kenny's 50th year in the music business. However, it should be noted Rogers has been in the music business for more than 50 years including his releases with The Scholars, who recorded for a local label in Houston. 1958 was the year he signed his first recording deal with a major label.
In 2008 Kenny toured with his very popular Christmas Show. However, he decided to split the show up, making the first half his "best of" and the second half consisted of his Christmas songs. One such show was at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT. Photographs from that show are available for viewing at Coastal Life Photography.
In 2009 he toured the UK, playing in Cardiff CIA (March 27)Birmingham NIA (28)Manchester MEN (29)Newcastle Arena (30)Plymouth Pavilions (April 1)Nottingham Concert Hall (2)London Hammersmith Apollo (3)Bournemouth BIC (4)with support band - Savannah Jack.
Rogers also had success as an actor. His 1982 movie Six Pack, in which he played a race-car driver, took more than $20 million at the US box office, while made-for-TV movies such as The Gambler, Christmas in America, and Coward of the County (based on hit songs of his) topped ratings lists.
As an entrepreneur, he collaborated with former Kentucky Fried Chicken CEO John Y. Brown, Jr. in 1991 to start up the restaurant chain Kenny Rogers Roasters. The chicken and ribs chain, which is similar to Boston Market, was famously featured in an episode of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld called "The Chicken Roaster." On the November 27, 1997, broadcast of Late Night with Conan O?Brien, Rogers could not pick his chicken out in a taste test, claiming he preferred "greasy burgers."
Kenny Rogers and his restaurant were subjects of comedy from MADtv, especially the impersonation done by Will Sasso; the sketch of the faux-Rogers hosting Jackass became popular on the Internet. Sasso had him making noises such as "Ding Ding Ding Di da Ding Ding Ding" and getting sloppily drunk.
Rogers appeared in a 2004 episode of Reno 911 as himself being subjected to incompetent security provided by starstruck sheriff's deputies to comical effect. In this episode, Deputy Garcia, who is obsessed with Kenny Rogers, reveals that he thinks that Rogers should focus all of his effort on acting, and "give that singing thing a rest for a while," because Garcia believes that Rogers could win an Oscar.
Kenny is also the inspiration behind the pop culture website menwholooklikekennyrogers.com . The site features close to a thousand photos of men who look like the real Kenny Rogers, as well as tips on how to look like Kenny, places to spot Kenny look-alikes, and even a Kenny of the Month and sells t-shirts and buttons. Kenny himself has even gone on the record with his favorite "Kennys" on the site (Hot Tub Kenny being his favorite) and the site has been featured in Time, People, Esquire, The National Enquirer, and more.