Lots of singers have crossover hits between pop and country. No artist, however, can match Kenny Rogers for enduring flexibility. His rich, warm voice, his rapport with his audiences and his sheer business sense have earned him big sales of both CDs and tickets through the years.
It was not always that way. As one of eight kids growing up poor in Houston, Rogers nurtured his talents on the guitar and the fiddle. When he finished high school, one of his songs, 'That Crazy Feeling,' got him onto American Bandstand. He joined a couple of small groups, then he went after a solo contract with Mercury Records. All of his singles there were flops.
In 1966, Rogers joined the New Christy Minstrels, a successful folk group. After a year with them, he lured away some fellow members to form the First Edition. The band's first single, 'Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)' reached #5 in early 1968. A year later, the band reached #6 with 'Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town.' In early 1970, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition just missed the Top Ten with 'Something's Burning,' written by Mac Davis.
Rogers left the First Edition in 1974, after four hitless years and a label change. He teamed up in 1976 with producer Larry Butler, who groomed him for a huge country career. After a year of false starts, Kenny Rogers suddenly started selling singles and tickets again in 1977, when he released his monster hit 'Lucille.' It topped the country charts, reached #5 pop, and went gold. Rogers earned the 1977 Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male. Rogers also won Grammys in 1979 and 1987.
With his new country persona established, Rogers still hit the pop charts consistently. He did stop performing in dark glasses, which he had worn on stage for years because of nystagmus, a condition that causes involuntary eye movements. In 1979, Rogers scored three straight #1 country songs with 'She Believes in Me,' 'You Decorated My Life' and 'Coward of the County.' They all reached the Top Ten on the pop charts, and Rogers earned gold records for 'She Believes in Me' and 'Coward of the County.'
At this peak of popularity, Rogers took another turn and recorded a Lionel Richie tune, 'Lady.' It went gold and was Number One pop for six weeks. Rogers sang some notable duets as well: First was 'Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer' with Kim Carnes, a #4 hit in 1980, and subsequent big hits with Dottie West (1981), Sheena Easton (1983) and the 1983 hit 'Islands in the Stream,' a duet with Dolly Parton written by the Bee Gees. This single reached #1 pop, and was the first platinum single of Rogers's career. He also appeared in three films in the 1980s.
Between concerts, TV specials, movies, and even books of photography, Kenny Rogers has managed to continue to shine in the public eye, which makes for high demand for his tickets. Given his personable approach to his fans and the quality of his material, that is not surprising.