By Mike Morsch
In 1968, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition had a Top 5 single with the song “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” a song that captured the psychedelic era epitomized in the late 1960s.
That was 47 years ago.
If one asks Mr. Rogers today what condition he’s in, the country singing legend has a succinct answer.
”Getting old is not for sissies,” said the 76-year old Country Music Hall of Fame member in a recent telephone interview. “But I’m doing good.”
The Grammy Award-winning superstar and music icon — whose storytelling songs also include “The Gambler,” “Lucille,” “Coward of the County” and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” that have had crossover appeal to country and pop music fans alike for decades — is returning to East Coast for one show at 9 p.m. Friday, July 17, at Caesars Atlantic City.
It seems like an appropriate town for an artist known as “The Gambler.”
”I used to work there (in Atlantic City) quite a bit, but not very often anymore, so it’s exciting to me to come back,” Mr. Rogers says.
Mr. Rogers has played to millions of fans around the world and has charted a record within each of the past seven decades, starting in the 1950s. He has sold more than 120 million records worldwide and is one of the Top 10 best-selling male artists of all-time. He has won three Grammys, 19 American Music Awards, 11 People’s Choice Awards, eight Academy of Country Music Awards and six Country Music Association Awards, including the CMA Lifetime Achievement Awards in 2013.The Country Music Hall of Fame, to which he was inducted in 2013, just concluded a yearlong museum exhibit of his life titled “Kenny Rogers: Through the Years.”
”It was interesting to find out what I had done and where I’d been,” Mr. Rogers says. “Everything I’d done was there, a stepping stone to where I am now. It’s a little like a puzzle.”
Did he learn anything about himself that he didn’t already know from the exhibit?
”Yeah, that I had a lot of junk,” Mr. Rogers says.
Fans can expect to hear his large catalog of hits at a Kenny Rogers show these days. And he’s happy to perform those songs for as long as people want to hear them.
”There’s only two ways you can survive in this business: You can do what everybody else is doing and do it better, or you can do something nobody else is doing and don’t invite comparisons,” said Mr. Rogers. “That’s kind of always the road I’ve taken, is to just find songs that say something that I enjoy singing, and then see what happens. I’ve been extremely lucky from that standpoint.”
Mr. Rogers said he’s always been a little surprised when a song of his crosses over from the country music genre into the pop genre. He believes it’s because he’s careful to select good songs.
”I don’t think it’s my voice that does it as much as the songs themselves. It really boils down to what I’d like to hear on the radio and then I try to find those songs and do them. And I assume and hope that other people would like to hear them as well,” he said.
Mr. Rogers also has kept his “Gambler” image out in front of the public more recently in the form of a humorous insurance commercial that was released in January of this year. It features him sitting around a table playing cards with three other guys as he breaks into the lyrics, “You’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run…”
”We did it a bunch of different ways — I talked it and I gave them looks. The director said, ‘Why don’t you sing it once?’ I just started singing and that’s what came out. It was really funny and it was fun to do it,” he says.
Throughout his long career, Mr. Rogers says he has always enjoyed being up on stage, but admittedly, the travel issues have become more and more challenging. Being on the road for 90 dates a year has him away from his family more than he’d like to be these days.
But still, he is appreciative that his songs have stood the test of time.
”It’s very comforting to know that the audience knows every song I’m going to do. I think they’re good songs and I enjoy doing them,” he says.
For more information on the show, go to www.kennyrogers.com or www.caesars.com.
By Mike Morsch