Rogers’ tour brings Christmas favorites and memorable hits

By Guy D’Astolfo

A few weeks ago, Kenny Rogers released a three-disc CD package titled “Kenny Rogers: The First 50 Years.”

It’s not surprising that it would take three discs to encapsulate the country crooner’s long career.

Rogers has recorded 65 albums and sold more than 100 million records, making him the No. 8 best-selling artist of all time. Over the years, he has won practically every music award there is to win, has numerous credits in television and film. Heck, he even once had a chain of chicken restaurants called Kenny Rogers Roasters.

In short, he’s a legend.

And at age 71, Rogers is still going strong. Could there be a CD someday titled “The Second 50 Years”?

The silver-haired country star will make a return visit to Youngstown’s Covelli Centre for a Christmas concert that also will see a healthy helping of his old hits: “The Gambler,” “Coward of the County,” “Lucille,” “Lady,” “Islands in the Stream,” “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” “Daytime Friends” and all the rest.

Ever the businessman, Rogers’ new release is available only at Cracker Barrel restaurant stores. The limited-distribution marketing technique has proved effective for rock ’n’ rollers. So why not country singers?

In a recent interview with country Web site, Rogers said he’s excited about the fact that his record is on the menu of a homespun restaurant chain with a nostalgia-Americana theme. It seems to be right where he belongs.

“I’m so excited about this new project, the Cracker Barrel thing,” said Rogers in the interview. “It’s unique. ... Other people are doing it, but I think they put a group of songs on this album that really will be attractive to people who come to Cracker Barrel. I know, because I eat there! You know, I won’t really go anymore, because now that the album’s there, all I’ll do is sit and sign autographs!”

“50 Years” also includes three new songs, which Rogers said are totally diverse.

“One of them is called ‘She’ll Believe You.’ I had trouble doing this one, because it sounds a little bit chauvinistic to me, but it’s about a guy who’s had an affair, and he hasn’t told his wife about it. He’s debating whether to tell her. And the song is: ‘She’ll believe you because she wants to, because she loves you more than you do.’ It’s just a wonderful piece of music,” Rogers told

“And then there’s one called ‘Something’s Wrong in Vegas,’ and I just had this vision of this guy in Kansas — his girlfriend has gone to Vegas and she’s supposed to write and call, and she never does ... and she’s now pole dancing in Vegas.”

The third song is a duet with Dolly Parton titled “Tell Me That You Love Me.”

Rogers’ annual Christmas tour has become a musical tradition in a season that already has its fair share.

The tour, which kicked off Nov. 27 and will hit 20 cities before it’s all over, also includes Kentucky-born country singer Rebecca Lynn Howard.

Those who go to the Youngstown show will see local choirs and children join Rogers in singing traditional and original holiday songs. It’s something he does in every city.

In a message on his Web site, Rogers talked about the effect Christmas has on people.

“I’ve always loved this season,” he said. “I think because people, in general, are truly different. Look around. … They smile more, they’re more gracious, and generally seem happier.”

This year’s Kenny Rogers Christmas & Hits Tour will be sponsored by World Vision, the Christian humanitarian organization that serves the needy in nearly 100 countries.

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