Kenny Rogers: Legendary Singer In Music Business For Seven Decades

Kenny Rogers as he appeared when singing with First Edition.

Kenny Rogers was born August 21, 1938 in Houston, Texas. Rogers is in his sixth decade of being in the music business, starting the mid 50’s with the The Scholars, which was disbanded and Rogers struck out on his own.

Kenny singing That Crazy Feeling in 1958 on Carlton Records singing in the doo-wop style.

Only 194 people have viewed this video of Kenny Rogers at the House of Blues, which apparently was on the Disney Channel sometime in the past. He is seen early in the video singing Walkin’ My Baby Back Home a 1931 song and nothing like a song, you would expect him to sing.  He is shown playing the upright bass in another song at the 14:25 mark in the video.

When he sings When I Fall In Love, one of the girls in the audience rests her head on the shoulder of the man, that she is sitting with, which demonstrates the emotion which Rogers sings with carries over to the listeners. He sings another song from the past, in I Get Along Without You Very Well a 1939 tune, penned by Hoagy Carmichael and demonstrates the gift of Rogers to sing any genre. At 43:53 in the video Rogers sings perhaps the best rendition of I Remember You, that I have ever heard sung.

The video is interspersed with Kenny telling about the highlights of his career. Clips from the past are shown, in addition to him singing at the House of Blues, with the backing of a string orchestra. The video shows Kenny singing Sweet Home Chicago, showing Kenny can sing blues music too. He also sings some of his big hits like Lady and The Gambler. This video is worth watching, because it shows how multi-talented Kenny is and helps bring home the fact, that he may be one of the best singers, to ever walk on a stage.

This is why it is a mystery, why he has never been enshrined in the Country Music or Rock and Roll Hall of Fames. Maybe his crossover hits, prevented him from being defined into either category. One thing for sure is that he is going to sing well, regardless of what genre he is singing at any particular time.

Kenny Rogers seen while part of the Bobby Doyle Trio with Kenny on top, without his beard.

Kenny joined the New Christy Minstrels in 1966, but he left the folk group the next year to form the First Edition.  The group’s best known hits were songs like Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town and my personal favorite Reuben James.

Kenny and the First Edition singing Reuben James.

Ten years later in 1976, Kenny would begin his solo career which is still going strong 36 years later.

1977 would produce his first No.1 hit in Lucille, which would be the first of many No.1 hits. He would have seven No.1 hits when the 1980’s started. Then he recorded his first song to be No.1 in U.S. Country, U.S. and Adult Contemporary, which was Lady and maybe his most popular song recorded and was written by Lionel Richie. 1983’s Islands in the Stream recorded as a duet with Dolly Parton placed first in all three of the categories again.

It has been 26 years since Kenny recorded a non-duet No.1 with his recording of Tomb of Unknown Love in 1986.

The complete Kenny Rogers discography:

Kenny recorded many duets and eight of those songs made the Billboard charts.

Kenny singing Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer with Kim Carnes.

Kenny singing Islands In The Stream with Dolly Parton at the 25th anniversary of Dollywood in 2010.

Kenny and Dolly singing the same song a few years earlier.

Kenny and Dottie West singing Everytime Two Fools Collide

Yesterday, I found a Kenny Rogers DVD of his appearance on Live By Request on the CBS television network. I had given it to my wife for her birthday several years, but she had never gotten around to watching it till yesterday and that is why I am writing this article today.

I was surprised to look in my MP3 player and there wasn’t one Kenny Rogers song in the player. I will have to rectify that situation, as soon as possible but I do have a Kenny Rogers LP, which I hope to listen to today.

Any collection of Kenny Rogers hits would need to include Lady and The Gambler.

Kenny singing Lady in the Live By Request  program on CBS television. Viewers called in any Kenny Rogers song they wanted to hear and Kenny would sing it.

Kenny singing one of his classics The Gambler.

Kenny  singing She Believes In Me.

Kenny singing Through The Years at Giants Stadium 26 years ago.

Kenny Rogers is not only a great singer, but is also a talented photographer. This short article shows some of his photography. Kenny is so well-respected in the photography field, that he has been a judge in a Digitial Camera’s Photographer of the Year competition, which is described in this undated article, but appears to have happened in 2011.

Kenny Rogers decided to have plastic surgery, when he married his wife Wanda Miller, that is 29 years younger than him. They are still married 15 years later. He has been married for 48 years combined, after five marriages. He has twin sons Justin and Jordan who will be 8 on July 6. His wife is a twin and both he and his wife have a history of twins in their families.

Kenny singing Love Or Something Like It at Bonaroo festival three weeks ago. Sorry for the poor sound quality, but thought readers would want to see Kenny is going strong at 73.

Kenny and Lionel Richie singing Lady after Kenny tells about the history of the song. If you only watch one video in this article this is the one to see. To see two professionals like Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie singing one of the greatest songs ever written, makes taking the time to watch it worth every minute.

No article on Kenny Rogers would be complete without mentioning his movie career. Kenny appeared in the The Gambler TV movies five times from 1980-1994, which again proved how talented Kenny is in any endeavor that he undertakes.

Kenny as he appeared in the series of The Gambler TV movies.


Not everything Kenny touched turned to gold, even though it may have in the early days, when his Kenny Rogers Roasters expanded to 350 restaurants in 1995. Three years later, the company was bankrupt and sold for $1.25 million. Kenny must have taken a financial bath, for the company to be sold for only $1.25 million. No Kenny Rogers Roasters remain open in the United States today.

The following article gives extensive details about the life of Kenny Rogers, but it may take close to an hour to read the entire article:

Kenny sold his home in Georgia on Wednesday of this week:–auction-avoided-Photos/8719446

I knew Kenny Rogers was a successful singer, but only in the last two days have I learned, just how great he was and is still great today.  It is safe to say that Kenny Rogers has made a lasting impression on many Americans, through his music and his acting. I have developed a new appreciation for Kenny Rogers and will be looking for his LP as soon as this is posted.

In closing it amazes me that Kenny Rogers is not in the Country Music Hall of Fame, even though he has had 21 country hits. Part of the problem is that maybe the voters who elect singers to the Country Music Hall of Fame don’t consider Rogers a pure country singer, but just sang songs that found their way to the top of the country charts.

In addition, I can’t see why he isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame either, because if any singer belongs, in both Hall of Fames it would be him. Hopefully he will be inducted to one or the other or both, while he is still with us and can enjoy being inducted, like so many others have in past years.


Whatever Became Of: Jay North of “Dennis the Menace”?

Jay North was eight years old, when he appeared in Dennis the Menace from 1959-1963. The show left the air 49 years ago and North will be 61 in August.

26 years have passed since his last acting role in 1986.

His first television appearance was in Wanted: Dead or Alive in 1957.

North played the mischievous Dennis Mitchell on Dennis the Menace and character actor Joseph Kearns was perfectly cast as the first Mr. Wilson.

Joseph Kearns was perfectly cast as Mr. Wilson, the next door neighbor of the Mitchell family and was a perfect foil for the antics of Dennis.

Jay North seen less than a year ago at the age of 60 and you can still see the resemblance to a young Jay North.

Jay North was only four, when his father left home and never saw him again. His mother, Dorothy North was contacted by an agent, who thought her son would be marketable, in the entertainement industry. She knew about the stories of child actors, who had troubled lives, so was wary but signed the contract.

Hundreds of boys tried out for the part of Dennis Mitchell on Dennis the Menace, but North won the role and would be forever known as Dennis the Menace. He won the part and was paid $500 an episode, which was far less than what actors make today per episode. His mother was not a typical stage mother, since she continued to work and live off her earnings. North makes it clear that his mother did not live off of his earnings.

Even more, Mrs. North didn’t hang around the stage, leaving that up to her sister and husband, as they were there for Dennis. His salary escalated to $2,500 an episode in 1961.

Aunt Abused Him On Set

His Aunt Marie was cruel to Dennis on the set, physically and verbally abusing him, when me made mistakes. He lived in a state of fear on the set, smiling to mask his true feelings. His mother nor the rest of the cast knew how his aunt was treating him.

It is surprising that he didn’t tell his mother how his aunt was treating him, but at his age he was probably afraid of repercussions, from the aunt for disclosing what was really going on.

North earned $3,500 an episode during the fourth and last season. The pressure he was going through backstage, because of his aunt and the loss of Joseph Kearns turned North into a very serious kid. He was thankful the show ended, so he could get away from the backstage tension..

Typecast As Dennis Mitchell

North struggled to find acting jobs. He did secure one last starring role in The Teacher in 1974, which was an R-rated movie, that was as far removed from his role as Dennis Mitchell as possible. North finally tired of waiting for acting roles to come his way, joined the U.S. Navy in 1977. However that didn’t go well, since his shipmates taunted him about being a child star and he was honorably discharged in 1979.

1986 would be the last year that North would be seen on film, when he appeared in a Yugoslavian movie, which ended his film career 23 years after his last appearance on Dennis the Menace.

His personal life wasn’t going well with two marriages which lasted less than a year, but he married Cindy Hackney in 1993 and they are still married 19 years later. They are reportedly well off due to his mother’s investments of his earnings while he was a child actor.

North was working in health food industry for a few years and has worked as a juvenile correctional officer in Florida.

He has been through a lot over the years, but seems to be at peace now, after receiving much support from Paul Petersen, former child actor from the Donna Reed Show, who started an organization that assists child actors, who need some support from former child actors.

Don Grady Dies of Cancer At 68

                   Don Grady 1944-2012

Don Grady died of cancer June 27 in Thousand Oaks, California at the age of 68.. His survivors included Virginia Lewsader, his wife of 27 years and two children, Joey and Tessa. 

His first television appearance according to was in the Spin and Marty series in 1957 for Walt Disney.

He appeared in many television westerns, before appearing on My Three Sons (1960 -1971) at the age of 16 and was 27 when the show ended in 1971. 

Grady became involved with music after the run of My Three Sons ended, His last acting appearance was in an episode of Simon and Simon in 1964.

He has acted only four times in the last 41 years, since he ended his run as being Robbie Douglas.

The following obituary from the Los Angeles Times tells more details of his life.,0,7035373.story

Schofield Barracks Hawaii: Home From June 1963-January 1966

The Tropic Lightning patch represents the 25th Infantry Division and I wore that patch proudly from June of 1963 to May of 1966, when honorably discharged from the Army.

I had re-enlisted in the regular Army in May of 1963, after having served six months of active duty with the Army Reserve. Left Alexandria, Louisiana on a bus in October of 1962, headed for Leesville, Louisiana and eventually the final destination of Fort Polk, Louisiana.

One of the other recruits on the bus made a big mistake right off, after arriving at Fort Polk. He found out that yelling nutbrain at a sergeant, from a second story window was not acceptable behavior. That sergeant let him know in no uncertain terms, that that kind of behavior would not be tolerated from a soldier in the United States Army.

We went from the brutal October heat of Fort Polk, to  freezing temperatures, while on bivouac in December during basic training. Without giving the gruesome details of basic training, will move ahead to finishing basic and going home for Christmas.

After Christmas I boarded a Missouri Pacific train in Alexandria, Louisiana for Indianapolis, Indiana and the ultimate destination of Fort Benjamin Harrison, where the Adjustant General’s School was located.

When the train rolled into St. Louis, it was snowing and snow covered the ground. It was amazing to see snow for a 18 year-old kid who seldom saw snow in Louisiana. Later on the train arrived in Indianapolis and I took a taxi to the base. The ground was covered with several inches of snow, when I arrived.

Learned that winter how brutal Indiana winters could be and even had a case of frostbite, while walking to a movie on base one night. School went well and graduated in April of 1963.

After returning home and attending a few Army Reserve meetings, decided I would rather serve a full three-year enlistment, rather than go to Army Reserve meetings for several years.

So in May of 1963 I re-enlisted for three years. I requested to be stationed in Germany or Hawaii and received orders for Hawaii. Boarded a plane for San Francisco and was helicoptered to the Oakland Army Terminal, where I would stay about eight days.

Finally we boarded a MATS plane for Hawaii and if I remember correctly it took nine hours to make the flight to Hawaii. We headed to Schofield Barracks, after leaving the plane and wish I could remember my first impression after arriving there, but that was 49 years ago and can’t recall now.

One of the things I do remember about Schofield Barracks were the quads, in which the soldiers were housed. The doors were left open at night, so each cot had a mosquito net to prevent mosquitoes, from ruining a night of sleep. James Jones was stationed at Schofield Barracks and when his book From Here To Eternity became a movie, scenes were filmed at Quad C of Schofield Barracks.

This photo of a quad where the soldiers stayed reminds me of the quad, where I lived for about two and-a-half years at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Conroy Bowl an outdoor area holds many memories for me 49 years later, after seeing the Beach Boys in my first concert there. Saw the Christmas show with Hollywood entertainers, such as Julie Newmar and Stefanie Powers. It was a bittersweet experience though, hearing them sing Christmas songs while knowing I would be in Hawaii that Christmas.

I can remember they held a Battle of the Bands at Conroy Bowl and band after band played Louie, Louie by the Kingsmen. I was sick of that song by the end of the night.

Another highlight was Sue Thompson, known for Sad Movies Always Make Me Cry and Big Daddy’s Alabamy Bound shaking my hand, while singing the classic ballad You Belong To Me. A reminder of how long ago this was hit me, when I saw that she will be 86 on July 19.

It would be 16 months after arriving, before I would make my first trip home to Louisiana in October of 1964.

One of my favorite concerts at Conroy Bowl was when the Beach Boys entertained there, at the height of their popularity in the 60’s. Johnny Cash also appeared there, but seemed to be slurring his words, while singing and may have been still under the influence of drugs at this time in his life.

Several years before my arrival in Hawaii, Elvis Presley appeared in concert there in his last concert appearance for many years, before being drafted. It was over ten years before he would appear in concert again, after completing the filming of over 30 movies.

This website owned by Scotty Moore, who was with Elvis in the early days, shows many photos of Elvis at the Conroy Bowl. The website also tells how General John Schofield, who was a Union General in the Civil War foresaw the need, for the use of the Hawaiian Islands as a base to protect American interests. That was in 1872 which was 69 years before Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Visiting the Arizona Memorial was one of the most memorable events while serving in at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii and will never forget reading the names of those who had died on the Arizona. Oil was still coming up from the Arizona in 1963.
A night-time view of Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head seen in the background.
Spent many a weekend day at Waianae beach looking across the ocean and knowing California was on the other side while listening to songs like Surfer Girl.

I heard a lot of Hawaiian music during my time in Hawaii and these are some of the songs I remember best:

Beyond the Reef, one of my favorite Hawaiian songs being played on a lap steel guitar.

Hawaiian girls dancing to My Little Grass Shack

Mele Kalikamaka is Hawaii’s way to say Merry Christmas to you.

Hawaii is usually thought of as a tropical paradise, but I found out different, when sent to the Big Island (Hilo) on temporary duty. I was assigned to a post office at the Pohakuloa Training Area that was at a high elevation. We could see snow capped mountains from the post office.

Snow can be seen atop the Mauna Kea Mountain on the Island of Hilo.

All good things come to an end and my paid vacation to the tropical paradise of Hawaii came to a screeching halt when we received word, that our postal unit was being sent to Vietnam.

This photo was taken the same day that we boarded the USNS General Walker to Vietnam on a voyage which would take 14 days traveling 500 miles a day, before we disembarked in Vietnam.

I didn’t know the above photo even existed until today and was shocked to see it was a photo, of the 25th Infantry Division troops boarding the USNS General Walker, the same day that we boarded it.

Once the ship was on the way to Vietnam, I couldn’t help but wonder how many aboard that ship would never make it back home alive. We had too much time to think on the long ride to Vietnam, about what fate held for us once we left the ship in Vietnam.

We left one tropical paradise behind to go to another tropical paradise, that was a country 7,000 miles from Hawaii, in a country which offered only danger from a ruthless enemy, as we disembarked from the ship. I can remember how it took awhile to get used to being on land again, after two weeks of drifting across the ocean.

I can remember the stifling heat of Vietnam and how I drank several Coca-Colas to keep from being dehydrated, almost immediately after leaving the ship.

Memories of Hawaii

Hawaii was a distant memory, but 49 years later I think of the Hawaiian sunsets, the Hawaiian music and the musicians using their steel guitars to play songs like Beyond the Reef  and My Little Grass Shack.

I can remember going to the service club and being entertained by various entertainers including the cowboy star of many westerns Jimmy Wakely.

I can remember like yesterday the beautiful sunsets on Waikiki Beach….the Service Club personnel taking on tourist excursions around the island seeing various attractions, that we may not have seen otherwise….the pecan twirls out of the vending machine at the service club….seeing the concerts at Conroy Bowl….the palm trees on the grounds of Schofield Barracks….working at the USARHAW post office and seeing the pro basketball player Terry Dischinger of Purdue and Detroit Pistons fame, who was working in the chemical department….working with the Hawaiians at the post office and how they freaked out when the temperature dipped to 59 degrees one day and showed up for work wearing jackets….remembering the day that JFK was assassinated, that I was substitute company mail clerk that day and listening to the news flash on the radio. I was the first to tell the company commander the news….also remember just missing seeing Lee Harvey Oswald shot by Jack Ruby on the television in the day room.

I also remember watching Shindig on my portable television seeing the musical greats of that era….spending Thanksgiving with Sgt. William Brannon and his family and wondering all these years, what happened to him after he left the Army….telling short-timers who had only a few days left, that I was going to be out soon myself….in 1,096 days….seeing the buildings at one of the airbases still showing damage from being hit during Pearl Harbor….meeting General Frederick Weyand, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division,  who was not happy with the direction of the war in Vietnam when he made this statement:

General Weyand, then commander of III Corps in Vietnam, was the unidentified high-ranking officer, who told Apple and Fromson (reporting the same story for CBS) that “I’ve destroyed a single division three times . . . I’ve chased main-force units all over the country and the impact was zilch. 

I had often thought the war was not being fought conventionally. In past wars our military had swept across countries, instead of seeming to be going around in circles in Vietnam. However, that is just my opinion and others with more knowledge may be able to address that situation with more clarity.

Sorry from straying from the Hawaiian theme, but the encounter with General Weyand reminded me of the Vietnam situation.

I may never return to Hawaii again, because of the extremely high cost of being a tourist there, but it may be better that way, so I can remember it the way it was as those two years and eight months there were one of the happiest times of my life.  I almost felt guilty being paid there, since it was such easy duty.

Hawaii….Thanks for the memories.

Don Rickles: Master of Insults

Don Rickles has been insulting people for over 60 years and is still going strong at the age of 86.

We ran across people who make their mission in life to insult people, during our lifetime but Don Rickles has earned a living for insulting people for over 60 years. Good thing that Rickles doesn’t have to fill out resumes, because when he tells about his last job, he would have to say he insults people for a living.

The 86 year-old Rickles is still active, as he travels across the country putting on his act. He will be appearing at the Trump Taj Mahal on October 12, with tickets priced from $51 to $348.

Born In Queens

Rickles was born in Queens, New York on May 8, 1926. He has been married since 1965 to Barbara Sklar, for the last 47 years.

After serving in the Navy during World War II, Rickles began a career as a night club comedian. When hecklers started giving him problems, his rejoinders were so funny, that they were funnier than his written material.

This episode from the Andy Griffith show brings together two of the greatest comedians in Rickles and Don Knotts as Barney Fife. Rickles is booked in the local jail, which leads to more comedic situations:

Made Television Debut in 1955

He made his television debut in Stage 7 in 1955. Three years later he was cast in his first motion picture Run Silent, Run Deep, in which he is listed fifth in the credits. The actors listed above him were Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster, Jack Warden and Brad Dexter.  It was a major accomplishment for an actor making their movie debut to be listed so close to movie giants like Gable and Lancaster.

Rickles would next appear in the Rabbit Trap in 1959 and Rat Race in 1960. It would be four years, before he appeared in The Man With The X-Ray Eyes starring Ray Milland in 1963. He followed that up with appearances in Muscle Beach Party and Bikini Beach in 1964. He made a third movie in 1964, which was Pajama Party and starrred Annette Funicello. He was also seen in another beach movie in 1965, which was Muscle Beach Party.

Series television was not kind to Rickles as his first show Don Rickles Show lasted only eight episodes in 1972 and C.P.O. Sharkey would last thirty-seven episodes. His third show Daddy Dearest only lasted 13 episodes.

Don Rickles insulting those stars who had just roasted him.

Rickles appearing on the David Letterman Show in April of 2012.

The Toy Story movies featured the voice of Rickles as Mr. Potato Head in 1995. He also appeared in Toy Story 2 in 1999 and may be seen in the announced Toy Story 4, sometime in the future.

Don Rickles has shown that he can bring home a paycheck, for insulting people and is as funny as ever.

2004: Burglar Pays Unexpected Visit

Eight years ago my wife and me were both working nights and thought it was safe to leave our ten year-old son alone, since there was only a thirty minute gap between me getting off work and her going to work.

However, the burglar had cased the joint and knew our schedule. Anyway the burglar had broken into our bathroom window, thinking nobody was home. Since both vehicles were gone he didn’t realize that my son was in the home alone.

The burglar was rifling through the drawers in the kitchen, which was adjacent to our den, when my son woke up and that startled the burglar, who dropped some stuff he was holding.

This burglar was not going to let a ten-year old boy deter him from his appointed rounds, so proceeded with the burglary. The amazing part of the story is that my son, thought the burglar was a relative or family friend, so followed him from room to room and was not unduly alarmed or frightened. The burglar told our son, that his mother owed him some money, so he was getting some stuff in return.

When the burglar tried to make friends with our family cat, there was a scream of “Ouch!!” by the burglar, when the cat decided to introduce herself to the burglar by scratching him.

The burglar’s parting words to our son were to tell his mother, that he would be returning the next night.

After the burglar departed the premises with his haul, my car pulled into the driveway minutes later and I knew something was wrong and called my wife at work. If I remember correctly she came home and we reported the burglary to the police, that night or the next morning.

The burglar thankfully didn’t keep his word and didn’t return the next night. Not that we didn’t look for him, as we had a terrible night of sleep.

I had remembered a man knocking on our door earlier in the week and asking if anyone lived in the mobile home next door. I assume now he was making sure, that he could break in the bathroom window, on that side of the house, since I told him nobody was living in the mobile home.

A investigator showed my son and me a photo array, but we couldn’t identify the burglar. My son may have been too scared, to identify the burglar and I saw nobody in the photo array, that looked like the man I had spoken to earlier in the week of the burglary.

Turned out that the burglar lived up the street from us, when he made a huge mistake and passed out from  a drug overdose. An ambulance was called and the EMT’s noticed he had pain killer prescription bottles, that had been scattered around his trailer, including ones he had taken from our house. That turn of events resulted in his arrest.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Looking back, it was good that the burglar somewhat resembled persons, that my son knew. It could have ended tragically, if the burglar felt that my son knew he was a burglar.

Needless to say our son was never left alone again, even if it was only a few minutes, between me returning home and my wife going to work.

Speer Family Singing After Receiving Bad News

The Speer Family singing What A Meeting In The Air after receiving word, that their brother Brock was near death in a Nashville hospital.

The song was part of the Bill Gaither video Good News.

If there was ever a group that could turn bad news into good news, it would be the Speer Family as they celebrate the possible home going of their brother.

Brock Speer starts off Old Fashioned Meeting.

The Speer Family singing my favorite Speer Family song I Never Shall Forget The Day, in the Ryman  Auditorium in Nashville.