Roots Watch: Meeting Kenny Rogers

Barry Mazor | May 29th, 2012

Kenny and "Gambler" composer Don Schlitz at the Hall of Fame. Photo by Barry Mazor.Back when I was researching and writing my book Meeting Jimmie Rodgers, at least one friend misheard what I was doing and thought I was dedicating years of work to Kenny Rogers. There were a lot of polite, puzzled “Is that so’s” and ‘How ’bout that’s.”  These two artists strike so many people as so very different that they recoil from speaking the names in the same breath—favoring the monumentalized Jimmie as “traditional” or “more authentic” country or, alternatively, Kenny as “modern” country and a broadly appealing, up-to-date pop star with over 190 million records sold to show for it who, you can rest assured, won’t be regaling you with yodels.

Events of the last few weeks put this pair of alleged opposites practically in my lap. Kenny Rogers performed about a yard away as I attended one of his two Country Music Hall of Fame Artist-in-Residence shows here in Nashville, and just a few days later I traveled to Meridian, Mississippi to contribute to the 59thJimmie Rodgers Festival, which celebrates the life and legacy of the Hall’s iconic first inductee.

On the Hall’s intimate stage, Kenny was utterly professional, assured, and comfortable, whether he was singing a pop-jazz standard like “Walking My Baby Back Home,” his version of “We’ve Got Tonight” (recorded with Sheena Easton, you may recall), originally by that frequent but unforeseen contemporary country role model Bob Seger. And take note, those of you who find Rogers too “mainstream,” he also offered a touching, no histrionics take on John Hiatt’s  “Have a Little Faith.” Rogers was, quite likeable doing them all, sharing his show biz reminiscences, and occasionally leading the select audience in singing the likes of “(You Took a Fine Time to Leave Me) Lucille,” which for my money, was a pretty great hard country record from the get-go.

At 74, Kenny’s less the looming physical presence than he was as the big–bear, bearded leading man in films like The Gambler and Six Pack a generation ago, but the minor diminishments of age seem an oddly good working fit for a singer who always was more of a gentle tenor than the big baritone you’d have expected. Rogers’ essentially modest, simple vocal approach is both the key to his effectiveness—and a key part of his claim to be, for all of the versatility, a country singer.  (If his voice was beginning to show some inevitable signs of age, the polished professional found means to sing every line anew without ill effect; he’s gone from the fast ball to several sorts of careful placement pitches, and they work.)

Yet there are certainly those who see Rogers as not particularly country at all, for the very breadth of the music he’s made, and the Hollywood-Las Vegas sort of style with which he’s often associated.  But is he really all that far disconnected from the neighborhood of that other, historic Mr. Rodgers? Jimmie recorded  “Those Gambler’s Blues” and pop ballads such as “The One Rose,” in Hollywood, no less, appeared in a movie, sang with stars of other genres, and was, in his own day, marketed more as a pop star than a hillbilly specialist. There are parallels, and there have been harder and more pop variations on what country music is and might be from its beginnings, both more often than not accepted—both Hank Williams and Eddy Arnold. And  a very high percentage of country fans, in the world people actually live in, listen to more than one sort of music anyway.

The legitimate question that nags at defenders of  “Set ’em up, Joe, and play ‘Walkin’ the Floor’,” versus the just say yes  “country should be country wide” side of the issue was spelled out well by Mr. Ernest D. Tubb, as he explained why he believed Jimmie Rodgers should be accepted for the “Father of Country Music.”  It wasn’t, he’d note, that Jimmie unfailingly performed what everybody might call country (or hillbilly) music, but that he so clearly and flavorfully maintained his connection to the country audience. He showed his ongoing commitment to them, and showed that he was still one of them, wherever he happened to go.

Country audiences very much take note of that, and allow leeway if you do successfully venture far afield as, say, Kenny’s occasional duet partner Dolly Parton has, as long as they see that connection to where they came from and the people who put them there is never really lost. Kenny Rogers started out in pop and rock, of course, and a case could be made (and by those who are less enthralled, often is) that he stopped by country as a sort of versatile tourist. (As opposed to, say a Don Williams, with similar beginnings but clearer endings.) In the Hall’s Ford Theater, Kenny gently mocked Mel Tillis’s “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town” as more dated, goofball psychedelic sixties like “Just Walked in to See What Condition My Condition Is In,” but I ‘d venture that a lot of people in that room didn’t see that terrific country song quite that way.

What I never have had much tolerance for myself is dismissing an artist because they’ve not mustered enormous sales—or because they have. In Meridian, a few days later, as we celebrated Jimmie Rodgers, such close to the ground, committed acts as Daryl Singletary, with his exquisite honky tonk soul, Blue Mountain, with their very Mississippi, very bluesy, potent mix of instrumental and vocal prowess and alt.country punk aggression, and the rising Cedric Burnside, who can turn a familiar Muddy Waters chestnut inside out into a hill country dance slammer in the tradition of the whole Burnside family. None of these artists—who all have sustaining, working careers to go with their notable talents—are very likely to wind up selling 190 million records, but estimating their potency only by the numbers is for bean counters, not for people who respond to music. Sales figures as large as Kenny’s suggest that he was on to something, though—and that the ear reveals, not every common denominator is low.

So let’s not dismiss Kenny Rogers either–as an artist, or as a part of country.  Mr. Vernon Dalhart, who some called “the daddy of hillbilly” before the Jimmie Rodgers consensus grew, was a light opera singer at heart, no more, if no less, tied to country than to the many other genres he worked, and there’s rightly been room for him as a Country Hall of Fame inductee, if not as an icon of the music, which is something else again. There’s room to celebrate—and should be– both the harder and softer shell country performers, the narrower and broader ones. I was happy to have the chance to enjoy Kenny Rogers before I headed deeper South to celebrate Jimmie.

[Photos by Barry Mazor.]

  1. luckyoldsun
    May 29, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Fascinating article.

    The “Artist In Residence” concept is a bit er, amorphous. The somewhat pretentious title–and honorees like Guy Clark and Buddy Miller–suggest that the program was meant as a way for the Hall to showcase highly esteemed, but-not-commercial-enough-to-be-inducted-into-the-Hall artists of that sort.

    Of course, it also seems to have served as a way station for certain artists to burnish their credentials and earn their ticket to induction in the Hall, like Kris Kristofferson, Tom T. Hall, Vince Gill and Connie Smith.

    Now, though, with Kenny Rogers, they’ve honored someone who’s been kept out of the Hall because he’s been seen as TOO commercial (and presumably not enough of an artiste)!

    Anyway, it sounds like it was a great shows and I wish I could have seen it. I look forward to the induction of Kenny Rogers into the Hall of Fame in 2013–and the naming of next year’s “Artists In Residence”–the Oak Ridge Boys–on the way to their enshrinement in the Hall in 2014.

  2. Jon
    May 30, 2012 at 10:02 am

    The “Artist In Residence” concept is a bit er, amorphous.

    No, it’s, er, not. It’s a pretty well established one, used by scores, if not hundreds, if not thousands, of institutions.

    The somewhat pretentious title–and honorees like Guy Clark and Buddy Miller–suggest that the program was meant as a way for the Hall to showcase highly esteemed, but-not-commercial-enough-to-be-inducted-into-the-Hall artists of that sort.

    No, it, er, doesn’t. As is so often the case with the Hall’s programs, it’s meant as a way for the Hall to showcase a wide variety of, er, artists, whose careers are deemed worthy, by its generally well-qualified and insightful staff, of an extended performance-centered examination and celebration. Some have generated the kind of commercial numbers that you have previously shown are your sole measure of musical value, some haven’t.

    Of course, it also seems to have served as a way station for certain artists to burnish their credentials and earn their ticket to induction in the Hall, like Kris Kristofferson, Tom T. Hall, Vince Gill and Connie Smith.

    Which observation renders the one you served up immediately before it, er, pointless.

    Now, though, with Kenny Rogers, they’ve honored someone who’s been kept out of the Hall because he’s been seen as TOO commercial (and presumably not enough of an artiste)!</I.

    You have, er, no idea why Rogers has been "kept out of the Hall." In fact, given that there is never a shortage of suitable candidates, that entire concept is, er, bankrupt.

  3. Barry Mazor
    May 30, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Just in case anybody may have inferred it, (and maybe no one has), I certainly did not mean to suggest that Kenny Rogers has been “kept out of the Hall” as LuckyOl does.. He may well wind up inducted, given time–which is one of the key things which that takes. I was talking about some reasons some folks go for him more than others.

    The whole notion that there are Dark Establishment Forces in Nashville, sitting around deciding who to thumbs up and thumbs down about everything has always been a popular paranoid fantasy of country fans, usually invoked to explain Why What I LIke Doesn’t Happen More. But to suggest that it’s at work now, when there are so few powerful, effectively organized forces in the revolutionized music business of any sort, is kind of cute.

    One thing that may not be well understood is that the folks at the Country Hall of Fame and Museum have only some pretty limited input in the Hall induction process, mostly informational; they very much DON’T determine who’s admitted. The nominating and voting are administered by the CMA. (And, to state an obvious distinction often ignored–being inducted into the Hall is a very different thing form being covered, or part of an exhibit or show at the Hall. Before anybody jumps the gun to say “So Taylor Swift will be in ten years from now” (even as a joke)–remember that, say, Johnny Horton and Rose Maddox have had significant shares of museum/exhibit space for years and years, and are not inducted, so far.

    Being selected as an Artist-in-Residence by the Hall has a lot to do with having a wide body of work and the ability to put together shows, usually with a number of guests involved, for 2 or 3 nights, usually NOT back to back, but over the course of a summer. That selection may put an artist more in the spotlight and in memory when others make nominations, but since these are decisions made by different people, for different reasons, there’s no automatic correlation. (If you can get Kris Kristofferson or Tom T Hall or Connie Smith, you do–and few argue with their being inducted as well.)

  4. Ken Morton, Jr.
    May 30, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Barry, do you think the Artist in Residence performances by Kenny Rogers will have any influence with voters or bring his HOF candidacy more to the forefront in 2013?

  5. Barry Mazor
    May 30, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    It’s conceivable, Ken–but, as I’m saying–no certainty. Visibility, and in the town where a lot of the voters reside, can only help!

    Connie Smith’s had more of that visibility recently before getting in this year–her recent return to recording, regular Marty Stuart Show TV appearances, guesting on records, and (oh yes–a reminder) the new Bear Family box set I wrote the book for. But it also helped that Jean Shepard got in last year, I believe, because they were likely splitting votes before that. Sometimes, the time’s just turned out to be right–it all comes together.

    I recall Barbara Mandrell having what looked like a sort of “return to country visibility” campaign a few years ago–a salute record to her, a TV special and DVD, more visibility around Nashville, etcetera–but she wasn’t instantly voted into the Hall that year–but soon after. And I don’t know that Hall Induction was the goal here, though it might have been–just getting back in view can have rewards!

  6. nm
    May 30, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Actually, an artist-in-residence generally teaches (at least master classes) for the hosting institution as well as performing. I’ve always been a little sorry that the Hall hasn’t included that component of the residency. I mean, wouldn’t anyone like to attend Connie Smith doing a master class in singing, or Tom T. Hall conducting a songwriting class? Or Jack Clement holding a class in how to be weird?

  7. Barry Mazor
    May 30, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Well, nm, there are sessions almost like that as part of the Hall’s overall educational program,–though they feature artists comfortable with and adept at teaching, which is, of course, no given, and I suspect that most of those artists-in-residence wouldn’t be too comfortable getting up in front of a class, in any formal way, to teach! The CMA, IBMA, AMA, Songwriters associations, etc do have artists, sometimes celebrated ones, offering smaller and specific “master class” sorts of things..

    I suspect that it’s not the easiest thing to clear the time for the level of performers who agree to take on the “In residence” responsibility as it stands..

    Nice thought, though.

  8. Arlene
    May 30, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    “Of course, it also seems to have served as a way station for certain artists to burnish their credentials and earn their ticket to induction in the Hall, like Kris Kristofferson, Tom T. Hall, Vince Gill and Connie Smith.”

    Actually, Kris Kristofferson and Vince Gill served as Artists-in-Residence AFTER being inducted into the CMHOF, as did Earl Scruggs and Jack Clement.

  9. Barry Mazor
    May 30, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    And that. Arlene, is obviously ALSO a good point!

  10. Jon
    May 30, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    The whole notion that there are Dark Establishment Forces in Nashville, sitting around deciding who to thumbs up and thumbs down about everything has always been a popular paranoid fantasy of country fans, usually invoked to explain Why What I LIke Doesn’t Happen More.

    Ha!

  11. luckyoldsun
    May 30, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Arlene,
    Good point–I stand corrected.
    I take your word for it–I guess I’s still amazed that Vince Gill got in so early.

    Jon-
    “Some have generated the kind of commercial numbers that you have previously shown are your sole measure of musical value, some haven’t.”

    You do know that you’re quoting your own previously expressed fantasy now; you’re not quoting–or even paraphrasing–me.

    In any event, if one goes by the stated selection criteria it would not even be possible to come up with a hypothetical, theoretical basis for Kenny Rogers being qualified for the “Artist In Residence” designation but not qualified for the Hall. His selectin next year or the following is pretty much assured.

  12. Barry Mazor
    May 30, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    Thanks for dismissing what I’ve attempted to explain LuckyOl.

  13. Daniel
    May 31, 2012 at 3:14 am

    Connie Smith is always on my cd player, she has an incredible voice and she deserved her induction but would she have made it without husband Marty Robbins gunning for her? I hate the boys club mentality of most of the songwriters and music hall of fame. I believe the Country Music Hall of Fame is over 10-1 male dominated Over 200 men to some 18 or so women. Tammy Wynette should have been inducted at least a decade before her death. The Old Guard is changing, Reba and Connie and a long overdue Jean Shepard finally in. With the induction of artists like Glen Campbell ( who like Kenny, refused to be labled country) other hybrid artists have a shot.The Allman Brothers, C.C.R, Linda Ronstadt, Anne Murray in the Country Music hof? A new wave is coming.

  14. Barry Mazor
    May 31, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Well Daniel, I catch your drift, but I’m not sure I see that last part like you do. Personally, I don’t expect to see CRR (my all-time favorite American ROCK band) or the Allman Brothers in there, and would bet against Ms. Ronstadt, too, though that’s less clear…because I’m unaware of anybody anywhere close who wants to turn it into the Classic Rock Hall of Fame South.. But maybe a guy like Dwight will have a better chance because of the tendencies I think you’re talking about. And maybe a few people the older guard found problematic personally (maybe not without reason) will be easier to see just as artists, not just as somebody who maybe put off too many people once. Webb Pierce did eventually get in, right? (No; no names .)

  15. Daniel
    May 31, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Barry: Your right on for the near future but isn’t country radio today basically Southern Rock? Shania Twain(not one of my faves) is a shoe in in the next decade and she certainly is more a pop rock artist. Seems like Taylor Swift might be buying her ticket for future induction with that 4 million dollar gift to the hall. When the last remnants of the old guard fade out ,it’s a whole different ball game. Your right on with Kenny Rogers: If Elvis and Sonny James are country so is Kenny. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the manipulation of the country charts in the 1950-1970 era. Lots of #1 country singles selling less than 50,000 copies and #1 country albums with less than 75,000 copies sold.. Payola bought radio airplay, sales were not as relevant in some corners. Soundscan got rid of the some of the King Makers. The 12-1 radio airplay rotation of men against women in the golden era is the great example of how sexist the industry was.

  16. Arlene
    May 31, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Daniel- As much as I think some bluegrass artists are worthy and overdue for inclusion in the CMHOF (i.e., The Stanley Brothers), I’ve been told they are unlikely to be inducted since bluegrass has it’s own Hall of Fame. If so, shouldn’t this logic also be extended to some of the artists you’ve mentioned, such as The Allman Brothers and C.C.R., who are already in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

    And if we are going to include non-rock hybrid artists, I think that Doc Watson is long overdue, but it seems he’s commonly viewed as more of a “folk” or possibly bluegrass artist than as a “country” artist.

  17. Barry Mazor
    May 31, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Lets put it this way: it still matters that an act directs itself to the country audience, is oriented towards country charts, venues, etcetera. We can say that there’s a lot of rock and “modern pop” in country acts now (as there has been since at least the 50s, with some acts) but “organized country” knows who goes after the country arena and who doesn’t. It’s the basic distinction that will still get made as long as there’s any distinction to get made.

    By the way Daniel, whoever you may be, you’re bringing informed and intelligent comments and questions here, and that’s very very welcome.. Stick around.

  18. Barry Mazor
    May 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    News flash: Gaylord explicitly announced today that they are NOT selling the Opry or other entertainment properties; they’re selling management of their hotels and use of the “Gaylord Hotels” name to Marriott, while still maintaining ownership over those as a REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust).

    Exact words on that matter: “Gaylord will continue to own and operate the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium and other attractions as taxable REIT subsidiaries. Nothing will change at these iconic assets of the Nashville community, and Gaylord is fully committed to maintaining the legacy of these historic attractions.”

    Details matter.

  19. luckyoldsun
    May 31, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Funny that a reference to Marty Robbins having clout with the H-o-F seemed to go right by without raising any proverbial eyebrows.

  20. Barry Mazor
    May 31, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Obvious typo.
    I believe everyone in this discussion realizes that Marty Robbins is still dead. And while he appeared in the movie “The Road to Nashville’ along with Connie Smith, quite a long time ago, they were never all THAT close. Certainly not close enough for him to go to bat for her (let alone marry her) posthumously.

  21. Jon
    May 31, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Jon-
    “Some have generated the kind of commercial numbers that you have previously shown are your sole measure of musical value, some haven’t.”
    You do know that you’re quoting your own previously expressed fantasy now; you’re not quoting–or even paraphrasing–me.

    Quoting you? No. Accurately summarizing your point of view? According to the sole means you used in making your case as to why Kenny Rogers should have been inducted into the Hall of Fame before sundry others, absolutely.

    In any event, if one goes by the stated selection criteria it would not even be possible to come up with a hypothetical, theoretical basis for Kenny Rogers being qualified for the “Artist In Residence” designation but not qualified for the Hall. His selectin next year or the following is pretty much assured.

    You really are incapable of distinguishing between things that have happened, and things that haven’t happened yet and might never happen at all, aren’t you? Every year, there is an abundance of qualified candidates for entry into the Hall of Fame, and most of them don’t get in. Even if one is utterly convinced that Rogers is well qualified, that just puts him in a pretty sizable crowd – and, just to circle back around, the only argument you ever made for why he’s the mostqualified was framed as a matter of commercial numbers.

    There’s really no shame in being just a regular Joe fan, you know. Spending so much of your anonymous time pretending that you have some kind of informed insight into the inner workings of the Country Music Hall Of Fame, the country music industry, individual artists’ business and musical decisions, etc. is not only foolish, but unnecessary.

  22. luckyoldsun
    May 31, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Any argument for someone to get into the Hall is pretty much going to have to be based on the person’s impact on the market or influence on other performers. If Don Williams–or Tom T. Hall or whoever–had made the exact same recordings that they did, but they had never been played on the radio or otherwise been hits, nobody would suggest they belong in the Hall.
    Personally, I like Dale Watson’s music and I don’t care a lick for Tim McGraw’s. But I can recognize that McGraw is an obvious future Hall-of-Famer and Watson is not–and I wouldn’t complain about that.

  23. Jon
    May 31, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Dude, do you really think that your argument that it was an unconscionable insult to Kenny Rogers that Vince Gill, among others, had been elected to the Hall of Fame before him – an insult because Rogers sold more records, had more radio hits, sold more tickets, etc. – was made so long ago that it’s been forgotten? There’s no need to blather on about Don Williams or Tom T. Hall or Dale Watson or Tim McGraw, or any of that. You were very clear about it – clear enough that, if you’ve now changed your mind on the subject (which would be advisable), you need to be equally clear.

  24. Dave W.
    May 31, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    I happen to love Kenny and his music. He has a great unique voice and has recorded many classics and other simply great songs.

  25. luckyoldsun
    June 1, 2012 at 12:15 am

    OK Jonno, I’ll be equally clear: I didn’t change my mind on the subject–I doubled down!

  26. Daniel
    June 2, 2012 at 3:16 am

    What is the more important criteria for an artist going into the Country Music hof? Impact? Influence? Artistry?. For me, the artist has to have an authentic voice that touched the conscience of the public and it always has to start with the song not the personality . That’s aways been the binding core of country music for me but I think the tent cannot be a purist niche. I firmly believe Ray Charles with his visionary Modern Sounds in Country& Western Music should have been inducted decades ago. I like the thinking track the Rock&Roll hof fame did a couple years ago inducting Wanda Jackson as an early influence. I firmly believe she is owed a place at the table at the Country Music hof along with many other great women who have taken a backseat in an industry that in many ways was stacked against them.. ps .. sorry for refering to Mr. Marty Stewart as Robbins!

  27. Barry Mazor
    June 2, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Here’s how the CMA itself describes the Hall of Fame criteria, for those interested:

    http://www.cmaworld.com/info/hall-of-fame/criteria

  28. Barry Mazor
    June 2, 2012 at 9:05 am

    For what it’s worth, I’d summarize the criteria used as this: It’s made a significant, lasting difference to country music that the person (performer or non-performer) came along. (You don’t even have to have LIKED the difference )

  29. Jon
    June 2, 2012 at 9:53 am

    I like that Barry keeps pointing out that there are non-performers in the Hall of Fame. It’s not a triviality.

  30. luckyoldsun
    June 2, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Barry–
    I think the Basic Standard – “A candidate basically is to be judged on the degree of his or her contribution to the advancement of Country Music and on the indelibility of his/her impact.”–is a better summary than your synopsis. At least the words “contribution” and “advancement” suggest that the candidate’s impact should have been positive!

    The remaining standards–2 through 9–put a nice, formalistic sheen on the thing but they really say nothing other than “Vote for a person if you think he/she is deserving.”

    In point of fact, the standard seems to be that everyone who was a country music megastar for a substantial period of time gets in. Attributes such as technical skill, artistic quality, personality and perseverance can push other candidates over the threshold.

    Daniel–
    The induction of Ray Charles the Country Music Hall of Fame would do more to enhance the stature of the Hall than it would do for the stature of Charles. It’s provincial, shortsighted, and frankly dopey than they did not put him in years ago.

  31. Barry Mazor
    June 2, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    LuckyOl, if you believe everybody agrees on what’s “positive” or even “advancement” for country music, you’ve not been paying enough attention.

    These things are, in the end, subjective, whether you like the way I interpret or summarize the drift or otherwise..Their own words theoretically count; how much so also depends on what nominating committee members and voters take them to mean.

    And for the record, among the music megastars automatically inducted into the Hall of Fame so far, btw, are Roy Horton, Paul Cohen, Joseph Lee Frank, Don Law and Jo Walker-Meador, names which, I’m sure you’ll agree, come rolling off the tongue of every casual country music fan.

  32. luckyoldsun
    June 3, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Barry–

    Yes, I’m aware that people disagree about what’s positive and who belongs in the Hall. No news there.

    And I said everyone who was a megastar gets in.
    I certainly did not say that everyone who was not a megastar gets kept out! (In fact, I’ve objected to the exclusion of a bona fide superstar while lesser performers have gotten in.)

  33. nm
    June 3, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I’m not seeing Shania Twain in the HoF. I don’t even hear people talking about her as a possibility. And I don’t see her as relating to country music, or to megastardom, any differently than Kenny Rogers.

    I’d suggest that artists who didn’t do a lot of work in Nashville, didn’t make a lot of friends here, are going to get fewer votes than artists who did, because voters tend to vote for people they know. (That’s why candidates for public office go out and knock on doors.) Kenny Rogers sold a lot of records. So did Shania Twain. Most of those records weren’t made in Nashville, and didn’t tie either artist to the people who provide the pool of voters for the HoF. Add to that the perception that both of them “left country music,” (and, in Rogers’s case, didn’t start there, either, but just dropped by for a while), and you get what I expect is an additional reason for voters to vote for someone else. Because it isn’t exactly as if there’s no one else out there who deserves to get votes.

  34. Jon
    June 3, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    I’ve objected to the exclusion of a bona fide superstar while lesser performers have gotten in.)

    “Lesser” as in, less commercially successful – demonstrating yet again that luckyoldsun has only one yardstick. Fortunately for people who like country music (emphasis on “music” – something which luckyoldsun rarely, if ever, talks about), it’s not one that the Hall of Fame electors feel constrained to adopt as their sole, or even main criterion.

  35. Barry Mazor
    June 3, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    That’s in part where my column began–with the expression that who’s a “bonafide superstar” is actually less fascinating to some of us than to others. If someone is, my obligation as a reporter is –without favor or hostility–to at least understand why and how that’s happening, how people are responding so. And because, personally, I have respect for the audience I write for and who listen to the music I write about, I’m not going to announce that they must be idiots, fools for marketing, or horse’s arses because they like something that doesn’t move me. I’m also not going to go all red carpet ga-ga because of those sales.

    To slightly alter the slogan of famed country music philosopher and man about town John Rich (Remember him; that’s so 4 years ago)..it’s Music Without Popularity Prejudice.

  36. luckyoldsun
    June 3, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    NM–
    I would not put Shania Twain and Kenny Rogers in the same classification. Kenny Rogers was a country act. He dressed country, sang songs with country themes and in a country style and was viewed by the world at large as a country (& western) star. I have no idea where Kenny Rogers’ records were recorded–I’d guess he recorded in both Nashville and L.A., but I don’t see why that matters. He made hit records of songs by Nashville writers and collaborated with country artists. And he came back to country again and again.

    Shania Twain was a pop star who for whatever reason was promoted through country radio. She had a rather brief career and I do not recall her being an ambassador for country music. I wouldn’t vote for Shania Twain for the Country Music Hall of Fame–though I might vote for her and Mutt Lange for some sort of marketing Hall of Fame.

    Um, Jon–
    I hate to break it to you; hate to burst your bubble, but commercial success DOES, in fact,seem to be a main criterion for Hall of Fame electors–as evidenced by the fact that just about every country superstar gets voted in. Amazing, isn’t it!

  37. Jon
    June 3, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Kenny Rogers was a country act.

    Shania Twain was and is a country act. As you so eloquently put it with respect to Rogers, she was (and is) viewed by the world at large as a country star (I’m omitting your “western,” as the phrase has had no particular bearing on country music for the last half century). Her records, as you admit, were and are played on country radio; she appeared and appears on country TV shows; she was and is covered in the country press; her CDs were and are shelved in the country section of music stores, and her digital tracks appear in the country section of online retailers like iTunes. She’s won country music awards, and she is currently nominated for one. And like Rogers, artifacts from her country music career are sometimes on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum.

    Shania Twain was a pop star who for whatever reason was promoted through country radio.

    She was and is promoted through country radio for the same reason that Rogers was – it was a place where she was successful, and may well be successful again.

    She had a rather brief career…

    You didn’t read the Hall of Fame criteria, did you? (Although, since you bring it up, and since you’re of a purely quantitative bent, it’s worth pointing out that Ms. Twain has sold nearly as many records as Mr. Rogers in a much shorter period of time.)

    …and I do not recall her being an ambassador for country music.

    Perhaps that’s more of a reflection of your awareness and powers of recollection than of Ms. Twain’s career.


    I hate to break it to you; hate to burst your bubble, but commercial success DOES, in fact,seem to be a main criterion for Hall of Fame electors–as evidenced by the fact that just about every country superstar gets voted in.

    And yet, there are many folks who don’t meet your idea of country superstardom who have been voted in and at least one who does who hasn’t been. I take it as another reflection of your powers of recollection that you appear unable to remember that your complaint has been exactly that.

  38. Barry Mazor
    June 3, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    Kenny Rogers began his successful professional–as I wrote–and, again, sorry for taking up your time with actual writing and research that can be ignored without making a dent–in the commercial folk world, moving over to the vaguely psychedelic pop/rock world with the original First Edition (as in “Just Walked In”) and emigrated into country., before broadening that, again, with a huge general pop AND country following.

    Of course, a point of my column that started all this was “but yes; he, too IS country; don';t dismiss that.” But to say it like it’s self-evident, and moreso than someone like the supposedly very different Shania, because you feel that way about him, and not her, is unenlightening typing, and not clarifying, no matter how often it’s retyped.

  39. Jon
    June 3, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Of course, a point of my column that started all this was “but yes; he, too IS country; don’;t dismiss that.” But to say it like it’s self-evident, and moreso than someone like the supposedly very different Shania, because you feel that way about him, and not her, is unenlightening typing, and not clarifying, no matter how often it’s retyped.

    Well, exactly. And personally, I wouldn’t be particularly unhappy if Rogers were put in the Hall of Fame. But to act as though it’s self-evident, not only that he belongs there, but that he belongs there ahead of folks already in there and everyone else who hasn’t yet been voted in, too, is just ridiculous.

  40. nm
    June 3, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    I would not put Shania Twain and Kenny Rogers in the same classification.

    Ah. So the Country Music Hall of Fame exists to ratify your prejudices?

    I’m pointing out, as someone who doesn’t have all that much of an axe to grind on the question, some possible reasons why neither of them is in the HoF and may have more trouble getting inducted than their level of sales might suggest at first glance. You may not think that my point has any merit. But it’s a fact that despite their sales (and Twain’s are impressive), neither of them is in the Hall. So what’s your explanation of why that is, if mine doesn’t work?

  41. Barry Mazor
    June 3, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    Technically, I think, counting from the time of her first major release, Ms. Twain’s not quite eligible yet!

  42. luckyoldsun
    June 4, 2012 at 1:40 am

    Barry–
    I look at Kenny Rogers and see a guy who makes records about drinking, cheating, gambling and fighting(in addition to straight love songs)– who has made many records with production that highlights his gruff vocal and an accoustic guitar; and who has been singing his songs in concert and placing his records on the country charts for 40 years (and hitting the top of the country chart for 20-plus years). Sorry for saying it–because people hear are so damn touchy–but Yes, it’s “self-evident” that he’s a country artist–and pretty close to self-evident that he merits induction in a HoF that honors George Morgan, Ferlin Husky and Vince Gill.

    Shania Twain’s vocals fronted a bunch of heavily produced records that topped the charts in the late ’90s. More power to her!

    Jon–
    Yes, I read the Hall-of-Fame “criteria”–a bunch of formal sounding verbiage that boils down to “Vote for a person if you believe they deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.” So what.

    NM–

    “Ah. So the Country Music Hall of Fame exists to ratify your prejudices? ”
    “You may not think that my point has any merit.”

    I don’t consider my opinions prejudices. They’re simply my opinions. I’m not prejudiced against Shania Twain because she’s Canadian or Indian or Swiss or whatever. The Country Music Hall of Fame exists to do whatever the owners of the property want to do with it.

    I didn’t say your opinion has no merit. It has plenty of merit. I just happen not to agree with the part that equates Rogers and Twain. As far as your analysis of why Rogers has not been inducted: I don’t disagree with it.

  43. Jon
    June 4, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Apparently, it hasn’t occurred to luckyoldsun that, when you make the argument that Kenny Rogers’ records are country while Shania Twain’s aren’t because of the way they sound, then any other anonymous internet troll can come along and – with equal legitimacy – make the argument that Merle Haggard’s records are country while Kenny Rogers aren’t because of the way they sound. But the way that records sound has never been the alpha and omega of why some music is considered country and other music isn’t, and sometimes it’s been neither the alpha *nor* the omega.

    Yes, I read the Hall-of-Fame “criteria”–a bunch of formal sounding verbiage that boils down to “Vote for a person if you believe they deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.” So what.

    Well, then, what are you complaining for? That a bunch of reasonably well-informed, reasonably thoughtful people who actually know something about country music and the country music industry haven’t so far shared your belief? That would suggest that you do, in fact, believe that the Country Music Hall of Fame exists to ratify your prejudices (which, by the way, is a perfectly accurate word here). Which it doesn’t.

  44. nm
    June 4, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    I don’t consider my opinions prejudices.

    One never does.

  45. Daniel
    June 4, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    Aside from Kenny Rogers amazing solo career, he made some great duets records with Dolly Parton and Dottie West. He gave Dottie two gold albums( the only ones of her career) and I believe his duet with Dolly( Island In The Streams) is one of only a handful of multiple million selling country singles from the 80’s or any era. He played a pivotal role in the globalization of country music. One only has to look at Lionel Richees recent #1 album to know he is still relevant and overdue for induction. Barry: I have really enjoyed reading your great ‘No Depression’ articles. Thanks for encouraging a middle age man( who does not have the best diction in the world) to voice his opinion.

  46. luckyoldsun
    June 4, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    “But the way that records sound has never been the alpha and omega of why some music is considered country and other music isn’t, and sometimes it’s been neither the alpha *nor* the omega.”

    You got me there, Jonno.
    I don’t know what the flak you’re talking about, but I certainly cannot refute it!

    Daniel:
    Thanks–I’m glad that at least somebody else here shares what I was getting at, and probably said it better than I did. The the breadth and depth of Rogers’ accomplishments in the country music business and the success that he’s brought to others are so vast and so unique that his merit for the H-o-F is patently manifest.

  47. nm
    June 4, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    But, clearly, Kenny Rogers’s accomplishments are not so patent or so manifest that the voters for HoF inductees agree with you. Obviously, there are others they consider better qualified. Some of us have tried to explain to you that what’s obvious to you isn’t, objectively, obvious to everyone. Some of us (starting with Barry Mazor’s column itself) have tried to suggest to you some reasons that there isn’t universal agreement. Your continuing to repeat that Rogers’s qualifications really are obvious (and, by implication, that since they’re obvious everyone who doesn’t see what you see, including the HoF voters, is either blind or corrupt) is getting kind of old. I’d love to have a conversation with you, but you don’t want to converse. So I’m out of this thread.

  48. Jon
    June 4, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    clearly, Kenny Rogers’s accomplishments are not so patent or so manifest that the voters for HoF inductees agree with you.

    And to quote ol’ luckyoldsun him- (or is that her-?) self, so what? I’m finding it hard to imagine a single Hall of Fame elector losing even a nanosecond’s worth of sleep over the disagreement.

  49. Daniel
    June 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Just one more point for me on Kenny Rogers: Even his First Edition pop smash, ‘Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town’ was really a country song in my book. Written by Country Music Hall of Fame Inductee Mel Tillis: its a great story song in the same vein as The Long Black Veil, Ode to Billie Joe, El Paso ect. Does anyone know if it dented the country charts?

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