Kenny Rogers was honored in Nashville’s Bridgestone arena on Wednesday night (10/25) at the “All In For The Gambler” farewell show. Various artists from all genres came to perform songs from Rogers’ extensive catalogue. Kicking off the show were the Oak Ridge Boys who performed “Love Or Something Like It” then Elle King followed with her version of “Tulsa Turnaround.”
Rogers was well-known for reaching across genres and influencing other artists outside of the country genre. Prior to the show, Aaron Lewis of the band STAIND told us how the the legend showed Lewis the path for cross-over success as an artist. Indina Menzel showed off her vocal strength and soulfulness on a duet with Lady A’s Charles Kelley with the song “We’ve Got Tonight,” which was a hit tune Rogers shared with Sheena Easton in 1983.
Singer/songwriter and friend Lionel Richie joined the celebration by performing “Lady,” the monstrous cross-over hit Richie wrote for Kenny Rogers. Richie joked about performing the tune on his own in front of Rogers as he watched on seated next to his wife on-stage.
Surprise guests Kris Kristofferson and Don Henley both performed tunes which were special for each of them. Kristofferson paid tribute to the band’s cover of “Me and Bobby McGee” which he wrote and Henley performed “Desperado,” which Rogers cut in 1977 for his Daytime Friends album.
The Flaming Lips shined the light on “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town,” then Reba McEntire tipping the hat to the group’s “Reuben James.”
Of course, the main focus of the evening was on the record-setting solo career Rogers embarked on in the mid-1970s, and those hits were on full display during the evening. Justin Moore nodded to the beginning of the singer’s hit making era with “Lucille,” with spellbinding performances taking place from Lady Antebellum (“She Believes In Me”) and Chris Stapleton on “The Gambler”.
Another incredible performance came from Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott and mother Linda Davis – who has toured extensively with Rogers over the years – uniting on stage for the singer’s 1987 chart-topper “Twenty Years Ago.”
There were several other great musical moments during All In For The Gambler, with Naomi and Wynonna Judd reuniting for “Back To The Well,” and an all-star group of Rogers’ former opening acts paying tribute to the icon with a sing-along performance of his 1982 hit “Blaze Of Glory,” including Travis Tritt, The Gatlin Brothers, Kim Forester, T.G. Sheppard, Crystal Gayle, Lee Greenwood, T. Graham Brown, and Billy Dean.
Dolly Parton closed out the show by joining Rogers front and center on-stage to discuss their hysterical memories from previous tours and collaborations. First the two performed “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” before Dolly serenaded her friend with her own iconic tune, “I Will Always Love You.” Shortly before the final performance of the much anticipated “Islands in the Stream,” Parton told more stories of the two’s familial-esque bond.
Blackbird Presents’ Keith Wortman, creator and executive producer of Nashville’s recent highly acclaimed “Sing Me Back Home: The Music of Merle Haggard,” is the creator and executive producer of “All In For The Gambler.” GRAMMY® Award Winner Don Was served as music director, and presided over a stellar house band backing the performers at this historic concert event taping. Kenny Rogers’ manager, Ken Levitan, also served as executive producer. The event was filmed and recorded for multi-platform distribution throughout traditional media (worldwide broadcast, music, and digital).