CMT GIANTS Kenny Rogers: A Benefit For MusiCares first aired on CMT on Wednesday night, featuring a number of artists paying tribute to Kenny Rogers with covers of his music. Randy Houser took on one of Rogers' most iconic songs, "The Gambler," for his performance, explaining that he first heard the song "riding in my daddy's Cutlass Supreme."
"A lot of my memories associated with my father have to do with Kenny Rogers' music and his career as an actor," he shared. Houser's cover featured the musician strumming an acoustic guitar to accompany himself for a simple and strong rendition that showed off his unique voice while hewing true to the original. "God bless you, Kenny Rogers," Houser said at the end of his performance. Rogers' version of "The Gambler" was released in 1978 as the title track from his album The Gambler and went on to hit No. 1 on the Billboard country chart and win the Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1980.
CMT GIANTS was hosted by Rita Wilson and also featured Dolly Parton, Gavin DeGraw, Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires, Jennifer Nettles, Lady Antebellum, Lionel Richie, Michael McDonald, Rascal Flatts, Vince Gill, songwriter Don Schlitz ("The Gambler") and singer-songwriter Kim Carnes ("Don't Fall in Love With A Dreamer"). Performances were interspersed with rare archival photos, interviews and performances as well as clips and commentary from Rogers.
"Kenny Rogers was both larger than life and down to earth, a man who always went out of his way to help people - people who needed it," Wilson said during the show, which raised money for the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund. "He was very commanding, no matter what setting you found him in but in a way that was always led by kindness and by grace," Vince Gill recalled of Rogers. "When he walked onto a stage, he owned it, and that's what the greats do."
After Rogers' death on March 20, Houser visited his home recording studio to record a cover of Rogers' "Love Will Turn You Around." "Kenny Rogers was a huge influence on me as a singer and artist," Houser wrote on Instagram. "When I heard he passed, I was hurt like many others. Since I have been home I went downstairs into my studio and decided I would do something to hopefully honor him. So, here it is. I hope this helps bring some peace and positivity to the world in his honor."