On a brisk Saturday evening, Kenny Rogers heated up the stage of the Thrasher-Horne to bring a little bit (alright, quite a bit) of music history to his fans. The Gambler’s Last Deal opened up with the instructions to take as many pictures as possible because Kenny Rogers wanted us to. As he so graciously pointed out, some of the patrons were too young to really know his music yet they were there in the packed theater along with us diehard fans. I thought that there would be more dancing but I think that the audience was simply stunned by the warmth of his personality and the presentation of his anthology. Kenny started where all good stories should start at the beginning with the story of when he attended a Ray Charles performance, he went home and told his mom that he was going to be a singer. In the 1950s with first experience with a band was with a group called The Scholars. His next big venture came in the 1960s with The Bobby Doyle Three. Kenny jokingly, but fondly, spoke about his appearance on American bandstand in 1957 and that later Dick Clark told him that he did not recall Kenny being on the show. Also, in the 1960s, he joined The New Christy Minstrels. In 1967, Kenny and three members of his previous band formed The First Edition. Kenny interacted continuously with the audience and humorously discussed the meaning of the lyrics in “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition is in)”.
Just when you’d think that Kenny would need an intermission, he kept on going. When The First Edition dismantled in the 1970s, Kenny Rogers went solo. Although, he did team up with some very memorable singers in several duets. He paid homage to Dottie West when he sang their duet “Every Time Two Fools Collide” along with her vocals and images on the big screen. In the following montage, we were also reunited with his pairings with Dolly Parton, Kim Carnes, and Ronnie Milsap. To the amusement of the audience, clips from his appearance on the 410th episode of The Muppet Show also took the spotlight in his career. He jokingly stated that he has always thought the Miss Piggy was highly underrated as a star! Delightfully, Kenny shared the experience that he had with recording “We Are the World” in the 1980s with the super group who came together to support African famine relief. Moving on to his filmography in the 1980s, we were treated to clips from The Gambler, Six Pack, and Coward of the County along with the songs associated with them. In the 1990s and 2000s, Kenny continued to achieve success with his annual tours, his greatest hits albums, and he released a few new songs.
On September 25, 2015, Kenny announced that he would embark on his final worldwide farewell tour that would last two years. Towards the end of the show, he proudly brought his twin sons on stage and introduced his wife who was in the audience with several of her family members. He publicly thanked her for their time together and shared that he was looking forward to retirement so that they could spend more quality time together. I, for one, was thankful that I could participate in this celebration of his career and life during this memorable jog down memory lane. The experience was also enhanced by his guest, Linda Davis, who sang like a country music angel. When they sang duets together, Kenny held her tight by his side as he has always done with his female collaborators proving to me that he is truly an honest, generous, and genuine human being. Although, he may have reinvented himself over the years, he has remained one of the most entertaining artists of all time. Appropriately, Kenny exited the stage with his song “Blaze of Glory” which almost brought a tear to my eye. If you have the chance to catch his show during the final leg of the tour, I highly recommend that you do so. It will be an experience that you won’t forget.
Please check out the Thrasher-Horne Center for Performing Arts upcoming events. Their 2016 shows were simply amazing with Ragtime, Annie, Melissa Etheridge, Saturday Night Fever, Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight!, Once: The Musical, Wayne Brady, One Night in Memphis, Tracy Morgan, Into the Woods, Boyz II Men, and Billy Gardell. 2017 was fantastically launched by the appearance of Jay Leno and Kenny Rogers. Upcoming performances include: Seussical the Musical, Xanadu, Vicki Lawrence & Mama: A Two Woman Show, Olivia Newton-John, Trace Adkins, and Mamma Mia! For more information visit thcenter.org or contact the box office at (904) 276-6815.