LAST ROLL OF THE DICE

You’ve got to know when to walk away, know when to run – and Kenny Rogers is ready to pack up the card ta­ble after this fi­nal tour

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - SHOWS - NOEL MEN­GEL

There is one thing we should have learned about Kenny Rogers by now. If you ever think you had him pinned down as one kind of per­former, or per­son, there is al­ways some­thing else to dis­cover about him.

As a per­former, there is the im­age of the sooth­ing-voiced coun­try star play­ing to main­stream au­di­ences and sell­ing 165 mil­lion records. Yet he started his pro­fes­sional ca­reer play­ing up­right bass in a jazz band in the early ’60s.

Last year in the UK, he played the Glas­ton­bury rock fes­ti­val to 130,000 fans who were mostly one-third of his age or younger.

“Now that was a chal­lenge,’’ Rogers, 76, says. “But sur­pris­ingly they knew ev­ery one of my songs. That shocked me.’’

And long be­fore he be­came one of the big­gest stars in coun­try mu­sic with hits like The Gam­bler and his duet with Dolly Par­ton, Is­lands In the Stream, Rogers was serv­ing the most di­verse of mu­si­cal ap­pren­tice­ships.

His mother set him on the right path.

“She said, ‘Al­ways be happy where you are. Don’t be con­tent to be there but if you aren’t happy where you are you never will be happy’.’’

So Rogers learned to en­joy ev­ery step of the way.

In the mid-’60s, he worked as a pro­ducer, writer and ses­sion man for other artists be­fore join­ing folk group the New Christy Min­strels.

When that line-up de­cided to go out on their own as The First Edi­tion, he had to con­vince them to bring him along.

It was a good move for Rogers and the band.

Their self-ti­tled 1966 de­but is a folk-and-psych-rock gem, in­clud­ing Just Dropped In (To See What My Con­di­tion Was In). But it was another song, Ruby (Don’t Take Your Love To Town), re­leased in 1969, that would point the way to Rogers’ fu­ture ca­reer.

“In the New Christy Min­strels, I learned the value of a story song that has so­cial sig­nif­i­cance,” Rogers says.

It took Rogers a while to warm to Is­lands In the Stream, which be­came one of the big­gest of his 21 No. 1 hits. His 1983 al­bum Eyes That See In the Dark was co-pro­duced by Barry Gibb.

“I sang Is­lands In the Stream for four days and fi­nally I looked at him and said, ‘Barry, I don’t even like this song any more.’ He said, ‘You know who we need? Dolly Par­ton.’ Once she was there the song was not the same.’’

Rogers has fre­quently toured Aus­tralia and loves the coun­try and the peo­ple but he says this will be his last tour.

“I truly be­lieve they are the warm­est peo­ple I’ve ever played to. They have a warped sense of hu­mour like I do, which helps us get along.”

Kenny Rogers loves Aus­tralia but says – at age 76 – this will be his last tour Down Un­der.

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