A man Rogers at first took to be a rude fan first pitched "Reuben James" to Rogers at a golf match. The man, who turned out to be a song pitcher for American songwriter Alex Harvey followed him around the greens singing the song until Kenny listened. Rogers loved the song's look at a black man raising a white boy and agreed to record it. During his absence he was replaced by Kin Vassy. Vassy's style was a little more edgy than Settle's, allowing the band to explore different areas.
It was now that Kenny and Terry, by default, became the leaders of the band. Kenny was in charge of the records, and Terry would take control of their stage presentation. The group continued to record country, rock, and folk by fairly equal measures, blurring the lines among the genres. Along with Jerry Lee Lewis , Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley , their records in the late s brought country music to the city and rock and roll to the country.
Even if Jones had not also discovered Don Henley , the First Edition should get credit for being pioneers of a more modern blend of rockabilly called country rock.
A blatantly sexual song, it was slightly hindered chart-wise by the controversy surrounding it. Regardless, Kenny's soft voice on verses and rock shouting on the chorus earned the group much acclaim. Meanwhile, Terry Williams had begun to record some solo singles. A number of folk rock songs met with little success.
He later switched to a more teen-oriented bubblegum sound that their manager Ken Kragen felt would appeal to his fans. The title track also written by Harvey , which dealt with love and brotherhood, was a national top 20 hit and topped WRKO 's August 13, top 30 survey for one week. It was the first of many songs Kenny would sing e. Released a month or so after the Kent State shootings , the song drew a standing ovation the night it debuted live.
In addition to the band's continuing frequent appearances on television, songs by Kenny Rogers and The First Edition were featured in two films. First up was the never released on record "If Nobody Loved" for the camp political comedy Flap. The Fools soundtrack was released in Another song about the need for brotherhood, it was seen as an uptempo counterpart to the balladry of "Tell It All Brother. Though scoring high on the easy listening charts, "Someone Who Cares" failed to reach the pop top fifty.
This ushered in a period during which the First Edition attempted to retool its image. Keyboard player John Hobbs was briefly in the lineup, but, though he played on future recordings, was not in the group long enough to appear on any album covers or publicity photos. The special provided an unusually in-depth look at the group, all of whom were at ease speaking in front of the camera.
In mid the First Edition released a gospel single called "Take My Hand", which barely scraped into the bottom of the charts. After the success of a pilot shot in late , the fall of saw Kenny Rogers and the First Edition become hosts of their own television series Rollin' On the River.
Later to be shortened to Rollin , this was a variety show that was taped in Canada taking advantage of recently imposed Canadian content requirements which geared itself toward rock, blues, and folk performers and groups.
The show also gave the First Edition a chance to do the comedy Kenny and Terry had long made a part of their act. Though it got good ratings, Rollin did have one ill side effect: the First Edition were now seen as television personalities instead of recording stars.
It was the first First Edition 45 not to chart since Recorded over six months in , and released in March , The Ballad of Calico was written by future star Michael Murphey and the First Edition's musical director and arranger Larry Cansler.
Cansler replaced Hobbs on stage during this period, but despite his large creative role here, and on Rollin' On the River, he was not promoted on either as a member of the group. The album was a country rock opera about a late 19th-century mining town, but unlike most like-minded projects of the era, all of the songs were based on fact. The sleeve and booklet of this two-LP set had genuine and period-styled photos depicting the era, with all of the lyrics presented in hand-written script.
The music was critically well received, with all of the group outside of Mickey taking at least one lead. The song chosen for a single was "School Teacher," an acoustic rhythm and blues song with a lead by Kin. In retrospect it's easy to understand the probable reasons the artistically valid "School Teacher" didn't get past No. Putting out a First Edition single where Rogers was not prominent had already shown itself to be a gamble, plus lyrics written to reflect the sexist views of the 19th century sounded odd outside of the LP's concept.
Frustrated by the falling sales the album hardly sold at all , Vassy began to let a drinking habit get out of control. Jimmy Hassell joined the group about six months later to replace Kin. Lorenzo was a keyboard and piano virtuoso. Hassell was a hard rock singer similar to Vassy, and physically resembled a friend of Terry's, actor Gary Busey. Both fit in well, without making the public impression of the original members. Around the time the new members hopped on board, Rogers formed his own label, Jolly Rogers distributed by MGM , Rogers retained the name when he started his own publishing company as a solo artist and the group left Reprise.
The third single from the album, a version of Merle Haggard 's "Today I Started Loving You Again" reached the lower regions of the country charts in mid Then came a soundtrack from Rollin'.
Now in its second year, an album of live versions of the "Calico" songs and hits like "Ruby," "Reuben James" and "Just Dropped In" could have sold quite well, bringing proven hits to the Jolly Rogers label at the same time. The album did not check the group's declining sales, and the TV show was soon canceled.
The group increasingly played on the county fair circuit. It was decided that a new image far away from their TV persona was required. Monumental tried to give them just this. Combining a wide variety of styles, it ranged from a Rogers-written rocker about prostitute "Morgana Jones" later rerecorded by Rogers for his album The Gambler in to the nostalgic "42nd Street. As he would continue to do in his solo career, Rogers cloaked some mature subject matter with a gentle delivery.
The Dr. Though in tune with other music of the day, Monumental was one of their biggest sales failures in the United States, but in New Zealand it went gold. Following on the local success of "Rollin'" and the understated ballad "Lady, Play Your Symphony," Kenny's rocking nursery rhyme "Lena Lookie" went to number six, and the group embarked on three New Zealand tours over the next two years. As their domestic popularity continued to decline, Terry wanted to focus on the hard rockers that had done so well for them overseas.
Kenny disagreed, wanting a more conservative agenda. Kenny admitted in his book Making It With Music, that he perhaps should not have complained about MGM's poor distribution on a radio show, but despite their mounting problems, New Zealand continued to consider the First Edition as superstars.
The problem was that they had to go halfway around the world to benefit from their success, and travel expenses ate a big chunk out of their profits. The US LP was basically going to be the same but with two new cuts replacing the two songs reused from "Monumental.
A mix of new songs and remakes possibly done because some songs were not available in New Zealand , "Love Woman" was now a hard rock jam featuring Jimmy on lead. It was the band's ironic last single. It charted well, but again only in New Zealand. A last-ditch effort to jumpstart their domestic careers was done in late when they filmed a television movie called The Dream Makers. A drama about the music biz, they played the group Catweazel.
It was a small role with only Kenny and Mickey speaking any major lines. Despite the film giving them a chance to perform recent songs, the exposure did not halt their decline. Kenny had become short on money by , and was in debt when he decided to hawk guitar lesson records on a commercial.
Wanting to give a solo career a shot, Terry left in the late spring of Kenny was upset but agreed to it, succeeding in getting Kin to come back so they could fill their pending engagements. Though he was hired to stay permanently, the reunion with Vassy did not go well and he ended up playing only one night.
This more or less marked the point where The First Edition agreed to split. Mickey, realizing that it was time to move on, was the first to decide to leave in order to pursue his other dream, which was acting. Though the group would finish their pending obligations, Kenny began recording as a solo act that fall. The First Edition played their last scheduled shows in the fall of at Harrah's in Reno. Without Mickey Jones there were a few First Edition gigs in early , done as a favor to Kenny who had not yet formed his solo band.
Kenny later said that writing the song "Sweet Music Man" made him cut his hair and let it go gray, plus get rid of the earring. The song may have played a part in his future middle of the road image, but the change did not happen until almost a year after it was written. This was to become one of Rogers' most covered compositions, and he himself had a No.
Considering the band's then low profile, Kenny Rogers had an uncertain future when he signed a solo deal to United Artists in Searching for a new image, he soon developed a more middle-of-the-road, gravel-voiced style.
For the rest of the decade and beyond he had hit after hit. During his time with UA later taken over by Liberty he topped the country and pop album charts for a grand total of 90 weeks and sold more records than anyone in country music. Kenny Rogers continued to tour, including classic material by the First Edition in his performances, before retiring in Thelma Camacho did a few solo records in the s and s and one LP in She moved to Europe in the s and lost contact with the rest of the group until Thelma also recorded in Europe under the name Tess Ivie the latter being her husband's last name.
Today, she lives in California and runs a jewelry store. Mary Arnold married singer Roger Miller , after the two were introduced by Rogers, and now looks after his estate. Kin Vassy died of lung cancer on June 23, He scored two top 40 hit singles as a country singer, but his solo career never really took off.
Said to reflect the LSD experience, the song was intended to be a warning about the dangers of using the drug. It was Rogers' first top ten hit. The song captures the short-lived psychedelic era of the late s, stands apart from the country folk harmonies that characterized most of the First Edition's catalog,  and got the group their first national TV audience on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
It was the group's second single from their eponymous album, The First Edition. Producer Mike Post reversed a few riffs to create the intro; the solo played by Glen Campbell was heavily compressed and a tremolo effect was used to achieve its sound.
Another studio guitarist, Mike Deasy , provided the acoustic lead guitar parts. When Rogers signed with United Artists Records , in the mids after the group split, he re-recorded the track for his Ten Years of Gold album.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 23 July Psychedelic Sight Dot Com.
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