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Kenny Rogers
When Kenny Rogers comes on the radio, no one changes the station. Perhaps the most widely recognized voice in country music, hes emerged as one of the most versatile, enduring and influential musicians of all time. His appeal spans across the board to the extent of 21 #1 hits and over 30 Top 10 singles on the pop charts as well, rivalling The Beatles, Madonna and The Beach Boys. In an era when superstars rarely stretch into the next month, hes the only artist to chart a hit record in each of the last six decades. It's been a while since Rogers has delivered an album with as many appealing songs as this latest effort, Water And Bridges, proving that his talent is just as vibrant and meaningful as it was when he first started out.

Kenny Rogers Then Hailing from a poor family in Texas, he became the first member of his family to graduate from high school and soon immersed himself into music. As early as 1955, a teenage Rogers was part of a local doo-wop group, The Scholars, which had minor success after cutting a record and landing a performance spot on the then popular American Bandstand show. His career coincided with the time rock and roll was just finding its ground, and after Elvis Presley and his kind became staples on the radio, Rogers realized that doo-wop groups were on their way out. Turning solo, he recorded That Crazy Feeling at nineteen for the small record label Carlton Records, and soon his career was off and running. A small stint at Mercury followed, and the occasional jam with jazz group The Bobby Doyle Three, it was only after Rogers hooked up with the already signed folk ensemble New Christy Minstrels that he became part of a sustainable group.

He then splintered off with others from that band to form a new one, and The First Edition was born. Reprise Records showed interest and gave them a record deal, and while the album did not produce a hit single at first and was not released in the UK, the stage was set for the future. The release of the psychedelic single Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In), with Rogers doing the lead, gave the band their first hit early in 1968, and within a year the group became known as Kenny Rogers And The First Edition. Follow up Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town hit #6 on the US charts, and for the next two years, the group bounced between the pop and country charts, scoring high with hits like Reuben James and the ballad But You Know I Love You.

The group even landed their own TV variety show, but by 1974 their records stopped selling. Disillusioned with the fickleness of the pop world, Rogers soon left the group and The First Edition broke up the following year. Rogers was drawn to the country scene in a search for a direction to take his solo career. Stardom seemed to be inevitable, for after signing with United Artists Records, Rogers began chalking up a string of hits that would establish him as one of the biggest country stars in the world. Starting with Lucille (which topped the charts), the last three decades have seen him embody the role of the sensitive male crooner, selling over 100 million records worldwide in the process.

Kenny Rogers Now
Throughout the 90s, even though his sales were declining and he rarely charted, Rogers remained a celebrity. After photography became a big hobby of his, he published several well-received books of his works and was even invited to the White House to shoot a portrait of First Lady Hillary Clinton. His music, face and name still made the headlines, thanks to his continuous charity work, TV specials and of course his personal life. Married numerous times, he seems settled with fifth wife Wanda Miller, with whom he had twins two years ago at the age of 65!

Now close to seventy, he continues recording and performing with the energy of a man half his age, as the new album Water And Bridges showcases. Rogers plays to the strengths that have made him one of the best-selling artists of all time. Introspective, restrained, and well-crafted love songs adorn this new release. As first single I Cant Unlove You clearly attests, hes still a singer with exceptional depth. With a number of highlights like superstar Don Henley adding a moving second voice on the soon to be single Calling Me, 2006s Water And Bridges is rich with life and Rogers makes sure we feel it all the way. History will be kind to Kenny Rogers for hes the artist who paved the way for countless country stars like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain to crossover to the pop and rock audience.

You can read the rest of our feature on Kenny Rogers in the June 2006 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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