Kenny Rogers biography is one to hold onto

  • Posted: Friday, November 23, 2012 6:00 p.m.
    UPDATED: Friday, November 23, 2012 8:47 p.m.

“Luck or Something Like It” by Kenny Rogers

c.2012, William Morrow

$27.99, 294 pages

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

Bookworm

Throughout your life, you’ve learned a lot from your music.

You know where Joltin’ Joe has gone, and what you might want to do if it’s your party. You’ve gotten dancing lessons from songs, reasons for walking the line, and symptoms for pneumonia and boogie-woogie flu. You’ve even heard instructions on counting, spelling, languages, and when to hold ‘em or fold ‘em.

You can learn a lot from your tunes. And as you’ll see in the new book “Luck or Something Like It” by Kenny Rogers, the singer of those songs gets a lot out of them, too.

Kenneth Rogers started life poor.

Born into a Houston housing project in 1938, Rogers was the fourth child of an alcoholic father and a mother who spouted lasting wisdom. He recalls being a quiet boy in school and a good boy at home, thanks to his mother’s lessons, but the most enduring memories were of times spent at his grandfather’s East Texas farm.

Every now and then, Rogers says, his father’s family would gather there to play music and sing. His father was on fiddle, one uncle dragged out the organ, and two others had guitars. Rogers says he sat with his feet under the porch, beating rhythm on the floor with his hands.

Though he was “girl crazy” when young, he was also guitar crazy and took advantage of a local music store owner’s generosity in a “picker’s corner.” Rogers saved diligently to buy his first guitar and it wasn’t long before he started a band. That was a great way to learn, but it didn’t last and Rogers went solo – both professionally and personally when his first marriage dissolved.

That hurt, but it didn’t ruin his momentum. He recorded a minor hit, became “Kenny,” appeared on American Bandstand, and ended up in a jazz band, which opened doors for his career.

He met many performing stars, left the jazz band, then joined the New Christy Minstrels. When they disbanded, some members formed The First Edition and, because of an accidental stroke of luck, Kenny Rogers was that group’s first big name.

When The First Edition broke up, Rogers “didn’t know how to be a solo singer.”

Within two years, he learned fast.

I’ve read my share of celebrity biographies and I can tell you that the vast majority of them make my eyes roll. But this one is different. This one is good.

Really good.

Reading this book reminded me of dusky summer evenings, porch swings, and good friends. Author Kenny Rogers tells stories that are entertaining and sometimes funny, with good and bad tales and, in a few cases, admitted responsibility for wrongs. Rogers writes of his five marriages, his friends, his career, family, and things that interest him – and that’s what keeps readers interested, too.

Fans are going to like this book especially, but I’m tickled to say that there’s something here for anybody who ever heard Rogers sing. Grab the pages of “Luck or Something Like It,” and you’ll want to hold ‘em.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been a professional book reviewer for more than a decade. She lives in Wisconsin.

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