RIP Kenny Rogers, TV Star

(Above: Kenny Rogers promotes ‘Hands Across America.’ Source: YouTube video)

Kenny Rogers, who died Friday at 81, was not only a renowned recording artist but also a TV host, actor and commercial spokesperson.

Over two seasons from 1971 to 1973, Rogers hosted a syndicated variety show featuring his rock/country group The First Edition and guest artists. Titled Rollin’ on the River for the first season and just Rollin’ for the second, more than 50 episodes were produced.

Here, from Rollin’, Rogers duets with Jose Feliciano on a 1969 First Edition hit, “But You Know I Love You”:

From 1980 to 1994, Rogers starred in five TV movies (four on CBS, one on NBC) based on his 1978 hit “The Gambler” (“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em”).

Amazon Prime subscribers can stream the first film, The Gambler, which can also be seen free with ads on Shout Factory TV, Tubi and Vudu, or rented for $3.99 from various providers. We couldn’t find any streaming options for the other four flicks.

Here’s the opening of The Gambler:

Like fellow singer Roy Rogers (no relation) and his roast beef, Rogers was also a successful fast food entrepreneur, co-founding the rotisserie chicken chain Kenny Rogers Roasters in 1991.

Here’s Rogers in a 1995 Roasters commercial:

Finally, from a time when holding hands rather than staying apart was supposed to solve society’s problems, here’s Rogers in a 1986 Coca-Cola pitch for “Hands Across America”:

About Les Luchter

Les Luchter is a former managing editor of Multichannel News, editor-in-chief of Cable Marketing, and news editor of Broadcast Week.

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