Kenny Rogers has lived quite a life in his 79 years on this Earth. While he is primarily known as a country star thanks to songs such as “The Gambler” and “Islands in the Stream,” Kenny has made an impact on multiple other genres. Few artists have ever experienced as much success as he has.
With over 120 hit singles across genres and more than 100 million records sold worldwide, Kenny is one of the best-selling and most beloved musical artists of all time. His accomplishments were recognized by the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013, when he was selected as one of the inductees for that year.
Kenny is currently preparing for his retirement, with a final concert scheduled for October 25 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Called All in for the Gambler: Kenny Rogers’ Farewell Concert Celebration, the concert will feature appearances from Alison Krauss, Jamey Johnson, Dolly Parton, and more. Celebrate Kenny’s monumental career by picking up your tickets to the concert here!
Meanwhile, take the time to learn a bit more about the man who has continuously taken country music by storm. We’ve gathered a list of seven facts you likely never knew about Kenny before, and they’re sure to surprise you! Head down below to get started!
1. He Has Seven Siblings
Yes, you read that right! Born on August 21, 1938 in Houston, Texas, Kenny was the fourth of eight children belonging to his parents Lucille and Edward.
In addition to raising their eight children, Lucille and Edward worked as a nurse’s assistant and a carpenter, respectively. As for Kenny, he attended William Wharton Elementary School in the Neartown area of Houston.
2. He Loves Photography
Few people know this, but Kenny is so much more than a singer. Over the course of his career he has been an actor, record producer, entrepreneur, and more.
But even some of his most devoted fans have no clue that Kenny is also an avid photographer. As he told The Dallas Morning News during an interview, photography is one of his strongest passions.
Kenny decided to turn that passion into something his fans could enjoy as well. In 1986 he released his first photography book Kenny Rogers’ America, and followed up with a second collection in 1987, titled Your Friends and Mine.
3. He Was A Pro-Level Tennis Player
To add to Kenny’s extensive list of hobbies, he’s also a tennis player. But he doesn’t just play the sport casually. At one point, Kenny was considered to be a pro-level tennis player!
“I played tennis for ten years, eight hours a day every day and developed a national ranking while I was on the road playing with Wimbledon champions,” he told Rolling Stone in 2014.
Now that’s impressive! We don’t know anyone else who can say they’re a chart-topping music star and a pro-level tennis player!
4. Don Henley Of The Eagles Was His Former Roommate
In the same Rolling Stone interview, Kenny also revealed another interesting fact about himself. During his producer days, Don Henley of the Eagles was one of his roomates.
Don wasn’t actually in the Eagles at the time that he lived with Kenny. Rather, he was a part of a group called Shiloh, which Kenny discovered and started working with as a producer. During that time, Don and his bandmates all lived with Kenny at his home in Los Angeles.
After six months passed, Don decided to go off and form the Eagles. Kenny recalled his conversation with Don in his Rolling Stone interview:
“Then he got a chance to go with the Eagles and he said, ‘I can’t do it unless you give me my publishing back.’ I was just trying to help him so I said, ‘Sure, I’ll give it back to you.’ I’m very proud of that.“
5. “We Are The World” Was Recorded At His Studio
You may have known that Kenny was one of the dozens of artists that sang on the charity single, “We Are the World.” In all of music history, less than 30 physical singles have sold 10 million copies or more. “We Are the World” is one of those singles.
But we bet you didn’t know that Kenny owned the building that “We Are the World” was recorded in! In 1981, Kenny bought an old ABC Dunhill building in Los Angeles and converted it into a recording studio. A few years later, some of the world’s most talented artists gathered in that exact building to record “We Are the World,” and history was made.
6. He Once Played Double Bass In A Jazz Group
It’s no secret that Kenny has not always been a country singer. Over the course of his career he’s dabbled in everything from pop to to rock, but did you know he was also involved in a jazz group?
For a few years, Kenny was a member of a jazz group called The Bobby Doyle Three. Surprisingly, Kenny was not the lead singer in the group. Instead, he served as the trio’s double bass player!
The group experienced a fair amount of success while it was active, but eventually disbanded in 1975. After that, Kenny joined a folk music group in which he was also a double bass player.
7. He Held A Chart Record For 27 Years
In July 1983, Kenny released the first of many duets with Dolly Parton. That duet was “Islands in the Stream,” which sailed its way to the top spot on the Hot Country Songs chart.
Remarkably, “Islands in the Stream” also snagged the number one spot on the all-genre Billboard 100. It’s a rare thing for a country single to cross over and claim the top spot on the Hot 100. In fact, the feat is so rare that Kenny and Dolly held on to the record for nearly three decades.
27 years passed after the release of “Islands in the Stream” before any other country single was able to top the Billboard Hot 100. That single was Lonestar’s “Amazed,” and their record was broken five years later when Carrie Underwood released her debut single, “Inside Your Heaven.”
There you have it folks! Which one of these facts about Kenny surprised you the most? We still can’t believe that he was once a pro-level tennis player!