a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History

The Gambler

Music: Schlitz

Lyrics: Schlitz

Vocals: Kenny Rogers (lead); Trey, Page, Mike, Fish (backing)

Original Artist: Kenny Rogers

Original Album: The Gambler (1978)

Debut: 2012-06-10

Historian: Tim Wade (TheEmu)

Last Update: 2012-11-10

“The Gambler” was penned in 1976 by Don Schlitz, at the time “an unknown songwriter from North Carolina.”  Schlitz recorded and even charted with the song, but it was when it was paired with the voice of Kenny Rogers that “The Gambler” became a classic, rising to number one on the Billboard Country chart and number 16 on the Pop chart in 1979.  “The Gambler” would become Rogers’ signature tune and, in the process, make Don Schlitz’s career.

Rogers would proceed to become a Country and Pop legend, winning numerous awards and collaborating with Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, Sheena Easton, Kim Carnes, and The Bee Gees.  He would star both on film and television, including several TV movies based on “The Gambler.” Rogers was a performer on one of the biggest singles ever recorded (1985’s “We Are the World”) and even made a guest appearance on The Muppet Show.

Phish has shared the stage with a number of legends, including B.B. King, George Clinton, Carlos Santana, and Neil Young. On 6/10/12, they would add Kenny Rogers to this list when Rogers joined the band at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival to perform “The Gambler.”  Taking the stage, Kenny remarked that he thought his appearance would be “a bit of letdown” following "Axilla." The sit in, though, was a treat for the fans and a thrill for the band.  “The Gambler” was performed in standard, though still smile-inducing fashion, then was teased in the subsequent “Possum,” whose country-rock main riff is somewhat reminiscent of Rogers’ tune.

Kenny Rogers, "The Gamber", 1978

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steve_balboni Reply
I always took his "bit of a letdown" comment as a reference to Springsteen's appearance with the band the year before. When Trey introduces Kenny he references playing with their heroes at Bonnaroo, them there is an unintelligible exchange off mic followed by Kenny's comment.
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