Kenny Rogers made the announcement of his retirement in 2015 and embarked on a farewell tour that took him through 2017. The “Coward of the County” singer celebrated his farwell Wednesday night (Oct. 25) at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
The event, dubbed “All In For The Gambler: Kenny Rogers Farewell Concert Celebration,” featured performances from music’s best including, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Chris Stapleton, Little Big Town, Lady Antebellum, Alison Krauss, Don Henley, Idina Menzel, Jamey Johnson, Wynonna Judd, Naomi Judd, Justin Moore, Elle King and more.
The star-studded evening was hosted by none other than Chip Esten, who portrays Deacon Claybourne on the CMT drama “Nashville.” As Kenny and his wife Wanda sat to the side of the stage, taking it all in with a front row seat, artist after artist came to the stage to pay tribute to “The Gambler” by singing one of his many hits.
First up were The Oak Ridge Boys performing “Love or Something Like It,” followed by Elle King singing First Editions “Tulsa Turnaround” and an all-star performance of “Blaze of Glory” that included Billy Dean, Kim Forester, T. Graham Brown, Rudy Gatlin, Steve Gatlin, Lee Greenwood, T.G. Sheppard, Travis Tritt and Crystal Gayle.
Next up, Justin Moore put his mark on the 1977 hit “Lucille,” while Linda Davis and her daughter, Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, delighted the audience with Kenny’s 1987 hit, “Twenty Years Ago.”
“This is such an unbelievable honor to be here, to be here and share this stage with my mom,” Hillary shared. “This is just such a special moment to celebrate you tonight. This song is really special for us and our family. Not only have we grown up as fans and so influenced and inspired by you, Kenny, but you’ve also been such a dear family friend for almost twenty years, so we want to do this song for you tonight.”
Billy Currington made an appearance to perform “Morning Desire, Aaron Lewis sang the crowd favorite, “Coward of the County” and a moment that brought the crowd to their feet was Wynonna’s stirring rendition of “You Turn The Light On.”
“You know what’s coming next,” Wynonna said to a cheering crowd as she completed her song. “The reason I’m here tonight, my queen, Naomi Judd.” With that Naomi Judd entered the stage to join her daughter for a Judds reunion singing “Back to the Well.”
Rock band The Flaming Lips honored Kenny with a version of “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town, Reba McEntire sang “Reuben James” and Jamey Johnson crooned on “Sweet Music Man” and “Just Dropped in to See (What Condition My Condition Was In),” a hit for Kenny in 1967 with The First Edition.
After a fifteen minute intermission, the show was back at it with a stellar lineup performing the remainder of the show. “Alison Krauss” belted out a beautiful rendition of “Love the World Away,” Kris Kristofferson sang “Me and Bobby McGee” and Don Henley surprised the crowd with “Desperado.”
But the night belonged to the country groups that tackled some of Kenny’s biggest hits with flawless harmonies. Lady Antebellum nailed “She Believes in Me,’ as Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott traded vocals on the 1979 hit. And then there was Little Big Town, who brought the audience to their feet with an extraordinary four-part harmony version of “Through The Years.”
Tony winner Idina Menzel belted out “You Decorated My Life,” and was then joined by Lady A’s Charles Kelley, who couldn’t have sounded any better, on the duet “We’ve Got Tonight.” Lionel Richie honored his friend with a nostalgic version on their collaboration, “Lady”
It was five-time CMA award winner Chris Stapleton, who got the nod to perform one of Kenny’s most well known hits, “The Gambler,” before Dolly Parton took the stage.
Kenny and Dolly sat center stage telling stories of days gone by and reminiscing about the fun times they’ve had. “Good lord, you’re just retiring we’re not dying,” Dolly said to cut through the emotional moments. The two friends then broke into a touching version of “You Can’t Make Old Friends.”
As a surprise to Kenny himself, Dolly turned to her friend and sang her most popular song, “I Will Always Love You,” choking back tears. The two then joined hands to sing “Islands In The Stream” for the final time.
With that performance and an epic mic drop, Kenny Rogers said goodbye.