Country music did not truly break out into the mainstream until the greats of the 1970s started incorporating pop influences into the music. One of these greats is Kenny Rogers.
Before the women: the young Kenny
Kenny Rogers started out as going by his real name Kenneth. He was being introduced on a variety show hosted by Larry Kane (who also hosted The Beatles) when Larry Kane turned to Kenneth and told him that he should change his name to Kenny.
Kenneth was ambivalent about the name change until Kane announced on live television and in front of the studio audience that Kenny was coming out to perform. The girls went wild, and Kenneth thought to himself that it would be OK to go by Kenny.
Hippie jam band
After his jazz trio broke up, Kenny Rogers joined a hippie psychedelic pop band. He pierced his ears, grew out his hair, and got himself a pair of hot pink sunglasses in order to become the front man for a band called The First Edition.
There is a good chance you have heard one of their songs too. The dream sequence of The Big Lebowski occurs over a track of The First Edition playing their 1968 hit song Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).
Marrianne Gordon divorce
Kenny Rogers was married to a woman named Marianne Gordon. After being married to her for 16 years, the couple decided to call it quits and split up. This, despite the fact that the couple had a son together, led to an extremely messy and difficult divorce.
At the end of the day, the couple indeed were able to split, but not before Kenny Rogers took a shot to the wallet. Marianne is currently sitting pretty with $60 million which she gained from Kenny from the divorce settlement.
Failed plastic surgery
In an interview with Good Morning America back in 2013, Kenny Rogers admitted to having undergone plastic surgery. While he has come out on record saying that he is not exactly thrilled with the way it turned out, best friend Dolly Parton says that he went to Jiffy Suck (a play on Jiffy Lube) in order to look younger.
Rogers does not like it because he feels he does not look manly anymore, but Dolly says that he has grown into it well.
Kenny Rogers on Mad TV
Way back in the 1990s and the early 2000s, Kenny Rogers and his chicken restaurant Kenny Rogers Roasters were lampooned prominently on Mad TV. One of the show’s favorite ways to lampoon the country singer was to have him host parody of a show which involved performing numerous, extremely dangerous stunts.
Despite what can be best described as the show’s sophomoric humor, the audience loved the Kenny Rogers sketches, where he was portrayed by Will Sasso.
A huge phone line scandal
Nowadays, having intimate relations over the phone is innocuous and down right inoffensive. But when Kenny Rogers set up a 1-800 number so that women could call him, it led to a huge scandal which he never saw coming.
Kenny maintains that he did nothing wrong throughout the entire ordeal, and says that the women who called the number called knowing full well what would happen. However, this scandal nearly cost this good boy musician his career.
Doing what mom says
Kenny Rogers’s mother was a woman wise beyond her years. When first talking to his mom about what he should do for a living, she said that as long as he does something he enjoys, then he will never actually be working a day in his life, just having fun and getting paid to do it.
He also says that if you enjoy what you’re doing, you will be able to adapt better to the ups and downs of the industry.
By the time Kenny Rogers was in his 50s, he was near the top of the country music scene with dozens of records and awards under his belt. However, even then, he admits that he was nearly broke.
He says that growing up with nothing, he never really learned how to manage money, and he would spend it all as soon as he got it. One of his favorite things that he bought – automatic sprinklers.
His first time resulted in a pregnancy
The first time that Kenny Rogers was ever with a woman was when he was 19 years old. In an interview, Rogers says that he truly did love the girl that he was with, but that they chased him off.
That first time ever resulted in the birth of a daughter. However, he is not in contact with his daughter as the girl he got pregnant went and got married to another man. Rogers said that he is fine the other man being the dad.
Older than the in laws
Kenny Rogers believes that his current wife Wanda is truly his soul mate. After all, fifth time must be the charm, right? But the most interesting thing perhaps about their relationship is that Kenny is actually two years older than Wanda’s parents.
At the beginning it turns out that they did not like having a man older than them dating their daughter, but Kenny says that the three of them are now best friends.
Father’s substance abuse
Kenny Rogers grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in a housing project in Houston, Texas at the tail end of the Great Depression. His father went out and fought in World War II, but when he came back, he could not find any work.
Unemployed and unable to support his family, Rogers’s father sank into a downwards spiral of depression, turning to the bottle for help. Rogers says that seeing his father in that state gave him the encouragement to do better.
Kenny Rogers is a country boy through and through, and used to love spending long hours out in the sun. However, this has led to him getting skin cancer, and he is terrified of losing the ability to be with his loved ones.
That is why he has not only spoken about his condition for National Skin Cancer Month, but has also quit the music industry, hoping to spend as much time with his wife and twin children as he can.
Kenny and Dottie
Kenny Rogers was one of the country’s greatest duet artists, hooking up with Dottie West in order to create some of country music’s greatest hits, including Every Time Two Fools Collide which was the first number one hit the two recorded together.
They then recorded more chart topping smash hits such as What Are We Doin’ in Love and All I Ever Need Is You. Kenny would go to West’s hospital bed to talk to her, although doctors said she was too far gone to hear him.
Nearly pro-tennis player
One of Kenny Rogers’s greatest loves was the game of tennis. He would allegedly play eight hours a day multiple times a week. He would play against some of the best tennis players in the country, and was nationally ranked according to the United States Tennis Association.
He would also regularly play when he was on tour, going to the local tennis club in whatever city he was in so he could play against the pros who worked there.
On Reno 911!
Kenny Rogers visited the world’s biggest little city back in 2004, appearing as himself for an episode of the world famous Reno 911!. The premise of the show is that Kenny is coming to Reno in order to do a book signing, and he needs security.
Immediately upon hearing this, two huge Kenny Rogers fans race to be his private security detail, and suffice it to say, hilarity ensues.
The Geico Commercial
Kenny Rogers was featured in a Geico car insurance commercial. He is playing poker with people when all of a sudden he starts to sing his hit song “The Gambler.”
His three other friends with whom he is playing just sit there and look at him incredulously as he goes on, waiting for his buddy to either call, raise or fold. All in all, a great, humorous commercial by Geico and Rogers.
Fan requested album
Back in the early 1990s, Kenny Rogers wanted to make a new greatest love song record, but did not want to choose what was on it. Instead, he decided to have his fans who watch QVC cast their vote for the song they most wanted to see on there.
The two disk collection includes fan favorites such as Misty and When a Man Loves a Woman. The record was originally only available on QVC, but was released to the wider public a year later.
A special song for Home Improvement ending
One of the biggest shows to hit North America in the 1990s was Home Improvement, starring Tim Allen. The show details the life of two men who run a home improvement show along with their family life behind the scenes.
The show was ranked number one in the early 1990s, and continued up until 1999. Kenny Rogers recorded a song specifically for the series finale, which can not be found on any disk.
At the end of 2012, Kenny Rogers wrote a memoir of his life in the music industry titled Luck or Something Like It: A Memoir. The memoir deals with Kenny Rogers and his over five decades as a performer.
He talks about everything from his jazz days all the way to when he went solo to become a country music singer at the top of his game. He also talks about what it was like to be one of the country greats to change the country music game.
People love Kenny Rogers. They simply can not seem to get enough of the man. In fact, he is the number 8 most profitable musician of all time according to the RIAA. Over 30 of his albums went Gold, 19 went Platinum, and one even went Diamond.
To go Diamond that means that you have to have sold over 10 million copies. The album that enabled him to get to this vaulted status was his Greatest Hits album which sold over 24 million copies around the world.
In the 1980s there was a huge famine in Africa brought about by drought which affected a multitude of countries such as Ethiopia, Sudan, and many other countries. With millions of people malnourished and thousands losing their lives to starvation, the entertainment industry decided to do something about it.
The biggest stars at the time, including Kenny Rogers, all got on the microphone and sang “We are the World” in a bid to raise money to help these starving people. They ended up raising $60 million.
The Kenny Rogers movie
Adding to his entertainment portfolio, Kenny Rogers starred in the movie Six Pack, a movie about racing cars.
The movie begins when a team of orphans strips down Kenny’s character’s car at the behest of a local sheriff, and he has to race in order to win his car back. The movie ended up grossing approximately $20 million in US box office sales.
Country Music Hall of Fame
After being in the music scene for nearly 50 years, Kenny Rogers was finally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013. He was instrumental in making country music more mainstream, and his styles are emulated by nearly every country artist today.
Country legend Garth Brooks credited Rogers for showing him how to be a showman when Brooks was first starting out. In fact, many say that country music as we know it today would not be around were it not for Rogers.
Kenny Rogers has put his name on a race team squad that races sprint cars in the 1980s and 1990s. The amateur racers, led by team owner C. K. Spurlock out of Hendersonville, Tennessee, was a very successful team, and won races all over the United States and the world.
The drivers, who drove cars named “The Gambler” after Rogers’s hit song, won the World of Outlaws race as well as the Knoxville Nationals.
Kenny talks about the West
Kenny Rogers is also a history buff, being particularly interested in the old, wild west and the history of the settlement of the western United States. He was therefore picked to be the narrator for an A&E show called “The Real West” which ran from 1991 until 1994, with re-runs played on both A&E as well as The History Channel.
The show gave an in depth explanation as to who were the major players of western expansion and major events in the history of western America.
Coffee Table Books
Not content to only write his memoirs, Kenny Rogers also wanted to be able to show off his artistic and interior decorative side with his new round of books – coffee table books. The country music great “wrote” two of these books; This is My Country and Your Friends and Mine.
Both of these books are pictographs featuring glamor shots of the biggest stars of the day, including Michael Jackson, Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette, and many more.
Only at Cracker Barrel
Cracker Barrel is known as a restaurant to stop off at during a long road trip or if you simply want a nostalgia filled experience filled with some amazing food. The restaurant also has an old timey country store filled with memorabilia and knick knacks from days gone by.
They are also the only distributor of Kenny Rogers’s CD The Love of God. The CD has both gospel songs as well as songs sung by Rogers which were big during his childhood.
Kenny Rogers and his famous chicken franchise were featured prominently on that show about nothing – Seinfeld.
The entire premise of the episode is that the bright red light emanating from the chicken restaurant was keeping the guys from being able to sleep at night, so Seinfeld and Kramer fought to have the restaurant removed. However, they fell in love with the chicken, and ended up being sad to see it go.
When he was close to 79 years old, Kenny Rogers announced that he would quit touring around the country and performing after the 2017 concert season.
And with that, another one of country music’s greats stopped performing. He had been in the music scene for nearly six decades and helped bring country music to the prominence it has today.
Before going into country music where he made hit after hit, Kenny Rogers was a stand up bass player in a jazz ensemble called the Bobby Doyle Trio. The Trio did not hit it off so well neither financially nor musically, and the trio disbanded in 1965.
Thank goodness he did, because this set him on track to be the Kenny Rogers we all know and love. However, Kenny would try out one more persona becoming the person he is today.
Kenny Rogers absolutely loves to design houses. He has done it to over 20 properties so far, and believes he has a real eye for it. In fact, Rogers opened up an interior design studio with business partner and friend Jim Weinberg.
Called Kenji Design Studio, the company has been asked to decorate the insides of some very famous buildings, including the Atlanta chain of the hotel the current US president owns.
Kenny Rogers loves chicken so much that he founded a restaurant. Called Kenny Rogers Roasters, Kenny tried his hardest to go up against other fast food chicken giants such as Boston Market, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Popeyes.
However, Kenny Rogers Roasters wanted the food to have less salt and fat than his competitors. All North American franchises have since closed, so if you want some KRR, you’re going to have to go to the Philippines or Malaysia.
The parody site
There is a website called menwholooklikekennyrogers.com. And it turns out that it is the real Kenny Rogers’s favorite website on the internet.
The website, which asks people to send in pictures of people who look like Kenny Rogers, actually got the real Rogers’ permission to have this parody website. Kenny loved the idea, and said that he gives the website his approval so long as it is all done in good taste.
Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers go together like peanut butter and jelly. The two have recorded numerous hits together, such as Billboard chart topper Islands in the Stream as well as You Can’t Make Old Friends. The two even did a Christmas special together.
This closeness has led many people to believe that Dolly and Kenny had a thing for each other. Since Kenny had five wives, there has always been speculation that the two had a fling.
Kenny Rogers Classic
Kenny Rogers used to host an event called the Kenny Rogers Classic which took movie and television stars as well as the biggest names in sports and divided them into two teams.
The teams played for charity, and included greats like Michael Jordan playing tennis, John McEnroe playing basketball, and Woody Harrelson playing golf. All the proceeds of this family fun weekend went to homeless shelters in Athens, Georgia.
Why he got surgery
Kenny Rogers is famous for not liking the plastic surgery he got on his eyelids, but what has not been revealed is why he got them in the first place. Many times, people get the types of plastic surgery he did for medical reasons.
However, Rogers decided to go through with the surgery for a much simpler reason – he did not want to look like an old man with a super young wife.
Clearheaded on stage
As a part of a psychedelic disco band in the 1960s, Kenny Rogers had his fair share of access to whatever mind altering substance he wanted. However, Rogers contends he was in it primarily for the music, and that he only went out on stage under the influence one time.
He says that he thought he sounded amazing, but it turns out that his vocals were all off. From then on, Rogers has been stone cold sober on stage.
We all remember Gallagher, the comedian who loved to use props and smash fruit all over the audience. It turns out that Kenny Rogers actually views the comedian as a philosopher of sorts, and says that the funny man is one of the most thought provoking and introspective people he has ever met.
For instance, Kenny Rogers to this day thinks about how interesting it would be if chairs were designed for legs that bent the other way.
Kenny Rogers Roasters has not dearth of pictures of Kenny Rogers the man. On a trip to Greece, Rogers decided to quit with the gyros and the tzatziki and go for some fried chicken. Knowing that one of his franchises was in Greece, he found it and went in, thinking he would be able to get a free meal at his restaurant.
The manager looked at him, at a picture of him, and at him again, and said that he didn’t believe that Rogers was the real deal. Kenny payed for his meal.
The autobiography Luck or Something Like it by Kenny Rogers was actually almost shelved. Rogers did not want to write the autobiography, as he thought that it would only be about his scandals and paint him in a bad light. But he was reassured by the publishers that this would not be the case.
Instead, they wanted to know how a poor kid from the poorest neighborhood in Houston became a country music legend.
Lots of help
One of the things that enabled Kenny Rogers to be so successful was the fact that he always tried to be nice to everyone he met. He was told once that the people you kick on your way to the top are the people who’ll pass you by on the way back down.
Rogers claims that people really liked him, so that even when he was down they were willing to lend him a helping hand.
The difference between driven and selfish
One of the biggest lines and ideas which has helped to shape Kenny Rogers into the man that he is today is his idea that there is a very thin line between being driven and being selfish.
He realized that he sacrificed a lot – marriages, personal relationships, etc – because of a selfish desire to perform more and be out and about more. He argues that this time, by marriage number five, he figured out that he was doing it wrong.
Talks about Dolly
Kenny and Dolly finally came clean in an interview with Good Morning America in 2013, officially laying the rumors to rest. Dolly said that she had never, ever been in love with Kenny Rogers, and that she has been happily married for nearly 50 years to the same man.
Meanwhile, Kenny alleges that he was chasing after too many women to try for Dolly. The rumors come from the closeness the two exhibit when on stage together.