There Was A Lot More To Kenny Rogers Than Country Music

Best known for his successful country music career, Kenny Rogers grew to become one of the best-selling artists of all time, producing timeless hits such as “The Gambler,” and “Islands in the Stream.” He was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and topped the country and pop charts for more than 200 individual weeks throughout his career. Although his music career spans more than six decades, Rogers was far more than just a musician. Take a look into Rogers’ incredibly interesting life, and see everything that made him such a unique individual.

He Was A Ranked Tennis Player

Kenny Rogers on a tennis court
Pinterest
Pinterest

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Roger’s explained: “I played tennis for 10 years, eight hours a day every day and developed a national ranking while I was on the road playing with Wimbledon champs.”

When he was on tour, he would sometimes bring professional tennis players along with him to keep up his skills. He claims that “We just flew from city to city and we’d get into town and we’d play the pro and the assistant pro at one of the clubs. And I developed a very good doubles game.” In the end, he chose music over tennis.

He Loved The Tribute Website Made About Him

Pictures of Men Who Look Like Kenny Rogers
www.jamiemuehlhausen.com/kenny
www.jamiemuehlhausen.com/kenny

Supposedly, Rogers was a huge fan of the website menwholooklikekennyrogers.com, a tribute website where people post pictures of men they think look like Kenny Rogers. Created by Jamie Muehlhausen in the early days of the Internet, the website’s popularity exploded, being named one of the Top 100 Websites in the History of the Internet by Yahoo!

Rogers himself has commented on the site saying, “I think that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen […] As long as you do it in good taste and don’t go down a road that I think is not really what I’m about, then I don’t care how much you make fun of me.”

He’s Played Around With Interior Design

Interior Design
John Shearer/Getty Images for CMT
John Shearer/Getty Images for CMT

In 2003, Rogers teamed up with his business partner, Jim Weinberg, and the two opened up the interior design firm, Kenji Design Studios. The Atlanta-based firm managed to sign some significant contracts. Rogers went on to admit that he was never formally trained and taught himself most of his skills.

He went on to state, “I’ve done 20 houses of my own, so I come to this from a totally emotional standpoint […] Jim does all the work. He brings me in as a second set of eyes. We’re yin and yang … I tend to think very outside the box. Jim pulls me back.”

He Held A Chart Record For Decades

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
Getty
Getty

In 1983, Dolly Parton and Rogers released “Islands in the Stream,” their first of many duets together. Not only did it reach the No.1 spot on the Hot Country Songs chart, but also on the Billboard Hot 100 as well.

Country songs rarely reach the No.1 on the Hot 100, which is why Rogers and Parton held the record for 27 years. After almost three decades, the duo was unseated by Lonestar’s “Amazed,” and later again by Carrie Underwood’s “Inside Your Heaven.”

He Had Plastic Surgery And Dolly Said It Looked Good!

Plastic Surgery
Rick Diamond/Getty Images
Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Kenny Rogers wasn’t ashamed to admit that he underwent plastic surgery to help maintain his looks. He also wasn’t hesitant to admit that he wasn’t entirely thrilled with the results either.

However, his longtime friend and music partner, Dolly Parton, disagrees and thinks the surgery came out fine. As it turns out, the reason he went under the knife in the first place was that he wanted to look younger for his wife, who is almost three decades younger than him.

Dolly Parton Pays Tribute To Her Beloved Late Friend

Kenny-Rogers-Dolly-Parton-Perform-198-535796603
Paul Natkin/Getty Images
Paul Natkin/Getty Images

After hearing of his passing, Dolly Parton paid tribute to her dear friend. Parton posted a video on Twitter of the two of them performing together commenting, “I loved Kenny with all my heart, and my heart’s broken and a big old chunk of it’s gone with him.”

In 1983, the two performed a duet together, “Islands in the Stream” which became a smash-hit, shooting to the top of the U.S. pop, country, and adult contemporary charts.

He Used To Collect Motorcycles

Roger with his ex-wife Marianne Gordon
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

In a 2004 interview with CMT, Rogers revealed that he used to collect and ride motorcycles. However, he was particularly interested in Harley Davidson bikes and would buy them specifically. Although he did this for many years, as he got older, he realized that it was probably a little too dangerous to ride them like he used to.

So, instead of letting them collect dust, he chose to get rid of them. Yet, he claimed that he still had a special place in his heart for Harley Davidsons.

He Was Roommates With Don Henley

Picture of Don Henley and Kenny Rogers
Rick Diamond/Getty Images for T.J. Martell
Rick Diamond/Getty Images for T.J. Martell

In 1970, before the Eagles, Kenny Rogers’ produced Don Henley’s band’s self-titled debut record. Before helping Shiloh with their album, Rogers recalls, “I found his group and took them to L.A., and they lived with me for six months.”

It wasn’t long after before Henley had the opportunity to play with the Eagles, which he accepted. Rogers then proceeded to give all the Shiloh album rights back to Henley, and the two remained close friends until his death.

He Wasn’t Always A Country Musician

Picture of the The First Edition playing on TV
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Before Rogers became an icon in the country genre, he played the bass for a jazz band known as The Bobby Doyle Trio. After the jazz group broke up in 1965, he continued playing music and started a group called The First Edition.

Rogers played guitar and was a frontman for the group which was known to play psychedelic music. At times, Rogers and his bandmates were even referred to as hippies. The group would later go on to be called Kenny Rogers and The First Edition.

He Was Treated For Skin Cancer

Picture of Rogers with bandage on face
_kennyrogers/Instagram
_kennyrogers/Instagram

In 2014, Rogers shared a picture on Instagram of his face heavily bandaged. The caption read: “… but you should see the other guy! Had a bit of skin cancer removed today — I recommend everyone go get checked, especially since May is National Skin Cancer Detection & Prevention Month. Don’t worry though, I’m gonna look great in Knoxville this weekend!”

Thankfully, the treatment worked and he continued on with his life. On March 20, 2020, he died of natural causes while in hospice care at his home in Georgia at the age of 81.

His Wife’s Parents Were Younger Than He Was

Picture of Rogers with his wife Wanda
Ken Cedeno/Corbis via Getty Images
Ken Cedeno/Corbis via Getty Images

Although Rogers had been married five times throughout his life, it appears that his last wife, Wanda, was the one. However, Rogers was 28 years his wife’s senior, something that made many raise their eyebrows, especially Wanda’s parents. At first, they were uncomfortable with their daughter dating someone so much older than her, but it all worked out.

Not long after, Rogers and Wanda’s parents became very close, since Rogers was taking good care of their daughter. Because she was so much younger, Rogers was two years older than both of her parents.

“We Are The World” Was Recorded In His Studio

Rogers performing in Las Vegas
Christopher Polk/ACMA2012/Getty Images for ACM
Christopher Polk/ACMA2012/Getty Images for ACM

“We Are the World,” is a charity single that was recorded by the supergroup United Support of Artists (USA) in 1985 to help issues in Africa. The single was released on March 7, 1985, and became an instant worldwide success.

It peaked on the singles charts around the world, becoming the fastest-selling American pop single in history. In total, the song raised over $63 million for aid in both Africa and the United States. As it turns out, the song was recorded in Rogers’ own Lion Share Recording Studio in California.

He Was A Skilled Photographer

Kenny Rogers with camera
George Rose/Getty Images
George Rose/Getty Images

As it turns out, Kenny Rogers was a jack of all trades. Not only was he a renowned singer and songwriter, but a photographer as well. Although photography was just a hobby to Rogers for many years, in 2014, he was given an honorary master of photography degree from the Professional Photographers of America.

He received the degree for the impressive photos he had taken over the years, which caught the attention of numerous professional photographers. Rogers has also published his own photography books, featuring pictures of his favorite places and the people in his life.

The Last Show

The Last Show
Erika Goldring/FilmMagic
Erika Goldring/FilmMagic

In 2015, Rogers announced that he was retiring from performing, with his tour final tour being called The Gambler’s Last Deal. Although he intended to retire after the tour, there were rumors that he would still record a final studio album.

However, his retirement plans didn’t work out, and in 2018, was forced to stop performing due to health issues. His final performance was in 2017, where he was joined by acts such as Little Big Town, Lionel Richie, The Flaming Lips, and more. Dolly Parton also made an appearance and the two performed their classic duets.

He Had A Stint As An Actor

Cover of Six Pack Movie
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Rogers also had some acting jobs, with one of his largest being his role in the 1982 film Six Pack. He played a race car driver and the film made over $20 million at the box office. He also acted in some made-for-television movies such as Coward of the County, The Gambler’s series, as well as Christmas in America.

Over the years, he has also appeared in a few commercials such as GEICO, and was featured on an episode of Reno 911!

He Owned A Goat

Picture of Rogers at dinner
Roberta Parkin./Redferns
Roberta Parkin./Redferns

While most people own dogs and cats, Kenny Rogers’ favorite pet was a goat named Smitty. He got the animal from a close friend back in 2008, and claimed that the goat had been “his center.”

Apparently, the animal used to be a source of peace for him back when he was still touring heavily. We’re sure that Rogers spent his days relaxing at home with his goat, soaking up his retirement.

He Was Extremely Close With His Band

Rogers performing in a purple coat
Mick Hutson/Redferns
Mick Hutson/Redferns

Although Rogers had relied on several different musicians to play instruments on his recordings, he used the same group of musicians to join him on tour since 1975. The band he used call themselves Bloodline, and originally started as a three-piece. He considered all of the members as part of his family because they had spent so much time together and accomplished so much.

In the 2006 documentary Journey, Rogers expressed his inability to understand why people change their touring bands so frequently. He continued, noting that he sticks with Bloodline every year because they already know all of the songs.

He Lost A Lot Of Money In A Divorce Settlement

Divorce
Ron Galella/WireImage
Ron Galella/WireImage

While Rogers had been married five times throughout his life, the most memorable has to be his fourth marriage to Marianne Gordon. The two were together for 16 years and even shared a son. However, when they announced they were getting a divorce, the couple became fodder for the tabloids.

On top of that, because they had been together so long and had a child, Marianne was awarded $60 million in their divorce settlement, a number that almost wiped out Rogers’ bank account. That’s a lot of money, even compared to most big celebrities who get divorced.

He Performed Sober Every Time Except Once

Sober
David Redfern/Redferns
David Redfern/Redferns

Because his father struggled with alcoholism upon returning from World War II, Rogers decided that he didn’t want to mess with drugs and alcohol. This is rather rare considering that the music industry tends to be riddled with musicians suffering from substance abuse.

Throughout the course of his career, Rogers was sober for every performance except one. He claimed that he took something one time before he performed, but it ruined his vocals so badly that he decided to never do it again.

He Owned A Restaraunt Chain

Picture of the front of Kenny Roger's Roasters
Reddit
Reddit

Among the other activities that Rogers did to keep himself busy, he was also interested in becoming an entrepreneur. So, in 1991, Rogers decided to open up Kenny Rogers’ Roasters, a chain of restaurants that is best known for its home-style chicken.

The first restaurant was located in Coral Springs, Florida, and was relatively successful, leading to other restaurants being opened up in the area. Kenny Rogers’ Roasters was so successful in fact that it was acquired by Nathan’s Famous Inc. in 1998.