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Kenny Rogers at the Forum

Kenny Rogers at the Forum

Oct. 6, 1980: Kenny Rogers mixed his county tales and pop ballads during a concert at the Inglewood Forum.

Columnist Robert Hilburn in the Oct. 7, 1980, Los Angeles Times Calendar section wrote:

It’s a good thing for Kenny Rogers that pop stardom isn’t determined by talent alone.

That’s not as harsh a statement as it might seem.

It’s just that you have to look to intangibles to understand why Rogers, a modest talent, is one of America’s biggest concert and record acts.

The bearded Texan has a warm, but conservative country-pop vocal style, reflecting little of the character or dynamics of Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings.

Also, he is hardly what you’d call a charismatic performer; he doesn’t write much of his own material and he doesn’t play guitar or piano on stage.

So, what gives?

Likeability.

It’s not the only reason for his success, but it’s a good place to begin the discussion. Genuineness is another key word.

Much like the crowds in the mid-1970s who attended Elvis Presley concerts more to visit with the rock star than to listen to his music, Rogers’ audience spoke as much of the man Sunday afternoon at the Inglewood Forum as his songs.

“He’s good people,” said Sarah Tuttle, 40, of Canoga Park. “I love his records, but the most important thing is he makes you feel like you know him. He’s the kind of person you can walk up to in an airport and say hello to. He’s not stuck up like so many entertainment people these days.”

How does she know?

“I did it,” she replied. “I saw him at the airport last year and I went over and said hello. He was as nice as he could be–just what I hand pictured all along.”…

…Rogers cares about his audience. Without condescending, he engaged repeatedly in small talk between songs and livened things up by tossing out tambourines and Frisbees…

The photo above by staff photographer Gary Friedman accompanied Hilburn’s column in the Oct. 7, 1980, Los Angeles Times.

Oct. 6, 1980: Kenny Rogers performing at the Forum in Inglewood. This photo was published in the Jan. 14, 1981, Los Angeles Times. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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