Spotlight on ……
Kenny Rogers is, arguably, the world’s best-known living country singer. His sweetly raspy vocals and distinctive bearded appearance are instantly recognised by record buyers all around the globe, and no country artist can claim more British No.1 hits. Over his long career Rogers has recorded in the rock’n’roll, jazz, folk, pop R&B, easy listening and country music fields with equal aplomb, and has collected countless awards and honours on the way. He is best known for the easy-on-the-ear country crossover classics that he recorded in the late 1970s and early 1980s – and it is from this golden era that all the tracks on this great value CD set are taken.
Kenneth Ray Rogers made his first appearance on August 21, 1938, in Houston, Texas. He was the fourth of seven children born to carpenter Floyd Rogers and his wife Lucille - a name that was to prove lucky later in Kenny’s career. While attending Jefferson Davis High School he joined a group (he was not lead singer), aptly named The Scholars, who had two singles in 1957 on Imperial Records, which at the time was also the home of Ricky Nelson and Fats Domino. Kenny briefly tasted solo success in 1958, when his rockabilly track, That Crazy Feeling on Carlton Records reached the US Top 60. Its success resulted in a promotional tour and an appearance on Dick Clark’s top TV show American Bandstand. After his follow up (oddly, released under the name Kenny Rogers The First), failed to ignite interest, he joined local Houston favourites the Bobby Doyle Trio, as a vocalist and bass player. During his time with the blind jazz pianist’s group, they toured coast to coast, and in March 1962 recorded an album for Columbia. Incidentally, both Kenny and Bobby are in the Texas Music Hall Of Fame. When the trio disbanded in 1965, Kenny recorded a solo single for Mercury, before briefly singing in four part harmony vocal group The Lively Ones. In 1966, he was recruited by popular folk outfit the New Christy Minstrels as a singer and bass player and can be heard on their New Kick! album. As you can see, in his early years, Kenny ventured into many musical areas while learning his trade and perfecting his stagecraft.
In 1967, Kenny and fellow New Christy Minstrels, Mike Settle, Terry Williams and Thelma Camacho, formed their own group The First Edition. They signed to Reprise Records and saw their second single, the psychedelic-slanted Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) climb into the US Top 5. Kenny was soon given front name billing, and as Kenny Rogers & The First Edition the group clocked up two UK Top 10 hits with a revival of the country favourite Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town in 1969 and the catchy pop/rock song Something’s Burning the following year. In 1973, Kenny decided the time was right to try for a solo career again, but several singles on his own Jolly Rogers label failed to sail up the charts.
In 1975, he joined United Artists Records who, despite the fact that he had never had a major country hit, sensed that Kenny had the potential to be a top artist in that field. His first release on the label, Love Lifted Me gave him his US Country Top 20 debut, and a revival of the loser’s lament Laura (What’s He Got That I Ain’t Got?) soon repeated the feat. However it was Lucille, a song about a runaway farmer’s wife that gave him the first of many runaway pop and country successes around the globe. It sold over a million in the US, became the first of 14 country chart toppers on United Artists and won the Country Music Association (CMA) award for Record of the Year. It also returned him to the UK charts, after a seven-year absence, and gave him his first British No.1. The critically acclaimed, eponymous album, from which Lucille was taken, was a UK Top 20 success and sold over a million in his homeland. From that classic set we also include Puttin’ In Overtime At Home, Lay Down Beside Me, Mother Country Music and his distinctive renditions of the country classics Green Green Grass Of Home and Son Of Hickory Holler’s Tramp.
Kenny’s next single, the slipping around saga Daytime Friends, also headed the US country chart and his own composition Sweet Music Man followed it into that Top 10. Kenny was then teamed with Dottie West, who had been a country star since 1963. Their voices blended beautifully and their first release together, Every Time Two Fools Collide was a No.1 hit, as was their album of the same name, while the follow up, Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight, peaked just one rung lower. In the following year the pair recorded an album called Classics which, as the title suggests, contains their top-notch takes on such classic songs such as Billy Joel’s Just The Way You Are, the Righteous Brothers epic You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling and previous county No.1s Let’s Take A Long Trip Around The World and Together Again. In addition, they offer Tammy Wynette’s moving Till I Can Make It On My Own and Sonny & Cher’s 1972 hit All I Ever Need Is You, both of which added to Kenny and Dottie’s country singles hit tally in 1979. Also included on this three CD set is their 1981 No.1 What Are We Doin’ In Love. Such was their impact in the late 1970s that they were voted Vocal Duo of the Year by the CMA in both 1978 and 1979.
Going back to Kenny’s solo singles, his two other 1978 releases, the self-penned Love Or Something Like It and The Gambler, also topped the country chart, with the latter picking up two Grammy awards and inspiring a series of successful TV movies, which starred Kenny in the lead role. Both singles were the title tracks of successful country and pop albums, with The Gambler spending 23 weeks at the top of the country lists and being named CMA Album of the Year. From that classic collection we showcase King Of Oak Street, I Wish I Could Hurt That Way Again and the swamp rocker Hoodoin’ of Miss Fannie Deberry. Additionally, there’s Making Music From Money, Mickey Newbury’s noted saga San Francisco Mabel Joy, Sleep Tight, Goodnight Man, and the raspy southern rock song Tennessee Bottle. The album also included, arguably, the best song ever written about the day-to-day life of a struggling singer/songwriter, the Grammy nominated She Believes In Me, which was successfully revived in 2004 by Ronan Keating. It was the first of three 1979 country No.1’s for Kenny, all of which also made the US Top 10 pop chart. The other two chart toppers both appeared on his four million selling album Kenny, which amazingly headed the country best sellers for six months. They were the tuneful and tender You Decorated My Life, which was named Top County Song at the Grammy Awards, and the unforgettable worm-that-turned tale, Coward of the Country, which took him to the top of the UK chart again. With this amount of success it is no wonder Kenny was the clear winner that year of the CMA Award for Top Male Vocalist.
Dottie West was not the only female singer that Kenny successfully dueted with. In early 1980 he had a major US pop and country hit with Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer, on which he was joined by the song’s writer, Kim Carnes, who like Kenny was a former New Christy Minstrel. Also, three years later he took the Bob Seger song We’ve Got Tonight into the US Pop Top 10 and to the top of the country lists together with Scotland’s own Sheena Easton. The latter AOR-slanted ballad was later returned to the British best sellers by Ronan Keating, who cloned Kenny’s idea of singing with a Scottish superstar by enlisting Lulu’s help.
In 1980 Kenny also released Gideon, a concept album about a Texas cowboy, which spent two months as country No.1. Apart from his duet with Carnes, that LP also included Gideon Tanner, No Good Texas Rounder, the morning-after ditty Somebody Help Me, Sayin’ Goodbye, You Were A Good Friend and the prisoner’s song These Chains. 1980 was another outstanding year for Rogers, who was named No.1 Pop Singles Artist by the US music industry magazine Billboard. Not only did Love The World Away, from the popular movie Urban Cowboy, provide him with yet another huge pop/country crossover hit, but a collection of his greatest hits topped the US pop album chart, and he achieved his first US No.1 pop single with the beautiful ballad Lady, penned and produced for him by Lionel Richie. Rogers has acquired a knack for finding great songs. “A good song is a good song – be it pop, country, R&B. folk or whatever” he said, adding "The idea with Lady was that Lionel would come from R&B and I'd come from country, and we'd meet somewhere in pop." The experiment worked and it became one of very few records to reach the US pop, country, R&B and Adult Contemporary charts. Lionel also produced Kenny’s 1981 album Share Your Love, which featured his next four singles, the Top 3 US pop success I Don’t Need You, his revival of Bobby Bland’s R&B ballad Share Your Love (which included backing vocals by Richie as well as Gladys Knight & The Pips), Blaze Of Glory and the sentimental Through The Years. All four were big crossover hits, with the first one topping the country chart.
In 1982 Kenny starred in the movie Six Pack, which featured his self-penned country No.1 ‘Love Will Turn You Around, and also that year he added A Love Song and the majestic All My Life to his enviable hit tally. Kenny joined RCA in 1983 in a record breaking $20 million deal – but such was the high standard of material recorded for Liberty Records (as United Artists was renamed in 1980) that old recordings continued to chart including Scarlet Fever, Love Is What We Make It, Twentieth Century Fool and Goodbye Marie.
This supreme song stylist, who was still topping the country chart in the 21st century, is one of very few real superstars. Few singers have helped raise more money for charity than the perennially popular, and always amiable, Kenny Rogers, who possesses one of the most recognisable and best loved voices in music. This hit-packed collection, taken from the very pinnacle of his six-decade career, is proof positive, if needed, why Kenny is one of the most popular and successful vocalists of all time, and why his recordings have transcended all musical barriers.
© Dave McAleer – County Music People/Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums
The Very Best of Kenny Rogers
3. Lay Down Beside Me
4. Puttin' In Overtime At Home
5. The Son Of Hickory Holler's Tramp
6. Just The Way You Are (with Dottie West)
7. Gideon Tanner
8. No Good Texas Rounder
9. We've Got Tonight (with Sheena Easton)
10. Sayin' Goodbye
11. Somebody Help Me
12. Together Again (with Dottie West)
13. Laura (What's He Got That I Ain't Got)
14. Scarlet Fever
15. A Love Song
16. Love Is What We Make It
17. What Are We Doin' In Love (with Dottie West)
18. I Wish That I Could Hurt That Way Again
1. Coward Of The County
2. Daytime Friends
3. Blaze Of Glory
4. San Francisco Mabel Joy
5. Green Green Grass Of Home
6. Sleep Tight, Goodnight Man
7. Let's Take The Long Way Around The World (with Dottie West)
8. Tennessee Bottle
9. All I Ever Need Is You (with Dottie West)
10. Love Will Turn You Around
11. Making Music For Money
12. Don't Fall In Love With A Dreamer (with Kim Carnes)
13. All My Life
14. Share Your Love With Me
15. Midnight Flyer (with Dottie West)
16. Twentieth Century Fool
17. Anyone Who Isn't Me Tonight (with Dottie West)
18. Every Time Two Fools Collide (with Dottie West)
2. She Believes In Me
3. The Gambler
4. Goodbye Marie
5. I Don't Need You
6. Love Lifted Me
7. Love Or Something Like It
8. These Chains
9. You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' (with Dottie West)
10. The King Of Oak Street
11. The Hoodooin' Of Miss Fannie Deberry
12. You Were A Good Friend
13. Today I Started Loving You Again (with The First Edition)
14. Love The World Away
15. Mother Country Music
16. Sweet Music Man
17. Through The Years
18. You Decorated My Life
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