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Concert preview: For Kenny Rogers, it's 'time to say goodbye'

Published April 19, 2017 11:53 pm

Concert preview • Country music legend brings his Final World Tour: The Gambler's Last Deal to Salt Lake City.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Kenny Rogers is telling a conference call full of reporters a story about his brief friendship with Elvis Presley in the early 1970s. But in the process of self-deprecatingly trying to explain why The King would bother with the likes of him, Rogers drops a line that could be equally applicable to his impending retirement.

"I've never been one to sit back until somebody's tired of me. I kinda get a sense of when my time to leave is," he said.

Apparently so.

Rogers' retirement slate, known as the Final World Tour: The Gambler's Last Deal, visits Salt Lake City's Eccles Theater on Friday.

Rogers, 78, noted, "I think I'm singing well; that doesn't bother me, but my mobility is a factor." The bigger factor, he said, is that he has 12-year-old identical twin boys and doesn't want his career to preclude him from seeing them grow up, as was the case with his older children.

First, however, he decided to do one last tour, to at least give himself and his fans a chance to say goodbye. Given that it got under way more than a year ago, he acknowledged there is a growing sense of finality with each successive show.

"It's interesting, because there is. And my boys … they asked me, 'What are you gonna do when you quit singing?' And I said, 'Well, I thought I'd come home and spend all my time with you guys.' And they both put their head down and said, 'Oh my god.' Maybe it wasn't as exciting for them as it was for me!" Rogers joked. "But I'm curious to know what I'm gonna do, 'cause I've done this for 60 years now."

Coming up with adventures for the boys seems a prime candidate. Because the tour started in South Africa, Rogers figured he'd get an early jump on the extra family time and brought them along.

"I took 'em to Africa the first of last year, and that was really something," he recalled. "I gave 'em each a camera and I said, 'When you go out on the safari, take pictures of things that excite you, and when you come back we'll put 'em in a book and show 'em to your friends at school.' And [they] came back and we had about 150 selfies."

Rogers, of course, already has plenty he'll be remembered for.

He has 24 No. 1 hits in his career and a record charting in each of the past seven decades. The three-time Grammy winner and Country Music Hall of Fame inductee has sold more than 120 million albums, making him one of the top 10 best-selling male solo artists of all time, according to the RIAA.

He is known for a laundry list of hits including "The Gambler," "Lucille," "Coward of the County," "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," "Lady" and "Islands in the Stream," among others.

The secret to his success, he said, was daring to be different with his music.

"If you're smart, you try not to compete. There's only two ways to succeed in this business: One is you can do what everybody else is doing and do it better, and I don't like my chances of doing that; or you can do what nobody's doing and you don't invite comparison," Rogers said. "And that's kind of the way I've approached my career — when uptempo songs were popular, I'd find a great ballad; when ballads were popular, I'd find a different up-song, a story song."

He described Friday's set as "kind of a linear look at my life and my career, musically and personally."

The show should also appeal to a wide range of people, he said, before jokingly walking that claim back a bit.

"I mean, we've had 6-year-olds in there. A lot of these young kids say their parents made 'em listen to my music, and I say, 'Well, you know that's child abuse!' " he joked. "It's really given me a great feeling about what I've been able to do. I've accomplished much more than I ever dreamed of and much more than I probably deserve. But it's been a great life for me, and that's what's probably gonna be hard to give up, is all the people — they come, they make me feel important and they treat me with such respect."

That made it difficult to walk away, he admitted.

But whenever he wavered with his decision, he always kept coming back to idea that the time was right to deal himself out.

"Well, you know, my family and I talked it over for quite a period of time. And my band I did the same thing — they've been with me 40 years, most of my band members," Rogers said. "This tour is as much their life as it is mine. We sat down one night and talked about it, and I said, 'Guys, I don't know how much longer I can do this. But I do think I need to make it a farewell tour from here on out.' And they were excited. At the same time, it does affect their lives. They're all good players and they could work for somebody else. But I've seen 'em have children, and their kids grow up and have kids — that's how long we've been together. So I will miss them tremendously when this is over. But, you know, I don't care what it is — there's a time to say goodbye."

Now then, as for Elvis. …

"I'd love to tell you we were close buddies, but we weren't," Rogers said. "We were working at the [Las Vegas] Hilton at the time, we were in the lounge and he was in the main room. And he used to come into the lounge and sit in the back and watch us, and I thought that was so cool! So I went to his show, and he introduced me as his friend. I went for about eight nights in a row just to hear him introduce me that way!"

Turns out, Rogers knew when to hold 'em, too.


Twitter: @esotericwalden —

Kenny Rogers

With Linda Davis, Joe Robinson

When • Friday, doors 6:30 p.m., show 7:30 p.m.

Where • Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main St., Salt Lake City

Tickets • $45-$125; ArtTix






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