When The First Edition was formed in 1967 it featured four vocalists, formerly from The New Christy Minstrels, including Kenny Rogers. Their debut album contained the psychedelic rock Top 10 1968 hit single “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” with Kenny on lead vocals.
After Kenny’s debut rock hit, all of his subsequent hit singles were in a country style, including “But You Know I Love You,” “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” written by Mel Tillis and becoming his first hit single on the country charts, “Reuben James,” “Something’s Burning," written by Mac Davis, and “Tell it All Brother,” with the latter four singles credited as Kenny Rogers and The First Edition.
Solo success came to Kenny in 1977 with “Lucille” becoming his first gold single, reaching No. 5 on the pop charts and his first of 21 No. 1 country hits. “She Believes in Me” and “Coward of the County” also went gold in the late 1970s, and "The Gambler" became a signature song for him.
In 1980, Kenny achieved his biggest hit with Lionel Richie’s Grammy Award winning song “Lady.” This gold single spent six weeks at No. 1. In the early 1980s, Kenny had Top 10 duets with label-mates Kim Carnes and Sheena Easton. In 1983, he moved to RCA, the label that included Dolly Parton since 1967. For his debut RCA album Eyes That See in the Dark, Barry Gibb served as the producer and the songs were written by Barry with others, often his Bee Gees brothers Maurice and Robin. The album’s first single was The Bee Gees’ composition “Islands in the Stream” as a duet with Dolly and became a platinum selling No. 1 single that year.
As 1984 began, “This Woman” was released as the next single from the album. Barry brought in guitarist George Terry, delivering a similar recognizable guitar strength he brought to The Bee Gees’ “Tragedy.” The bridge was reminiscent of Dionne Warwick’s “Heartbreaker,” which The Bee Gees also wrote, and Barry provided Bee Gees-like harmonies for the chorus. The flip side was “Buried Treasure,” with George delivering more of a country guitar style. Country music’s Gatlin Brothers provided guest vocal harmonies on the chorus which began with, “We don’t need no buried treasure, no buried treasure, we don’t need it.” The song felt like a country pirate shanty and on country radio this flip side was considered the A side and went to No. 3.
Flip side: Buried Treasure
A side: This Woman
Top 100 debut: January 14, 1984
Peak position: No. 23
In December of that year, Kenny and Dolly had a television Christmas special and accompanying album, Once Upon a Christmas, featuring the title tune and “With Bells On,” both written by Dolly.
The following year, Kenny and Dolly’s duet “Real Love” reached No. 1 on the country charts. 35 more Top 100 country singles followed for Kenny including “Make No Mistake She’s Mine” with Ronnie Milsap in 1987, his version of the Christmas song “Mary, Did You Know,” with Wynonna Judd in late 1996 through early 1997, “Buy Me a Rose,” with Alison Krauss and Billy Dean, crossing the century mark in late 1999 through early 2000, and his final charting single, “You Can’t Make Old Friends” with Dolly in 2013, after his induction in The Country Music Hall of Fame. Kenny was 81 when he passed away peacefully in his Georgia home.