On This Day: Kenny Rogers Scores First No. 1 Single With ‘Lucille’ in 1977

by Jim Casey

Kenny Rogers topped the country chart for the first time with “Lucille” on April 2, 1977. But that was just the start. “Lucille” proved to be an awards show darling. Major awards.

Kenny found success on the charts fronting the First Edition in the late 1960s. Both “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” became Top 5 hits on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart. Oh, but Kenny Rogers has his sights set on a solo career by the mid-1970s.

In 1976, Kenny departed the First Edition and released his first solo studio album, Loved Lifted Me Up. The title track became a Top 20 hit on the country chart. However, the album didn’t exactly set the world on fire. But that was about to change with Kenny’s self-titled sophomore album.

Kenny Picks a Fine Time to Leave

Kenny dropped his self-titled sophomore album less than five months after Love Lifted Me Up. The 1970s were strange times. Nonetheless, the album’s lead single, “Laura (What’s He Got That I Ain’t Got),” reached No. 19 on the country chart.

For his sophomore album’s second single, Kenny released “Lucille,” a story-song about a disenchanted couple. Penned by Roger Bowling and Hal Bynum, the tune was inspired by a one-liner Bynum overheard at a bus station bar. A man and a woman were in the midst of conversation when the man said: “You picked a fine time to leave me.” Bynum wrote the line down and eventually finished the song with Bowling.

The song was poetry in motion: “You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille / With four hungry children and a crop in the field.”

While Kenny’s label thought “Lucille” sounded too “country” for his pop-flavored style, the future Gambler recorded and released the tune in January 1977. It shot to the top of the country chart on April 2. “Lucille” also became a Top 5 hit on the all-genre chart. But “Lucille” wasn’t finished.

Kenny scored his first—of three—Grammy Awards in 1978 for Best Country and Western Vocal Performance – Male for “Lucille.” The song was certified Gold by the RIAA in June 1977. “Lucille” was named Song of the Year and Single of the Year at the ACM Awards and also earned Single of the Year honors at the CMA Awards.