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Kenny Rogers performs a 2010 concert at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. Rogers will be back at the Palace for a show at 7 p.m. Thursday. (Daily Republic photo)

Country music legend Kenny Rogers to bring holiday show to Corn Palace

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It’s been a good year for Kenny Rogers.

In just the last few months, the country music legend was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the Country Music Association Awards and released a new album, “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” to rave reviews.

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“It’s been wonderful,” Rogers said, noting the whirlwind of events that took him from the Country Music Hall of Fame on Oct. 27 to the CMA’s on Nov. 6.

Rogers will bring his Christmas tour, with special guest Linda Davis, to the Corn Palace in Mitchell at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Reserved tickets are $55, and available at the Corn Palace box office at 995-8430 or cornpalace.org.

Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling said about 1,670 tickets had been sold as of Tuesday morning. Capacity for the show is about 2,500.

Rogers’ last performed at the Corn Palace in 2010 as part of the Corn Palace Festival. He said he enjoyed the venue — and, he’s looking forward to snow.

“I love that part of the country,” he said. “We’re from the south where it snows once every 10 years. We like to come up north and feel Christmas in the snow.”

Perhaps best known for “The Gambler,” Rogers has been one of country music’s mainstays for more than five decades. Known for his distinctive, soft voice, the artist has sold more than 120 million records worldwide, garnering 23 CMA nominations and five wins, as well as three Grammy Awards. Other hits include “Lucille,” “Islands In The Stream” and “The Greatest.”

Despite his successful career, Rogers said the October and November events were special for him and his family.

“The Country Music Hall of Fame was very special,” he said. “Artists come and go, songs come and go, but the hall of fame is forever.

“It probably meant more to me now than it would have had it come at the peak of my career.”

As a result of his longevity in the business, Rogers has lived through many changes in the industry and the sound of country music. He even ventured into what he described as his “psychedelic era,” with a 1960s single, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).”

Rogers said Sammy Davis Jr. originally was supposed to record the song. When Davis Jr. decided not to, Rogers stepped in. Written by Rogers’ friend Mickey Newbury, the song contains lines like “I found my mind in a brown paper bag within/I tripped on a cloud and fell-a eight miles high/I tore my mind on a jagged sky.”

Rogers said jokingly about the song from Newbury: “He went, I think, on some unscheduled journeys in his life.”

Continuing with his down-to-Earth sense of humor, Rogers admits it’s a song that might not transcend the times as much as some of his other hits.

“We were really kind of looking for a direction and we got away with that. It was just an interesting time in music in general,” he said. “I always say, for those of you who didn’t live through that era, this will, if nothing else, explain how screwed up the ’60s were.”

Never afraid to take chances, Rogers said he sees only two ways of competing in his business: To do what everyone else is doing but do it better (“I don’t like my chances with that,” he said) or to do something no one else is doing.

He mentions his 1999 comeback hit, “The Greatest,” about a little boy playing baseball, as a prime example of that.

“No one was doing anything like that, that’s why it got played,” he said.

His newest album, “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” reunites him with Dolly Parton on the title track, with whom he famously released the duet “Islands In the Stream” 30 years ago. Rogers said not only was he glad to sing with Parton again, but he loves the message of the song.

“It’s a great statement,” he said. “My wife has started reaching out to her girlfriends from college. I think that’s what the song is about — you either have old friends or you don’t.”

Despite his many accolades, it’s a stay-true-to-yourself sentiment that Rogers carries with him, on the road and in his other endeavors.

“I struggled when I started out; then I was successful, but I never forgot where I came from,” he said.

For his Christmas and Hits Through the Years tour, Rogers will welcome special guest and friend Linda Davis onto the stage, as well as local Mitchell High School students. Davis, who is mother of Hillary Scott, co-lead singer of popular country music duo Lady Antebellum, will perform with Rogers and the local kids that will be part of the show.

“It’s really fun for me to have Linda with me,” Rogers said. “She’s great. It’s a great combination.”

This year is Rogers’ 32nd Christmas tour, which combines about 30 to 40 minutes of his hits and an hour of Christmas fare into one big production.

“It gives me a chance to sing songs I don’t get to do the rest of the year,” he said. “I just love Christmas.”

In addition, Mitchell High School Vocal Director Chris Miller said his freshmen choir members, about 35 students, will sing three songs during the show, and five local 6- to 10-year-olds will also sing three songs and speak a few lines on stage. Miller admits that most of his students weren’t familiar with Rogers’ career — but he jumped at the opportunity nonetheless.

“I knew when given the opportunity to perform with a living legend, we’d better take that opportunity,” he said. “It’s going to kind of give them a glimpse of what it’s like to be in show business. I think that’s a really good experience for the kids.”

More than that, Rogers said he thinks it gives the community a sense of pride to see its own youth on stage with the star. And, kids usually put on a show of their own.

“It’s really great fun, because you don’t know what to expect from the kids,” he said. “There was one little girl who just yawned the whole show, so that spoke volumes to me.”

If you go

Rogers will bring his Christmas tour, with special guest Linda Davis, to the Corn Palace in Mitchell at 7 p.m. Thursday. Reserved tickets are $55, and available at the Corn Palace box office at 995-8430 or cornpalace.org.

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