"I'm glad it happened at this stage in my life rather than at the peak of my career, because I think it could have gotten shuffled around when you have a lot of things going on"
Early in the days of Kenny Rogers' recording career, he was going through a rough period financially. As he was looking around, hoping to shake some money from the trees, he recalled that he had written a song for Country Music Hall of Fame member Eddy Arnold.
"It was called 'Don't Laugh At My Love,' and it was on his album," recalled Rogers to Billboard on Wednesday. "I didn't know how you collected royalties. I was in California, and was going out with the First Edition and I was broke as I could be. The publisher was out there, so I called them, and said 'Is there any chance...' and she said 'We've been looking for you. We have a check for $3,500.' That was twenty million dollars to me. She asked if they could mail it to me, and I said 'No, I'll come get it.'"
That check kept Rogers afloat, and was one of many memories the singer spoke about this morning at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. Rogers was announced as the newest inductee into the Hall in their "Modern Era" category. Rogers, who has made such classics as "The Gambler" and "Lucille" not just hit songs, but part of American culture, reflected on the honor.
"Where do you start? It's not just an award for best song or album of the year. This is a lifetime achievement award with some of the best in the business. It doesn't take long to walk around here and see what it really means. I'm glad it happened at this stage in my life rather than at the peak of my career, because I think it could have gotten shuffled around when you have a lot of things going on. When you're in the fast lane, you don't stop to smell the roses, so to speak."
Joining Rogers in the Hall in the "Veterans' Category" is Bobby Bare. The Ohio native first tasted success with his 1958 recording of "The All American Boy" on Fraternity Records, though the name was mistakenly listed as Bill Parsons, a friend of Bare's. RCA Victor got the name right, as Bare signed with the label in the early 1960s. Under the guidance of Chet Atkins, Bare became one of the most consistent hitmakers of the day, with songs like "Shame On Me," "Detroit City," and "Marie Laveau." A switch to Columbia in the late 1970s resulted in more hit records, like "Numbers." Still a favorite, Bare released the well-received Plowboy release Darker Than Light, which included his versions of songs as varied as "Tennessee Stud" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."
Being inducted in the Non-Performer category is musician-writer "Cowboy" Jack Clement. A native of Memphis, Clement learned his trade under Sam Phillips at Sun Records during the label's heyday. He worked with acts such as Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison, and was responsible for discovering Jerry Lee Lewis, recording him while Phillips was away, and leaving a tape of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" on his desk. He also wrote many of Johnny Cash's biggest hits, including "Guess That Happened That Way," and arranged his 1963 classic "Ring Of Fire." He also was responsible for the early success of Charley Pride, supervising his recordings, and penning "I Know One" and "Just Between You And Me."
Clement also operated Jack's Tracks, the first 16-track facility in Nashville, and produced artists ranging from Waylon Jennings to John Prine to Louis Armstrong in what is truly one of the most versatile careers in music history.
Rogers, Bare, and Clement will be celebrated at the annual invitation-only Medallion Ceremony later this year.
- Country