During this panel discussion, Country Music Hall of Fame member Kenny Rogers reunites with four members of his former band, the First Edition, for a jovial and moving conversation that includes a surprise, show-ending performance.
The Museum’s Peter Cooper hosts the freewheeling talk with Rogers, Gene Lorenzo, Mary Arnold Miller, Mike Settle, and Terry Williams, produced in conjunction with the exhibition “Kenny Rogers: Through the Years.” Rogers is effusive in praising the legacy and personnel of a group that existed from 1967 until 1975 and that had not performed together for forty-four years prior to the program.
“It’s so nice when you can work with people you like,” says Rogers, who sang and played bass with the First Edition. “It takes the work out of work. These people have always been my friends.”
The band’s big break came in 1968, with a version of “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” a psychedelic song written by Mickey Newbury, who had attended a Texas high school with Rogers. Audio and video footage at the Museum program helps illustrate the power and versatility of a group whose hits included the socially minded “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” (written by Country Music Hall of Fame member Mel Tillis) and “Reuben James” (written by Alex Harvey and Barry Etris).
Rogers, Miller, Settle, and Williams speak about the importance of manager Ken Kragen, about their varying stylistic and production decisions, about Rogers growing his hair and adding an earring to appeal to a rock audience, about their roots in folk-pop band the New Christy Minstrels, and about stretching the envelope with songs like “Something’s Burning,” a hit in England that was written by Mac Davis.
“We didn’t think anything about it when we released it,” says Miller, who was married to Country Music Hall of Fame member Roger Miller. She asks Rogers, “Did you think it was too risqué?” Rogers responds, “I did. And I loved it.”
In the dressing room before the program, the members quickly worked up a medley of hits. Rogers was trepidatious about singing without proper rehearsal, but the resulting performances of “Just Dropped In,” “Reuben James,” “Something’s Burning,” “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” “Tell It All Brother,” and “But You Know I Love You” draw a standing ovation from the 600-member audience in the Museum’s CMA Theater.
Presented in support of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum exhibition "Kenny Rogers: Through the Years" (August 15, 2014, through June 14, 2015).
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