At 2017 Kenny Rogers Tribute Concert, Stars Shared Fond Memories of the Icon
More than a dozen artists, including Lady Antebellum, Justin Moore, Idina Menzel, Wynonna Judd, Lionel Richie and Chris Stapleton, united at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Oct. 25, 2017, to bid a public farewell to country music icon Kenny Rogers, who was retiring from the public spotlight after a successful decades-long career. The sold-out show, Kenny Rogers: All in for the Gambler, featured funny stories, emotional tributes and, of course, great music from the special guests who graced the stage to honor Rogers.
During a media event prior to the show itself, The Boot caught up with several of the evening's performers, who shared their memories of Rogers and their thoughts on being part of his farewell event. Read on to see their comments.
"I think there’s been a lot of different facets to my relationship with Kenny. I’ve known him almost 20 years -- so, before anything was happening with Lady A, from the standpoint of my career …
"He took us to Switzerland for the first time -- overseas, to Europe -- to perform. We got to watch and glean from him. He’s just always looking for every opportunity to encourage and inspire and share his nuggets of wisdom that he has learned. He will always look for every opportunity to share with you what he has learned, from a performance standpoint, from a business standpoint. Being in the entertainment industry for so long, he doesn’t hold everything close. All of his nuggets of wisdom, all of his experiences, he doesn’t keep them close to his vest."
"I had a chance to open his shows for years. And I can only tell you that when I was able to stand in the wings and watch him onstage, I went to school, because no one made it look easier onstage than Kenny. And I found out then that the easier you can make it look onstage, the more at ease the people are and the audience are going to be when they’re watching you.
"He’s a consummate, consummate … He’s got that identifiable voice that, when you hear him, you don’t have to say who it is. You know it’s Kenny Rogers.
"I’m honored to be here. There’s so many people’s lives that he touched in music, and to be in that select group of people that are here tonight -- I look around, and I see these people that I have been fans of, and I’m going, 'Why am I here?' It’s very special because we get a chance to pay tribute to, I think, one of our true musical treasures in this business."
"He has set a bar for longevity that all of us -- that’s going to be really hard for all of us in my position to reach.
"I’ve learned the importance of selling a song [from Rogers]. I don’t think anybody in the history of country music, or maybe music, has done that better than Kenny."
"I was so thrilled to get this letter that Kenny sent out, that was to all of us. And the first two lines made me tear up: It said, 'You know, Billy, I always knew this day would come, when I’d have to say goodbye to the stage, and here it is.' I immediately started tearing up because we toured together a lot over the years, covered a lot of miles.
"I’ve learned so much from Kenny Rogers. People wonder [if] Kenny is who he says. I’ll tell you, from the artist point of view, he is the recording artist. When it comes to the art of recording, things that Kenny can do with his voice, in front of a microphone -- he has got the sexiest voice to me, ever. He empowers young talent. I was young talent when I met Kenny."
"Kenny was somebody that I obviously had listened to for many, many years before I ever got a record contract. The fact that, when I first got started, we were managed by the same manager, Ken Craven, and [I] had an opportunity to not only be around him, but also get an opportunity to go out and open shows for him ... to get an opportunity to see just how genuine his vocals were. They always came from the heart; he always sang with the most deepest emotion he possibly could, and his voice was so recognizable, and the material he picked was always top of the line.
"Kenny Rogers meant a whole lot to me when I was first getting started. Not only did he take me under his wing, when we were first getting started with our first singles, [he took] me on tour with him and allowed me to open shows. And opening shows for Kenny Rogers is a big deal, especially when you’re trying to get started in the business … He’s opened so many doors for me. This, in a small way, for me, is an opportunity just to kind of salute him back and pay back in a small way [for] all the kindness and graciousness that he’s shown me over the years."
"When Kenny Rogers sends you a personal note and says, 'Wynonna, I want you to sing, and I want you to bring your mom, I go, ‘Yes, sir.’' I come from the generation of the ‘80s, where I grew up with these legends. They were my teachers and my mentors, and I just know to show up, because that’s what you do."
"All of the people you’ll see on the show are favorites of Kenny. He’s asked us to come. And everybody has come because we have an association, a friendly association, with Kenny. Kenny never makes enemies. Everybody loves him. So that’s why we’re here."
LOOK: Kenny Rogers Through the Years