Friends, after finishing up that article the other evening on release of the Army of the Dead trailer, which as I pointed out was wise to use Kenny Roger’s popular “The Gambler” tune during the preview, I had the hankering to pull out his 1978 album of the same name. As I was sitting listening to the LP I couldn’t help but think back to when I first heard it at my grandparents on a weekend long ago. Which also reminded me of the time that Kenny Rogers was the special guest on The Muppet Show, a beloved television series that I would watch while spending the weekends with my grandfather and grandmother. While I was not the biggest fan of country and western music as a kid, it was these weekends with my grandparents that I did develop a love for the likes of Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Horton, The Oakridge Boys, Dolly Parton, and of course Kenny Rogers.
To be completely honest, my grandfather wasn’t exactly a fan of The Muppet Show, I think he found it to be far too silly. He would either fall asleep on the couch while it was playing or he would tinker on his motorcycle out in the garage when I was watching the show. I do remember him paying attention though when Kenny Rogers appeared on the October 1979 episode of the series, ending up performing “Love Lifted Me” from the 1975 album of the same name in addition to “The Gambler”.
The character of the Gambler during the segment was performed by the late and great Jerry Nelson. The talented puppeteer who brought us the likes of Count von Count and the original Mr. Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street, as well as Sgt. Floyd Pepper, Crazy Harry, and Uncle Deadly on The Muppet Show – to name just a very few of the characters he brought to life in the 47 years he was active as a performer.
You might be interested to know that Kenny Rogers was not the first artist to record “The Gambler”, that honor goes to Don Schlitz who also wrote the song back in August of 1976. As I understand it, Schlitz tried to get other artists and labels interested in the song for two years before Bobby Bare ended up recording it for his album entitled Bare. Besides Schlitz and Bare, Johnny Cash would release it on his Gone Baby album. The tune however didn’t take off until Kenny Rogers recorded a cover of it for his sixth studio album which he entitled The Gambler, so if you are keeping count that is four artists who recorded and released the song in 1978 alone.
Kenny Rogers would earn a Grammy for Song of the Year and Best Male Country Vocal Performance, to say nothing of the fact that “The Gambler” would reach #1 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs as well as nabbing the number 3 spot for Adult Contemporary and even taking the 16th slot on their Hot 100 list.