Country Throwback: Kenny Rogers Releases Iconic ‘The Gambler’ Album 42 Years Ago Today

by Kayla Zadel

Just when Kenny Rogers was getting ready to fold up and walk away from his country music career, he stumbled across the song that made him legendary.

According to The Boot, Kenny Rogers had stumbled his way through the music industry, before actually finding success as a country singer. He was first a member of the New Christy Minstrels, then later joined the First Edition as their frontman.

But things weren’t looking too good when the country legend neared his late 30s. Rogers had been divorced three times, his band had broken up and he was in debt. Moreover, no work was on the horizon for Rogers.

However, he packed his bags and took a chance by moving to Nashville. Rogers was looking to re-invent himself, and he did so by signing a recording deal as a solo artist.

The legend notched various hits over the years like, “Lucille,” “Daytime Friends,” “Sweet Music Man” and “Every Time Two Fools Collide.” However, it was the song named “The Gambler” that catapulted Rogers to the next level. “The Gambler” is written by a young Nashville writer named Don Schlitz.

Kenny Rogers Goes Global with ‘The Gambler’

The title track of The Gambler, which became Rogers’ fourth No. 1 hit, made the now-country icon into a worldwide star. Even though Rogers was already one of the most successful male country music artist, when he released “The Gambler” it launched him into superstar status. Not only was he well known in the U.S., Rogers became a worldwide sensation. This sparked a string of TV movies.

In a previous interview, Rogers recalls the days when he hit superstardom. “I think I’ve had songs that were bigger in sales,” he notes, “but none that were bigger in identity for me. I go to Korea, and people say, ‘Oooh, “The Gambler.”‘ And it’s really sweet. It’s really cute. I think those are career-making songs.”

Moreover, “The Gambler” artist was not the first to record the song. It was actually Schlitz, the author of the song, who gave the song a go. Bobby Bare and Johnny Cash also laid down the track. However, Cash’s version wasn’t released until Roger’s version became a successful hit.

Thanks to The Gambler project, Rogers won a Grammy in 1979 for Best Male Country Vocal Performance. The song also opened the door to acting for Rogers. He performed as gambler Brady Hawkes in the 1980 film Kenny Rogers as the Gambler. The TV movie was so successful that Rogers filmed four sequels.

Rogers has since been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and released more than 20 additional studio albums since The Gambler. He passed away on March 20, 2020, at 81-years old.