Austin City Limits were surprised and saddened to learn of the death of country music icon Kenny Rogers. The Texas native and Country Music Hall of Famer, who appeared on ACL during our twenty-fifth anniversary season in 2000, was one of the most successful recording artists of all time, with an unbelievable 120 charting hits over the course of his long career. He was 81.
Born in Houston, Rogers first recorded in the late fifties with a Houston-based group called the Scholars, releasing the song “The Poor Little Doggie.” By the mid-sixties, he had joined the folk act New Christy Minstrels as bassist and singer. Rogers and a handful of Minstrels then spun off into their own band First Edition, who scored a major pop hit in 1967 with the psychedelic pastiche “Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was In).” Taking over leadership of the group, Rogers led them back to the charts with 1969’s “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” solidifying the country pop direction that would make him one of the biggest crossover stars of the seventies and eighties.
We all know the songs: “Lucille,” “Coward of the County,” “We’ve Got Tonight,” “Lady,” “Music Man,” “Daytime Friends,” the massive Bee Gees-penned Dolly Parton duet “Islands in the Stream,” and, of course, “The Gambler,” his signature song – all of which he performed on the ACL stage. While he became less of a presence on the pop charts over time, he remained a fixture on the country charts with songs like “Crazy,” “Morning Desire,” “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine,” “If You Want to Find Love,” “The Greatest,” “Buy Me a Rose,” “I Can’t Unlove You,” and many, many more.
“Kenny Rogers was one of the few country-pop icons to grace the ACL stage,” noted executive producer Terry Lickona, “which is a testament to how far and wide our reach had become even twenty years ago. His fans truly loved him, and it was a show like no other.” He will be missed.