Kenny Rogers, the Grammy award-winning country music icon, whose hits included “Lucille,” “Lady” and “The Gambler,” died late Friday, 20th of March, at his home in Sandy Springs, Ga., his family said in a statement. He was 81.
Rogers “passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family,” according to a statement by representative Keith Hagan.
Here is a look back at Rogers’ career, the artist who we all going to miss and forever be enchanted with his songs.
When it comes to the most legendary and prolific country music artists, Kenny Rogers comes to mind. Outside of his career, his life has been a roller coaster. Between his five wives and five children, there is a bunch of drama going on behind the scenes. There is a lot you don’t know about this guy. His talents go way beyond singing abilities and musical talent. For example, you probably didn’t know that Kenny Rogers’ interests and hobbies extend to sports, photography, and, of course, chicken.
Thanks to Seinfeld, many of us know him for his restaurant, “Kenny Rogers Roasters.” He has a spark inside of him that adds passion to everything he sets his mind to. You won’t believe some of the country crooner’s secret talents. Plus, we got the scoop on his rumored relationship with Dolly Parton. Check out the life and career or Kenny Rogers, and you will love him even more.
Is it Kenny or Kenneth?
Kenny was actually born as Kenneth Ray Rogers. Although Kenny is a common nickname for Kenneth, he didn’t go by Kenny. It was actually a variety show host, Larry Kane, who recommended he change his name from Kenneth because it sounded too official. Larry wanted to make sure that the singer would go by his nickname, so when he introduced him on stage to perform his song, Larry called him Kenny as opposed to Kenneth.
Once he was announced as Kenny, that was it. He couldn’t take it back. The country star will always be known as Kenny Rogers. Luckily, the singer didn’t mind the name change, especially once the girls in the audience started screaming it.
His Hippie Days
It may be hard to believe, but before Kenny Rogers took over the country music scene, he was part of a jazz trio and a psychedelic hippie pop band. I know; I can’t picture it either! The musician got his ears pierced and let his hair grow long and wild. He was also the lead singer of the band, The First Edition.
You probably don’t recognize the name, but you probably heard their music, well at least one of their songs. The track, Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In), was featured in the popular 1968 movie, The Big Lebowski. Can you believe that Kenny Rogers used to be a hippie? Oh, how times have changed.
Divorce Number Four
Kenny Rogers got married five times. Although each marriage lasted longer than the last, his fourth divorce from Marianne Gordon was one for the books. Out of all broken relationships, this divorce was the messiest. Plus, it cost the country star the most money.
The couple had a relatively long marriage lasting 16 years, and they have one son together (he has five kids in total). After the couple decided to split up, he was forced to give Marianne $60 million of his hard-earned fortune. The couple was officially divorced in 1993. Rogers did find love again. In 1997, he married his last and current wife, Wanda Miller.
Kenny Roger’s Roasters
Back in the ‘90s and early 2000s, Kenny was the proud owner of his restaurant, Kenny Rogers Roasters. Mad TV used Rogers and his restaurant as the butt of their jokes when they featured him in their show. However, this was when the musician’s fame skyrocketed! Viewers enjoyed the show and loved seeing Kenny, who was portrayed by Will Sasso.
Rogers founded the chicken-based restaurant with John Y Brown, who used to be the CEO of KFC. At first, the restaurant focused on wood-fire rotisserie, but by 1995, the menu included turkey, ribs, and a variety of side dishes. The restaurant was extremely successful and eventually had 350 locations (including restaurants in Canada, the Middle East, and Asia).
Mamma Knows Best
At one point, Kenny asked his wise mother (Lucille Lois) what she thinks he should do with his life. Her beautiful and simple response was that he should follow his heart and do what makes him feel good. You know that saying, ‘Doing something you love means that you never feel like you’re working at all’? That was his mom’s advice.
Kenny listened to his mamma and pursued what he loved more than anything else – music. Kenny even explained that because he loved his work so much, he was able to balance the roller coaster ride that comes with fame and fortune. Everyone has their moments, but Kenny Rogers seems to be pretty grounded. Especially for a famous superstar.
Money, Money, Money
You would think such an iconic music star like Kenny Rogers would be rolling in dough. But that’s not exactly the case. After all his divorces and living above his means, Kenny spent a lot of his time almost broke. The singer also never really learned how to manage his money, so he couldn’t smartly handle his finances.
He basically spent whatever he earned as soon as he earned it. He also said that the best thing he ever bought was a set of automatic sprinklers! Thankfully, he learned a few things throughout the years. With his talent and impressive career in the entertainment industry, nowadays, his estimated net worth is about $250 million!
Age is But a Number
On June 1st, 1997, Kenny married his fifth wife, Wanda Miller. Thankfully, the couple is still together and going strong. They couldn’t be happier. Kenny has said on more than one occasion that Wanda is his real soul mate. You know what they say, fifth time’s a charm. What’s interesting (and slightly uncomfortable) about their marriage is that Kenny is two years older than his in-laws!
Yea. He’s older than her parents! It’s not surprising that initially, her parents didn’t approve of their relationship at all. With a 28 year age gap, they thought she was way too young for him. Eventually, they came around when Roger’s charmed them with his charismatic personality.
Kenny was the opposite of his father, Edward Floyd Rogers. Edward was a World War II veteran. Unfortunately, when he returned from the war, he found himself unemployed with a sense of emptiness in his life. Sadly, Ed tried to fill that emptiness will alcohol, which led to troubled home life for Kenny and his siblings.
After witnessing his father’s toxic behavior first hand, Kenny became even more motivated than he thought he could be. The only thing he knew for sure was that he did not want to end up like his father, who would sit home all day complaining and feeling sorry for himself for being poor.
As a child, Kenny loved playing outside in the sun. Unfortunately, he didn’t wear sunscreen, and when he grew up, it caught up to him. Spending so much time in the hot sun led to a skin cancer diagnosis. Luckily, they found it early on, and it was as soon as it was detected, it was taken care of. But after that, Kenny stays out of the sun.
During National Skin Cancer Month, Kenny spoke about his condition. He expressed how scared he was to die and miss out on being with friends, family, and all the people he loves. His fear of not having enough time on this earth is what ultimately led him to quit the music business.
If there is a duet match made in heaven, Kenny and Dottie were it. Their two beautiful voices were made to sing together. The country duo made hit after hit, including Every Time Two Fools Collide, What Are We Doin’ in Love, and All I Ever Needed is You. People couldn’t get enough of these two singing together.
Obviously, the two got really close after working together for so long. When Dottie was on her deathbed, Kenny would come over there to sing and talk to her; he tried to lift up her spirits and get her on the positive side of things. Unfortunately, nothing would help. The doctors said that Dottie was past the point of no return. Dottie died on September 4th, 1991, at the age of 58, during her third operation following a car accident.
His Other Love
Kenny had a strong love for music, but that wasn’t his only passion. The musician admitted to being obsessed with the game of tennis. He made time to play the sport for eight hours a day, a few days of the week. Not only did he love playing tennis but he was actually really good at it.
In fact, he was so good that he was nationally ranked in the United States Tennis Association. Even during his music tours, Roger’s always made time in the schedule for tennis. Not only is he a singer, producer, and actor, but this multitalented star can add an athlete to his resume. I guess some people can just do it all.
Back in 2004, Kenny made an appearance on the iconic show, Reno 911. In the episode, Rogers was in Reno for a book signing and actually used the show for its security detail. As soon as word spread that he was in town and on the show, fans rushed over to Kenny. They managed to get themselves in a whole lot of trouble.
Who can blame them, though? They were excited that a major star was in town. Reno 911 was a hilarious show on Comedy Central that ran from 2003 to 2009. If you didn’t watch Kenny’s appearance, you should! It happens to be a really funny episode.
Kenny Meets the Lizard
There were many occasions when Kenny Rogers showed the world his humorous side. One of the most memorable was when he decided to be featured in a Geico commercial. Yes, Geico, the one with the little lizard. And Kenny cracked us all up. He was playing poker with a few other people, and then he starts singing The Gambler, one of his many hits!
While he continues to sing, everyone else at the table just sits there looking confused. It was arguably one of Geico’s best commercials to date. But if you haven’t seen it, watch it. It’s not as funny when I’m explaining it. You have to see it with your own eyes.
Greatest Love Songs for the Greatest Fans
Back in the ‘90s, Kenny wanted to come out with the greatest love hits album. However, he didn’t want to have to pick which songs would be included in it. Since the album was dedicated to his fans, he wanted them to be the ones to choose the songs.
He made this happen by going on QVC, where he asked his fans that were tuned in to vote on the songs they wanted to hear on the record. His fans voted, and he produced the album. We love it when celebrities include their fans in their projects. Unsurprisingly, the album was received extremely well and ended up being a diamond record!
Luck or Something Like It – Memoir
Of course, Kenny Roger’s has a memoir. His fans can’t get enough of him and want to know more! In 2012, Rogers gifted his fans with the release of his long-awaited memoir titles, Luck or Something Like It: A Memoir. In the book, Kenny talks about all his years in the music industry and the road to success.
In the biography, Kenny also brings up his childhood, personal events, and the trials and tribulations he has been through. The memoir takes a look back at Roger’s humble jazz beginnings and continues through his life as the country music legend he is known as today.
So Many Awards
Kenny Rogers didn’t get his country music status from performing mediocre songs. The talented singer sold a serious amount of records in his time. In fact, he sold so many records in his impressive career, that he became the 8th most profitable musician of all time, according to RIAA.
Kenny was no stranger to success. Over 30 of his albums earned a Gold record status. That’s not all, 19 of his records went platinum and one Diamond. Getting a Diamond record means you have to sell over 10 million copies. It’s extremely difficult, and a huge honor for any musician and Kenny did it. His Greatest Hits Album sold over 24 million copies!
Helping the Hungry
Chances are you remember the African famine news back in the 1980s; it was all over the headlines at that time. It was a big deal because such a major drought meant that dozens of countries such as Ethiopia and Sudan were left starving. Millions of people had no food.
Unfortunately, thousands of people didn’t make it through the famine. Since the story was dominating headlines, some of the biggest music artists decided to get together and record a song to raise money to help. The song was titled We Are the World and featured Kenny Rogers, of course. They ended up raising $60 million in funds.
The Six Pack Movie
Kenny Rogers was obviously known for his magnificent musical abilities, but as we mentioned, he’s a multi-talented star. He had his own movie called Six Pack. The movie was about a group of orphans who take apart Kenny’s race car and many others. Throughout the story, they bail his character (Brewster Baker) out of jail and slowly form a friendship. Oh, and don’t worry. He won his car back.
The movie wasn’t particularly a huge hit. However, it did ultimately make about $20 million in the US Box Office. That’s not bad for the musician’s debut movie. I guess this guy can add movie star to his already accomplished resume.
Entering the Hall of Fame
One of the most honorable things that every musical artist aims for is recognition in the Hall of Fame. Kenny got his well-earned spot on the Country Music Hall of Fame back in 2013. That’s almost half a century after he started making music.
Kenny Rogers played a major part in country music and making it more mainstream. He also inspired so many artists to pursue their dreams in the country music world. Garth Brookes is a big name in the country music scene and often credits Kenny for being his inspiration. Brookes claims that when he first started out, he learned to be a showman from Rogers.
The Kenny Race Car
We mentioned how Kenny Rogers had plenty of talents aside from music. Well, back in the ‘80s and ’90s, he was famous for more than just his performances. He also has a racing team! Rogers put his name to a sprint car racing team that ended up being outstanding and pretty successful. His team won the World of Outlaws Race and Knoxville Nationals.
C.K. Spurlock from Hendersonville, Tennessee, was heading Roger’s team, and they certainly lived up to their legendary reputation. They even respected Kenny by naming the cars The Gambler, in honor of his hit song of the same name. Rogers isn’t afraid to get out of his comfort zone and explore many different interests.
The Real West
Rogers has always been open about the fact that he is a complete history nerd. That’s why when he had the chance to be involved in a project for The History Channel, he jumped on the opportunity. The Real West aired from 1991-1994 and hosted by, you guessed it, the one and only Kenny Rogers.
The show was based on the history of the old Wild West and gave viewers a peek into the important events that shaped Western American history. If you are a history buff like Rogers, you can still catch reruns of the show on The History Channel. It’s actually pretty interesting if you’re into that stuff.
More Books, More Talents
Instead of stopping after his Memoir, Kenny decided to add author to his already extensive resume. He was eager to get more books on the shelves and into the houses of many people around the world. The musician released a series of coffee table books, including This is My Country and Your Friends and Mine.
The two books mentioned featured some pretty impressive pictures of big-name celebrities such as Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette, and Michael Jackson, just to name a few. Rogers really got to show off his artistic side in the book collection. The images were actually taken by Kenny himself, further proving his extensive talents. If there is one guy who can do it all, its Kenny Rogers.
Only at Cracker Barrel
If you aren’t familiar with it, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. is an American chain of gift stores, combined with a restaurant. The first location ever was in Lebanon, Tennessee. If you’re ever looking for some nostalgia or a place to stop on a road trip, Cracker Barrel is the place to go!
They have a massive collection of country memorabilia, and it’s the only place where you can purchase the album, The Love of God. This album, of course, is by Kenny Rogers and features several gospel hits and filled with songs that were big while Kenny was growing up. If you needed another reason to visit Cracker Barrel, there you go.
In addition to being a movie star, Kenny Rogers graces us with his presence on the small screen too. Rogers was a guest in an episode of Seinfeld, and so was his popular chicken franchise. During the hilarious episode, Seinfeld and Kramer notice a bright red light shining from the restaurant, and it drives them crazy!
Instead of going to see what all the commotion is about, and try the chicken, they protest and fight to get the restaurant moved. Right before it actually got moved, Seinfeld and Kramer fell in love with the food, and they were ultimately disappointed when the restaurant was gone. Everything worked out in true Seinfeld fashion.
Retiring From Music
Kenny Rogers broke the hearts of millions when he announced his retirement. The country star told the world that he was going to retire after the 2017 concert season was over. At the time, Kenny was 79 years old, and he decided that he would no longer tour around the world playing music. Even the most talented stars eventually stop.
It makes sense that he decided to retire. I mean, the guy has been on stage performing for close to 60 years. After spending over half a century in the entertainment industry, Kenny has a successful and accomplished career. We can understand that he needs a break from the chaotic country music scene.
Believe it or not, Kenny Rogers wasn’t always a huge country music star. Originally, he was more interested in a whole different genre- Jazz. Kenny was in a band called Bobby Doyle Trio, where he played the bass. Unfortunately, the band didn’t do too well. Kenny enjoyed jazz, but it didn’t last long.
They were barely booking jobs and hardly had any money. In 1965, the band finally realized they weren’t going to become successful and called it quits. It was a good choice for Kenny. Instead of wasting time in a failed band, he went on to be one of the most successful country stars of all time.
It may be hard to believe, but Kenny Rogers has yet another passion. The country star loves interior design. The guy has a real eye for design, and so far, he put his stamp on over 20 properties! Kenny has been friends with Jim Weinberg for a while now, and the two own an interior design studio together.
The name of the business is Kenji Design Studio, and they have tackled some major properties, one being the Atlanta chain of president’s hotels. Kenny Rogers doesn’t only have many interests, but he also has the drive to pursue them. His drive and determination are extremely impressive, and he finds success in whatever he puts his mind to.
As we mentioned, Rogers was featured in a Seinfeld episode with his restaurant. Well, as it turned out, that is Kenny’s actual restaurant. Kenny Rogers Roasters is a fried chicken shop that the country star opened. It aimed to take on some of the giants as Boston Market and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Kenny’s intention was to have much less salt in his chicken than other big names in the industry. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as planned. Since the restaurant wasn’t doing so well, the American locations have all closed up. Luckily, if you want to try some Kenny Rogers Roasters, there are a few stores left in the Philippines and Malaysia.
When Kenny Rogers was asked what his favorite website on the internet is, you will never believe his answer. It’s actually a parody site about him- MenWhoLookLikeKennyRogers.com! The hilarious website is basically a bunch of people sending in pictures of Kenny Rogers look-a-likes, and it’s amazing.
Kenny Rogers saw the humor in the site and gave it his country seal of approval. As long as it was in good taste, of course. If you never checked out the website, you should. It’s just a bunch of Kenny Rogers Doppelgängers, so what’s not to love? But I’m warning you… it’s addictive, and you will probably spend all day on it.
It’s no secret that Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton were incredibly close friends. The country duo recorded several chart-topping hits together. Some of their classics include Islands in the Stream, You Can’t Make New Old Friends, and their Christmas Special!
As you probably know, when a celebrity is spotted with another person, dating rumors begin to swerve. Somehow, people have a tough time believing that two good looking celebrities can just be friends. We already know that Rogers has been married to five different women, and unfortunately, Dolly Parton wasn’t one of them. As much as we wish these two had a fling, there is no evidence to support that.
Kenny Rogers Classic Weekend
Do you remember that tremendous Kenny Rogers Classic Weekend? The event was huge and included big Hollywood stars going up against some well-known athletes to raise money for charity. Throughout the years, we have seen John McEnroe attempting to play basketball, Michael Jordan trying to play tennis, and Woody Harrelson giving golf a go.
The weekend took place back in the 1990s, and it turned out to be incredibly popular. All the money that was raised went to help the homeless in Athens, Georgia. It’s beautiful to watch celebrities give back and take time out of their busy schedules to help and support others who are less fortunate.
If you never heard of Gallagher, he was a hilarious and popular comedian. He is mostly known for his bizarre outlook on life and for smashing watermelons as part of his prop comedy act. Thanks to his hysterical antics, many of us take this comedian with a pinch of salt. Rogers, however, sees him in a very different light.
The singer described Gallagher as one of the most introspective and thought-provoking people he has ever met, kind of like a philosopher. To this day, Kenny still wonders what life would be like if chairs were made with legs that bend the wrong way. Personally, I’m not really sure what that means, but it sounds philosophical.
Luck or Something Like It
At the very last minute, Rogers was really close to preventing his autobiography from being published. The book was titled, Luck or Something Like It, and the singer was worried that it would make him look bad because it was focused on his scandalous behavior. We can understand his concern; people love to make assumptions.
Thankfully, the publishers calmed him down and assured him that the book’s interest would stem from his ‘rags to riches’ story and how he became such a successful country singer. They finally convinced Rogers, and he allowed the book to be printed. It was released in 2012 and dug deep into the singer’s personal life.
One of the basic fundamentals behind Kenny Rogers’s persona is the concept that there is little difference between being highly motivated and being selfish. Think about it; determination can change your priorities. By focusing on your own goals, you can abandon other important things on the way.
Kenny Rogers admitted that because of his endless drive for performing, he sacrificed a lot in his life, including his wives and good friends. It was when he got married for the fifth time that Kenny realized maybe he was in the wrong, and that his motivation may have made him selfish. This is common for many motivated and successful stars. It almost goes hand in hand, so it’s important to pay attention to it.
One of the biggest shows airing in the ‘90s was Home Improvement. If you don’t remember, the show was based on a TV show host named Tim Taylor raising three mischievous boys, with the help of his genius neighbor, bossy wife, and loyal co-host. The country star recorded a special song for the series finale of Home Improvement.
The thing is, if you look for it now, chances are you won’t find it. It turns out that no one has been able to uncover it since the show ended. As you probably already know, Rogers performed and co-wrote, Love Will Turn You Around, the theme song for Home Improvement. It was released in 1982 and is also the theme song to Roger’s movie, Six Pack.
The Rumors are False
To put their dating rumors to rest, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton mutually decided to do a joint interview on Good Morning America in 2013. During the discussion, Dolly repeatedly denied ever having an affair or any romantic relationship with Kenny Rogers. She claimed all the rumors were false.
The singer claimed she never had any feelings for her fellow country singer and that she loves her husband. Dolly has been married for over 50 years and couldn’t be happier. Kenny agreed with Parton and went on to say that he never even thought about having a romantic relationship with her. But the two are obviously good friends.
Behind the Camera
When someone is famous for one thing, it’s a surprise to find out what their other hidden talents are. When it comes to Kenny Rogers, he is way more than just a country music singer. We mentioned how he is also an actor, athlete, author, and even owned a race team. Another one of Kenny’s hobbies is a photographer.
Amongst his many interests, Rogers loves the art of photography. He finds great joy in discover new things to shoot. He can spot a moment and capture the feeling in the form of a picture. He even released two photography books, Kenny Rogers America and Your Friends and Mine.