Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Kenny Rogers to perform in Solana Beach; biography out now

With Kenny Rogers making a concert appearance tomorrow at the Belly Up Tavern in San Diego County (see details below), I thought it would be a good time to recap his autobiography that came out last fall… 

Kenny Rogers
Luck or Something Like It
(Available from William Morrow: hardcover, $27.99, 287 pages;
HarperLuxe: paperback, 416 pages; Amazon: Kindle) 

After 20 years of being asked about penning his memoir, Rogers - one of country music’s biggest stars during the 1970s and ‘80s – finally relented. Luck or Something Like It is an entertaining and fairly brisk read.

The musician (yes, he’s not just a singer) starts off with an anecdote about his mother Lucille being confused about the meaning behind one of his signature songs and how the label didn’t think it was hit material due to the unusual subject matter.

Rogers discusses growing up poor in Houston with an alcoholic father and honestly reflects on his four previous marriages, at one point writing: “I thought, ‘there’s a fine line between being driven and being selfish.’ I may have crossed that line.”

Some people might be surprised to learn that Rogers first got on “American Bandstand” with his early band The Scholars instead of later prominent hit makers like New Christy Minstrels or The First Edition. And Rogers met many TV and music stars of the era while honing his vocal and bass guitar chops with jazz band Bobby Doyle Three.

Always a great storyteller in song, Rogers relays several interesting anecdotes here too, such as:

Becoming casual friends with Elvis Presley when both did a series of shows in different sections of the Las Vegas Hilton.

How deciding to cover Mel Tillis’ “Ruby (Don’t Take Your Love to Town)” was somewhat risky, but he still followed that with equally controversial – for the time period - First Edition pop hits like “Reuben James” and “Something’s Burning.”

Rogers delves into his mid-1970s career crossroads, when he traveled to Pakistan to tour for oil field workers on behalf of Aramco Oil to make ends meet. Later in the book, he uses good natured humor and poignancy to relate other career touchstones: hit duets with Dottie West and Kim Carnes.

Of the latter, he admits: “We both sounded like we were hemorrhaging when we sang hard. As hard as it is to believe, that was appealing. I’ve always felt that I sang so much better in duets than I do by myself” and likens the process to a sprint.

Then there are briefly mentions about forays into acting (“The Gambler” series, “Coward of County,” “Six Pack”), striking unlikely music gold with Lionel Richie, Barry Gibb and Dolly Parton, the “We Are the World”/USA for Africa project.

Of the relationship with Parton, his most famous duet partner, Rogers writes: “Nothing prepared me for working with Dolly…when [she] comes marching out onstage, you might as well stand back.”

Passing references are made toward the ’93 phone sex mini scandal, meeting much younger wife Wanda and getting married again in 1997, then fathering twins at age 65.

I would’ve liked to read more details about recording, albums and tours during his solo superstar period. Still, Luck or Something Like It is recommended for both diehard fans and the curious alike. 

Kenny Rogers, 8 p.m. March 21, Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Ave., Solana Beach, $98,

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