Garth Brooks opened up about the death of Kenny Rogers in an op-ed for Billboard, and country music fans are joining in him remembering the music legend. Rogers mentored Brooks through the years, with Brooks opening for Rogers early in his career. Brooks opened up about the major influence Rogers had on him, and how he set the example for a country artist crossing over.
"Anybody that grew up in the era that I grew up in, Kenny Rogers was a pop artist. Kenny would tell you if he stood in front of a country crowd, he felt so pop, and if he stood in front of a pop crowd, he felt so country," Brooks said. "It wasn’t like Kenny Rogers was one of my heroes. But giving the [opening slot] in the northeast to somebody in a cowboy hat was an opportunity that [Brooks’ manager] Bob Doyle said, 'You do not want to miss. There’s no other way you’re going to get up there.'"
Brooks added, "There was no way you could be around him and not learn something. He was one of the most successful artists on the planet. If you want to do record sales, look at 'The Gambler' and go, 'Oh, okay, you can sell that many?' Because I think that sold something stupid like 13 or 14 million. It sure showed all of us that country artists can do this as well."
The "Friends in Low Places" singer went on to explain how Rogers' stage presence was also a huge factor in how Brooks, himself, played live shows.
Brooks' Comments, Continued
"Then when it came time for entertaining, he was amazing," he said. "He has his [stage] in the round. He had a microphone with a cord on it because that’s what he felt comfortable with. The cord went to this wireless unit that went around the stage with him and he’d use it as a prop. If he would forget a word, he would look at the cord and push it around like his mic went out. He’d put it out in the crowd. He used it like a musician would an instrument and so you watched him and you watched him closely.
"I can’t think of anybody who taught me that much about entertaining other than Reba McEntire. Those two people were the ultimate entertainers and you learned every day from them."
As far as specific advice Rogers gave to Brooks, who is now the No. 1 solo artist of all-time when it comes to album sales, the "Papa Loved Mama" singer says it was a simple concept: have fun.
"The advice he gave me was to enjoy myself when I was out there. You tell me, was that not the best piece of advice ever?" Brooks said. "One of the first things we did was Westbury [N.Y.] Music Fair. Westbury was a place in the round and he’d sold I don’t know how many nights out there. We were there, camped in. We would go on [and] some nights it was three songs, some nights it was five songs, you just had to be ready to do whatever, whenever. He would do his show. We would stay after and all those people who came to see Kenny Rogers, we would be in the lobby signing autographs and taking pictures for anybody who wanted to stop.
"He found out and the next day, he came up to me and said, 'Hats off to you. That’s the smartest thing. They may come here to see someone else, but they’re going to leave here knowing the new guy.'"
Fans on PopCulture.com's Facebook pages were in awe of Brooks' words and joined him in mourning the "Lady" singer.
"Saw Garth open for Kenny Rogers at the Fox in Detroit many years ago," one fan wrote. "Great show and one we will always remember."
"R I P Kenny love you and your music you will always be loved and missed," another wrote.
"Garth...I remember going to a concert when YOU were the opening act for Kenny Rogers!" a third wrote.
"Genuine, down to earth people - Garth Brooks & Kenny Rogers. RIP Kenny!" a fourth person wrote.
"God Bless True Friends.Rest In Peace Kenny Rogers," a sixth wrote.
"Country music has lost a true legend, RIP kenny, xx" another Facebook commenter wrote.
"GREAT SINGER, REST IN PEACE KENNY ROGERS," yet another fan wrote.
"GREAT singer GREAT man.I love you forever," a commenter replied. "Rest in Peace!!KENNY ROGERS.Kisses in your heart."
"RIP Kenny, what a guy," a fan on Facebook wrote. "your songs will be with me forever. Every song tells a story. God Bless."