The new exhibit in Nashville turns back the clock for the beloved singer, who turns 76 this month

By Kay West
Updated August 17, 2014 07:10 PM
Piper Ferguson

“I haven’t always been this old,” Kenny Rogers joked to family and friends gathered at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville Wednesday night.

“When I was a member of the First Edition, I was a happening dude! I had long black hair, a black beard, shades and an earring. I was totally groovy,” said Rogers. “I woke up the other day and I was really old!”

Proof of Rogers’s grooviness can be seen at the Hall of Fame’s new exhibit, “Through the Years,” a biographical look at the singer’s storied life and career.

One standout piece is a denim outfit Rogers wore as the lead singer of the First Edition, whose late ’60s hits included “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.”

Also on display are several cases containing artifacts, costumes, awards, sheet music, scripts, photographs and memorabilia that date back to Rogers’s 1950s performing debut with The Scholars in his hometown of Houston.

During Wednesday’s VIP reception, Rogers was serenaded by country newcomer Charlie Worsham, who sang “Sweet Music Man,” and pal Don Schlitz, who wrote Rogers’s iconic hit “The Gambler.”

“That song was a career maker,” Rogers remarked from the stage. “If I have any skill, it is in picking a hit song, and there was no hit bigger than that one. People think that I’m the gambler, and the funny thing is I don’t even gamble!”

To the delight of the star’s 10-year-old twins Jordan and Justin, he also received a bedazzled birthday cake and cupcakes from the Hall of Fame one week in advance of his 76th birthday (coming Aug. 21).

“Through the Years” runs from Aug. 15 through June 14. Rogers, a 2013 inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, is also the subject of a new book of the same title with an introduction by his longtime friend and duet partner (“Islands in the Stream” and “You Can’t Make Old Friends”) Dolly Parton.