John Lamb, Published July 30 2013
Through the Years: The Gambler’s run of hits hasn’t changed – even if his poker face has
From the mid-1970s through the ’80s he always seemed to have an ace up his sleeve. All told, 21 of his 80 singles topped charts in America.
The 74-year-old singer brings many of those hits to WE Fest when he plays the final day of the three-day country music spectacular on Saturday.
As this year’s heritage act, Rogers has been in the business longer than any other star on the bill has been alive.
Here’s a look at some of the notable hits in his 57-year career, paired with what this year’s other WE Fest stars were doing at the time.
Aug. 21, 1938 – Kenneth Rogers born in Houston
1956 – As a teen, Rogers helps form The Scholars as the guitarist. The group gets radio play that year for the single, “Poor Little Doggie.”
1958 – Performing as Kenneth Rogers, he finds a hit with “That Crazy Feeling.”
1966 – Joins The New Christy Minstrels as singer and double bass player.
1967 – Rogers and members of The New Christy Minstrels defect to start their own group, eventually known as Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.
Friday’s headliner, Keith Urban is born Oct. 26.
1968 – Rogers gets a taste of fame when he and the First Edition score with “Just Dropped in to See What Condition My Condition Was In.” The psyche-delic tune got the group on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” and Rogers can be seen in the clip looking like a young James Brolin with thick dark hair and beard.
1969 – Rogers and the First Edition turn toward country music with “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” written by Mel Tills. The hit is followed by “Reuben James.”
1977 – A year after Rogers and the First Edition break up, the singer scores his first big solo hit and Grammy with “Lucille,” and later that year, “Daytime Friends.”
Thursday’s headliner, Eric Church, is born May 3.
1978 – The No. 1 hits keep rolling with “Love or Something Like It” and “The Gambler,” which earns him his second Grammy. The gruff, but lovable singer also finds success on a series of duets with Dottie West. The duo tops the charts with “Every Time Two Fools Collide” and “All I Ever Need is You” and other top-five hits, “Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight” and “Still I Can Make it on My Own.”
1979 – In the last five years of the decade Rogers releases six solo albums and closes out the ’70s with No. 1 hits, “She Be-lieves in Me,” “You Decorated My Life” and “Coward of the County.”
1980 – Rogers switches part-ners for the duet “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer,” with Kim Carnes. Later he teams up with Lionel Richie, fresh from The Commodores, who writes and plays piano on Rogers’ biggest solo hit, “Lady.” The ballad is a No. 1 on the country, pop and adult contemporary charts. He also tries his hand at acting, starring in the made-for-TV movie, “The Gambler.”
1981 – Richie gives Rogers another chart-topper, this time producing “I Don’t Need You.”
1982 – The Gambler takes a risk and branches out into films, starring in “Six Pack.” The movie does well, but the soundtrack hit, “Love Will Turn You Around,” races up the charts. The film also features then unknown actors Diane Lane and Anthony Michael Hall.
1983 – Another duet, another smash. This time Rogers sings opposite Sheena Easton on a cover of Bob Seeger’s “We’ve Got Tonight.” Rogers outdoes himself later that year with Dolly Parton on “Islands in the Stream,” which topped the U.S., Canadian and Australian charts.
Saturday’s headliner, Carrie Underwood, is born March 10, 1983.
1984 – Again the singer teams up with an emerging talent, Richard Marx, to write his 11th No. 1 country solo single, “Cra-zy.” They also pair up to pen “What About Me,” with Rogers singing opposite Carnes and James Ingram.
1985 – With just one solo sin-gle released all year, Rogers makes it count with “Morning Desire.” However, he teams up with Parton again for another country chart-topping duet, “Real Love.”
1986 – USA Today readers name him “Favorite Singer of All Time.” He releases the ballad “Tomb of the Unknown Love,” and scores his 13th and final No. 1 solo single on the country charts.
Twenty-year-old Darius Rucker founds Hootie & The Blowfish.
1987 – Barbara Streisand and Kim Carnes had a hit in ’84 with the latter’s “Make No Mistake, He’s Mine.” Rogers twists the perspective when he sings “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine” with Ronnie Millsap. The version goes on to win a Grammy for “Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.”
1990 – Eric Church buys a guitar and starts writing songs at age 13.
2000 – After a decade of sliding down the charts, Rogers hits the peak position again with “Buy Me a Rose,” singing with Alison Krauss and Billy Dean. At 61, he sets a record as the oldest singer to have a No. 1 hit on the country charts. (Three years later Willie Nelson bumps him from that distinction when he teams up with Toby Keith on “Beer for My Horses.”)
Keith Urban releases his first No. 1 hit, “But for the Grace of God.”
2005 – Carrie Underwood wins the fourth season of “American Idol.”
April 10, 2013 – The Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville announces Rogers will be inducted later this year.
If you go
• What: WE Fest
• When: Today - Saturday
• Where: Soo Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes, Minn.
• Info: General admission single-day tickets are still available for $92.63. Go to www.wefest.com or call (800) 493-3378.
7 p.m. – Silverado
9 p.m. – Katie Armiger
11 p.m. – Walker Hayes
2:45 p.m. – Katie Armiger
4:15 p.m. – Walker Hayes
6:15 p.m. – Rodney Atkins
8:30 p.m. – Big & Rich
10:45 p.m. – Eric Church
12:30 a.m. – Curb Lund (Barn Stage)
2:45 p.m. – The Jason Paulson Band
4:15 p.m. – Dustin Lynch
6:15 p.m. – Little Big Town
8:30 p.m. – Gary Allan
10:45 p.m. – Keith Urban
12:30 a.m. – Dustin Lynch (Barn Stage)
2:45 p.m. – Hitch Ville
4:15 p.m. – Kellie Pickler
6:15 p.m. – Kenny Rogers
8:30 p.m. – Darius Rucker
10:45 p.m. – Carrie Underwood
12:30 a.m. – Hitch Ville (Barn Stage)
Follow the WE Fest action live starting Thursday on John Lamb’s Twitter feed: @lambwiches.
Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533