When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a cowboy because cowboys got to carry guns, wear cool hats and they are totally bad-ass. And since being a cowboy meant listening to country music, I listened to people like Willie Nelson, Johnny and Rosanne Cash and Kenny Rogers. Rogers gave us classic country hits like “The Gambler” and “Coward of the County”. And when I’m in a blue mood, “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer.” Besides being a country music star, Kenny Rogers also did a few movies and TV shows, most notably The Gambler.

Born Kenneth Ray Rogers on August 21st, 1938, to a poor family in Houston, TX. He was one of eight children. His father barely made enough money to feed the family, and they lived in federal housing. Even though Kenny was the fourth child in the family, he was the first to graduate high school in 1956.


Kenny Rogers instantly took to music at a young age, starting his first band in high school, and in 1949, Rogers won a talent show, and then performed on American Bandstand in 1957. He was then signed to a record label, playing a combination of pop country and psychedelic music. In the early 1960s, he joined a jazz group called the Bobby Doyle Three. They didn’t last long, and he would bounce around from different bands to producing, to session player, to personal music. It wasn’t until the 1970s that he found his voice as a country music artist after his band, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition broke up. His first major hit came with the song “Lucille” (1977) which reached number one the pop charts, selling over five million copies globally. The album Kenny Rogers reached No. 1 on the Billboard Country Album Charts. “Coward of the County” was released in 1979 and tells a story about a coward who makes a promise to his father to avoid violence. However, when three brothers attack his partner, he goes back on that promise. Rogers was warned against doing the song due to its dark tone. However, he knew a hit when he heard one. The song became a crossover hit, topping the Billboard Country music chart and the Hot 100 Chart. In 1981, a TV movie of the same name was made based on the song.

Kenny Rogers would go on to sell over 120 million albums worldwide and recorded 24 number one hits. He has one Diamond album, 20 Platinum albums and 11 Gold. His songs topped multiple charts, including the Billboard Country charts, Top 40, and Adult Contemporary charts, R&B (yes R&B), and Christian charts.

Throughout his career, Rogers would perform duets with some of the greatest musicians alive, including Dolly Parton, Kim Karns, Sheena Easton, and Lionel Richie, just to name a few.


As his music fame increased, he crossed over into acting as well, with a few small appearances on TV. Roles that led to his most well-known performance in 1980, The Gambler a series of TV movies inspired by the song where he played Brady Hawks, a quick-witted gambler alongside Bruce Boxleitner’s, Billy Montana. The role was portrayed by Rogers five times from 1980 to 1994. And although he primarily stuck to the small screen, Rogers did appear on the big screen once as Brewster Baker in the movie Six Pack, where he played a race car driver who gets stuck taking care of a group of kids. He did other TV movies such as Wild Horses in 1985 and McShane in 1994, as well as guest appearances on other television shows. He continued to lend his voice to television until 2010 in shows like How I Met your Mother.

Personal Life

Like the love ballads he sang, his life was full of love and heartache as well. Rogers was married five times. His fifth marriage was his final one when he married Wanda Miller on June 1st, 1997. They were together until his death. Wanda and Kenny had two children to add to his previous three. Five must be his lucky number – wives and children.

Kenny Rogers died Friday, March 20th 2020, at 81. He left us with a collection of music for those who enjoy classic country over the modern country pop and some enjoyable screen performances, playing a down to earth soft-spoken cowboy wearing cool hats carrying six shooters and being a bearded bad-ass.