The year was 1977. I was working at KBUC radio station in San Antonio, Texas.
The move from Cambridge, Massachusetts to San Antonio was a huge one. But I had settled in pretty well and landed a job with a country western music station. It was fun! I met George Foreman that year when he came into the station to be interviewed. As exciting as that was, it did not compare with seeing (and meeting) Kenny Rogers.
A few of my coworkers and I heard that Kenny Rogers was going to appear in a local hotel lounge. We were all familiar with his first real hit, “Lucille,” and we all thought it would be fun to go and hear him sing this great song in person. (He later won his first Grammy for this song)
It was a bit embarrassing. There were about six people total in the lounge waiting for him to come out and sing. We were about ten feet away from him when he walked in carrying his guitar.
He looked at us and thanked us for ‘coming out.’ He laughed and promised that he would put on a great show for us as if he were singing for a thousand people!
Kenny wasn’t phased about the lack of audience. At that moment any embarrassment I felt for him slipped away. I also gained a great respect for this man. The show was great and he sang so many good songs. We thoroughly enjoyed that evening.
This man would later become a megastar playing for thousands. I have told this story many times but I think it is worth retelling today.
Years later we went to see Kenny again while in Myrtle Beach. In fact, the year was 2017. It was his last tour…”The Gambler’s Last Deal” tour.
This time he appeared at the Alabama Theatre and every seat of the 2,000 was filled. He had a full ensemble behind him. It was a sad time really. He limped out on the stage using a cane. I guessed he had had a hip replacement. He sat on a bar height stool and sang all of his great songs. He was uncomfortable but still had that upbeat sense of humor and laughed at himself. He fumbled a bit at some of the verses of his songs but my respect for him didn’t falter. He gave us a good show in the end.
I was happy to see him at the beginning of his career and at the end of his career. I was sad to hear of Kenny’s death. His music was a part of us. Somehow we feel we ‘know’ an entertainer when their music holds an important place in our lives.
KENNETH ROGERS, thank you!