Last night on The Colbert Report, country legend Kenny Rogers sat down to discuss his new memoir Luck or Something Like It. At the top of the interview, Colbert ran down Rogers’ resume as a recording artist, and it’s easy to forget how massively successful the guy has been for as long as he has: 120 million albums sold worldwide, a hit in each of the last six decades, and a ranking as the eighth-best-selling male vocal artist of all time (just behind Springsteen, and just in front of Neil Diamond).
Of course, Rogers is an exquisite storyteller, able to get across a range of ideas and emotions in songs like “Lucille” and “The Gambler.” That breezy, conversational tone comes across on the page as well as in conversation with Colbert, which you can check out here.
Here are five other delightful revelations from Luck or Something Like It.
Dolly Parton cannot love the sea, for she is married to her hairpiece
Rogers was on tour with his “Islands in the Stream” collaborator in Australia in 1987 when the pair was invited to sail with the America’s Cup team. Rogers hopped on, but Parton bowed out—not because she was afraid of boats, as Rogers inferred, but because she was afraid her hairpiece would be blown off and didn’t want to look strange during an interview later on.
His best collaboration was never recorded
Rogers has done duets with a number of huge artists over the course of his career, but his tag-team with Ray Charles—one of his idols—never made it onto a record. The song, “Lady Luck,” was only performed once on a TV special.
Even Jamaicans dig “The Gambler”
Rogers tells a story about hanging out in a bar in Jamaica and getting the stink eye from a handful of dreadlocked locals. When he and manager Jim Mazza tried to duck out, they were intercepted by the group, who began singing “The Gambler” at them.
Charles Barkley will help you with NBA Finals tickets, subterfuge
Freshly divorced from his fourth wife, Rogers began dating Wanda Miller in 1993. Wanda was more than half his age at the time (he was 54, she was 26), and Rogers kept the relationship low profile to sidestep any scandal. They were in Chicago during the NBA Finals that year, and Rogers wanted to get tickets to see the Bulls play the Phoenix Suns. He tried to get in touch with Michael Jordan to get seats but ended up running into Charles Barkley, who set him up with four tickets. The two pairs were on opposite sides of the arena, which allowed Rogers to avoid being seen in such a public place with young Wanda on his arm. It ended well for Rogers, who is still married to Wanda (they got hitched in 1997), but less so for Barkley, whose team lost the Finals in six games.
Jerry Seinfeld may or may not have actually shut down Kenny Rogers Roasters
Rogers has mixed feelings about his chicken franchise, and he admits he really enjoyed the classic late-run episode of Seinfeld that is devoted to the place. At the end of the episode, the franchise across the street from Jerry’s building shuts down, and Rogers notes wryly that it was an ominous coincidence. “Maybe the Seinfeld episode had more effect than we had anticipated,” he writes. “We went out of business about a year later.”