You would know the husky voice from Houston, Texas, anywhere, of course. Kenny Rogers was calling me from the state of Washington, where he would be performing around his 50th show of the year, the following night. On Dec. 7, Kenny, 76, and special guest Linda Davis will bring their “Christmas & Hits Through the Years Tour” (Roger’s 33rd Christmas tour) to The Ford Center.
I began by telling Kenny (as he insists to be called) that I saw him perform, with the Gatlin Brothers, on April 27, 1982, at Evansville’s Roberts Municipal Stadium.
Those were good times. I’m sorry I won’t be bringing along the Gatlin Brothers in December, but I think you’ll like the show. Evansville is a beautiful city; I’ve performed there five or six times.
What will concertgoers in Evansville experience on Dec. 7?
Linda Davis is such a sweetheart; she’s such help for me. The first half of the show will be hits, and the second half of the show will be Christmas. The show also will feature local choirs. It’s not Christmas ‘til the choir sings. (The Signature High School choir under the direction of Tyler Simpson, and five students from Scott Elementary School, with their director, Benjamin Boyer, will perform songs with Kenny and Linda, according to Steve Glassmyer, band leader with Kenny Rogers Productions.)
You’re one of the hardest working people in the business. And you have identical twin 10-year-old sons! How do you do it?
The older I get, the more I work. Yes, I have twin boys, Justin and Jordan. Normally it seems they couldn’t care less about what I’m doing on the road, but today, when I just talked to them, I couldn’t get them off the phone. I thought I was going to be late for this call. They say that twins at my age will either make you or break you. Right now I’m leaning toward break.
Please tell me about your wife, Wanda.
She’s a very sweet girl. We’ve been together 22 years and have been married 17 years. She’s an identical twin herself — that is very rare — an identical twin having identical twins. We live in Atlanta. Wanda’s sister lives here, too, and that’s the reason we live there, too, as Wanda’s not leaving.
You and your old friend Dolly Parton, also very popular here, have partnered again for the title track of your new CD, “You Can’t Make Old Friends.”
The title comes from a story. Many years ago, William King, of the Commodores, visited my Athens, Georgia, farm with his young son, Ryan Hanna King. Not long ago, I ran into Ryan in California; he is an actor, working in the business. He told of how visits to my farm made an impression on him, and remarked, “I realized then, you can’t make old friends.” I was so touched by that statement and I knew it would make a great song. The next day I was in New York and saw Don Schlitz (“The Gambler”), who agreed to write it. The very next day I received this incredible piece of music that was tailored just for Dolly and me.
By the end of the year, Kenny and his band will have performed about 80 or 90 shows. In January, they’ll start a world tour in Australia and New Zealand.
Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Kenny Rogers, with Linda Davis, will perform 7 p.m. Dec. 7 at The Ford Center. Visit ticketmaster.com for ticket information. An exhibit, “Kenny Rogers Through the Years,” is on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee, through next summer.