Kenny Rogers was a country music legend. And he also played a part in another icon’s career — Don Henley.
The two both were Texans. Rogers was born in Houston and Henley in small-town Gilmer. They met while shopping at a clothing store in Dallas. This was circa 1969. Kenny Rogers was hardly the Kenny Rogers we all grew to adore. Rather, he was the lead singer of First Edition. He also played bass. Rogers’ best-known song, at the time, was Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.
Henley recognized Rogers and introduced himself. He was in this group called Shiloh, he told Rogers. And he invited Rogers to one of their gigs in town. Kenny Rogers loved the group so much, he brought them to Los Angeles and produced their first album. Henley and the band members lived at Rogers’ home for four months while they recorded the album.
We all know that Shiloh wasn’t long for this world. Although they signed a deal with Amos Records, the group disbanded. Then Don Henley met Glenn Frey. The two were in the backing band for Linda Ronstadt. And they formed their own group — the Eagles, the band with both a country and pop vibe. Don Henley probably ended up just as famous as Kenny Rogers. Maybe he was more popular, it depends on your musical preferences. But who knows whether Don Henley would have the same career if not for that chance encounter when the two were both out shopping for clothes.
Don Henley Joined Kenny Rogers on Calling Me in 2006
Don Henley sang with Kenny Rogers in 2006 on the song Calling Me. And Henley performed at Rogers’ 2017 farewell concert in Nashville. Kenny Rogers later sang a cover of the Eagles’ hit Desperado, which was written by Henley and Frey. The two wrote Desperado and Tequila Sunrise at about the same time.
Kenny Rogers died in March 2020. Rogers was 81. Don Henley mourned the loss of his dear friend and mentor. And he recalled the first time they met as two Texans with a deep love of music.
“Fifty years ago, the Gambler took a gamble on me and my first band from small-town Texas,” Henley said of Kenny Rogers. “And his big-hearted support launched many careers, including mine. He also gave me some of the best career advice I ever got: ‘You’d better be nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you’re going to meet those same people on the way back down.’”
If you’d like to listen to some classic Don Henley, with music produced by Kenny Rogers, here’s the original Shiloh album. Enjoy some musical nostalgia.