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Arts and Music

‘The Gambler’ Returns To Westbury

Kenny Rogers Continues His Tradition Of A Holiday Show At Westbury

It will soon be Dec. 23, and on that day Long Islanders will be waiting for the famous celebrity with a beard to make his appearance. Santa? No. Actually it’s country mega star Kenny Rogers. Keeping a 30-year tradition, the man famous for hits such as “The Gambler,” “Through the Years,” “You Decorated My Life,” and “Lady,” will be performing at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury. Rogers comes to Westbury every year right before Christmas, and it’s his last show of the year.

“It has great memories for me,” said Rogers of the Westbury Theater. “We have kids that started out with us 30 years ago, that are grown and have children. It’s really kind of fun to see some of them when we come in. Westbury has always been so good to us. There are very few cities that we work as many times as we have at Westbury

So, even though he is away from his southern home, in a way, Rogers is actually coming home for the holidays. He says he is quite comfortable with the theater as he knows all of the details, so instead of having to wait for directions, he and his crew can get right to work, preparing for the popular annual show.

“We have a tendency to go out and look around,” he says of Long Island. “It’s usually so cold by the time we get there. I’m a photographer. I try to get out and take pictures but by the time we get there, we are in the throes of your winter.”

However, one of the nice things about coming to an area where winter has started is the chance to see some snow for the holidays. He plans on bringing his twin 8-year-old sons so they can experience that. With the warm winter Long Island experienced last year, there was not a flake to be found when Rogers and his colleagues rolled into town, but there is still a better chance of seeing snow here than in Atlanta, where he and his family will head to after his Westbury performance.

“I think it’s kind of fun that we get to get out and have a good time and [possibly] enjoy the snow, get back on the bus and then we go back to Atlanta where it snowed 12 years ago,” he says with a chuckle.

While Rogers may not get to experience much snow, he has experienced a tremendous amount of success. His career, which began in the ’50s, is still going strong today. He has charted a hit in each of the last seven decades and a new album is planned for the spring. He spoke about some of his most memorable hits.

“‘The Gambler’ was definitely a career maker but “Lucille” was the first one,” he says. “‘Lucille’ was where it all exploded and took off and from there you work on momentum. If you have a hit, you’re more likely to get another hit. If the first one’s not a hit, you work twice as hard to get the second one. In my case, ‘Lucille’ just exploded. We just couldn’t hold it back which made having all those other songs, not easym but much easier.”

Despite all of the hits he has had, Rogers says that he makes sure he stays true to his style of music, and is not as concerned with just singing songs. He states that his music falls into two categories. He describes the first category as “ballads that say what every man would like to say and every woman would like to hear.” Examples of this would be “Through The Years,” “She Believes in Me,” “You Decorated My Life,” and “Buy Me A Rose.” He also puts “Lady” into this category and calls it “very special.” The other category, he says, are songs that tell a story such as “The Gambler.”

“‘The Gambler’ was literally not so much about gambling but the concept of living,” says Rogers. “Risk when it’s worth it, don’t risk when you shouldn’t. Those are the things I specialized in and I enjoy doing most.”

In addition to his music, Rogers has also just completed an autobiography titled, Luck or Something Like It. He said that the writer who he was working with tragically passed away. Instead of seeking out someone else, Rogers decided to take control of the project and write it himself to make it more personable.

“I’ve done some great things musically,” he comments. “I’ve been involved with some incredible people and there’s some fun stories that have happened in my life so what I tried to do is tell the stories as I remember them.”

And while Rogers may have some great stories to tell, he still is working to create more memories. He said that his sons are exceptional, and by bringing them to Westbury he is hoping to create for them some magical memories that they will cherish. He has been married to his current wife, Wanda, for 15 years. And so many years after he began his career, he remains an icon in the music industry.

“My life is really good,” he says.