Kenny Rogers: Losing another music icon

The man who sang with the New Christy Minstrels had a hit with "Just Dropped in to See What My Condition Was In" with the First Edition and more hits as a single act, died at age 81.
Kenny Rogers: Back before the all-grey and beard.

Kenny Rogers still had the First Edition band with him when he appeared at the Mississippi River Festival on the campus of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville on Aug. 24, 1973.

I shot photos of the concert and reviewed it for The Telegraph, the Alton, IL, newspaper that I wrote and shot photos for 12 years (1969-81) and when I walked into the dressing room to interview he and the band after the show, Mike Settle, one of the band members, said: “you and Kenny could be twins.”

Rogers looked at me and laughed. “Looks like I have to have a talk with mom.”

I laughed it off. I had a beard and longish hair, parted in the middle, which probably – I thought — contributed to the similarity.

A couple of decades later, wife Amy and I were eating at a Johhny Rockets hamburger stand in the food court of the Pentagon City Mall in Alexandria, VA, when a young girl came up to us and asked for my autograph.

I had to ask: “Why would you want my autograph?”

Kenny Rogers? Some thought so but it was just a reporter and photographer with greying long hair and beard.

“Everyone in my family is a big fan, Mr. Rogers,” she said, pointing to a booth with her parents and a brother.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “but I’m not who you think I am.”

Her mother came over and apologized.

“You sure look like Kenny Rogers,” she said.

“I can’t even sing a note,” I told her.

Not long afterward, a photo of me appeared on a website called “Men Who Look Like Kenny Rogers.”  It was a photo taken for a magazine that wrote about my involvement in the early days of the Internet. Yes, my hair was long and still parted in the middle, so I guess some felt I did look like him.

I thought about those encounters this weekend when Kenny Rogers died at age 81 at his home in Georgia. I still have the first album of The First Edition (on vinyl and later on CD) and had watched him sing too as part of The New Christy Minstrels.

Never had a chance to see him again on stage after the MRF appearance. Did watch some of his films and enjoyed his music through the years, including his partnership with Dolly Parton and other country artists.

We seem to be losing a lot of music and celebrity icons this year:  Max Von Sydow, Lyle Waggoner, Ed Byrnes, and others.

The 10 years that I covered the Mississippi River Festival include many we have lost: Jerry Garcia, Henry Mancini, Harry Chapin, and too many others.

Same for covering FloydFest. Levon Helm appeared shortly before he died.

 

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