Kenny Rogers (#1 country, #28 pop, 1977)
“Kenny never worked a day in his life,” Kenny Rogers’ mother Lucille once told Billboard Magazine. “That boy just kept on singin’!”
Born in Houston, Texas on August 21, 1938, Rogers displayed his keen business sense early when he sold newspapers at a local street corner. Shrewdly, he sublet the location to a classmate and made money without ever touching the newsprint. As a high school senior, he formed his first band, the Scholars.
Although Kenny tried selling office equipment for two years, music again called. He earned a gold single in 1958 for “That Crazy Feeling,” joined a local group, the Bobby Doyle Trio, and played stand-up bass on some early Mickey Gilley sessions in Houston.
By 1966, Rogers was hired as a member of the New Christy Minstrels. A year later, four of the group’s members formed the First Edition. They hit pay dirt in 1969 when their recording of Mel Tillis’ “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town” (with Kenny singing lead) went to #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.
Harvard graduate Ken Kragen managed the group and when it broke up in 1975, he retained Rogers as a client. After Kenny had joined the United Artists label, the resulting association with producer Larry Butler provided a crucial piece of the puzzle for his later successes.
In the immediate aftermath of the United Artists signing, Rogers was adrift. He had no real idea where he was going in his music career. Kenny had no band and no money to hire one. He strongly considered getting out of the business altogether. Then someone came along that believed in him. It was his new producer Larry Butler.
Through the record company, Butler brokered a deal which offered Rogers $15,000 cash up front per album and a two-album per year guarantee. The contract thus allowed him enough money to hire a band for six months to get things going. Kenny called it “the domino theory.” He said, “You have to get that first domino moving before you can move the second domino, and Larry allowed me to get that first domino.”
Another big break came with the second single from Rogers’ second United Artists album. It was Hal Bynum and Roger Bowling’s “Lucille,” one of country and pop music’s biggest records in 1977. There was no stopping Kenny after that and “Daytime Friends” quickly fell in line behind it – a gift from songwriter Ben Peters, who had already penned two of the decade’s biggest hits: “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” by Charley Pride in 1971 and “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” by Freddy Fender in 1975.
Peters came up with the line “daytime friends and nighttime lovers” after watching weatherman Pat Sajak (later of TV’s “Wheel of Fortune” fame) talk about “daytime highs and nighttime lows” on his weather report on Nashville’s WSM-TV. Ben fashioned the rest of “Daytime Friends” in short order after that. Elvis Presley intended to record “Daytime Friends,” but he died before he got the chance. Kenny Rogers had already cut and released the song as a single anyway.
At the session, producer Larry Butler gave the tune an unusual treatment. He copied the guitars onto extra tracks to “fatten” the sound and ended up with the equivalent of 18 guitars – 4 electric and 14 rhythm – in the final product. It likewise fattened Kenny’s cache, providing him with the second of his 21 number one country hits. “Daytime Friends” reached the top of Billboard’s country singles chart on October 1, 1977.