The King is Not Elvis, but Kenny Rogers

"I know it’s late. I know you’re weary. I know your plans don’t include a shirtless Kenny Rogers on your sun porch. But there he is; the screen door was unlocked, and he was thirsty. Water would have been fine, but all he found was Chivas. So he’s drinking that. Neat. He’s ridden his covered wagon here from east Texas. Or maybe it’s a Maserati. Doesn’t matter. There’s his chest hair. These are your fingers. If, at this point, your plans don’t include running those fingers through Kenny Rogers’ chest hair, then what’s the point of planning?"

This marks the world’s first attempt at erotic fiction involving Kenny Rogers. It’s amazing it took this long, that the territory’s yet to be covered — because Kenny Rogers has covered a lot of territory in his 58-year career. Alas, the Gambler is finally walking away from the table: This current tour, which stops at Comerica Theatre in Phoenix on Sunday, June 26, will be his last.

Without Kenny’s omnipotence, odds are we’d have never seen Blake Shelton turn around in his giant chair on The Voice. Kenny’s a man, but he’s more than a man. He’s a brand, but he’s more than that, too. He’s a musician, an actor, a restaurateur, a producer, a stand-up comic, a one-man variety show — an entertainer in full. He can probably fix your fuckin’ dirt bike. He doesn’t need a wax replica at a museum somewhere, because his face is (surgically) frozen in time. He starred in Six Pack back when the term meant enough beer for a Saturday afternoon, not something Tim McGraw did to his stomach muscles.

This is Kenny Rogers’ last hurrah, but he’s been your sexy grandpa forever. When your dad got laid off, you put on Kenny Rogers to make you feel better. When your brother went off to war, you put on Kenny Rogers to convince yourself that he’d come back alive. When you caught a jumbo bass, you repaired to the campground, got blotto, and put on Kenny Rogers to celebrate. When your wife emerged in a Vicky’s Secret negligee, you started a roaring fire, put on Kenny Rogers, and took your love to town. Kenny Rogers is warmth, in all its various incarnations.

Without Kenny Rogers, country music would still be relegated to honky-tonks and stock-car ovals. With Kenny Rogers, the genre exploded into America’s living room. Look at the salt in Kenny’s beard, the jolly gut. Hear the gravel in his voice. It’s a bumpy ride, but the melody is smooth. You’d do anything for Papa Kenny, and he’d do anything for you.

When Kenny Rogers shows up to play, people race to the stage in waves, simply for a chance to touch his hand. It’s more like a papal visit than a proper concert. Queen Elizabeth had a dream last night, and the Gambler was in it. Kenny’s the king, and Elvis is still dead. 

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