By Kathy Olivarez
After being told by friends in the entertainment business that “he looked a little bit like Kenny Rogers” and “sounded a little bit like Kenny Rogers,” Branson entertainer Rick McEwen decided to develop a tribute show to the famous singer. Thus, “The Gambler”’ show was born, honoring one of Rogers’ most famous songs.
The act has served him well. He was nominated for top vocalist of the year by the Branson Terry Awards, which he now helps produce.
McEwen’s show has also been popular with Winter Texans, getting him nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year by the Valley Star Awards to be held today at Mission Bell Resort.
Starting a recent show with “The Gambler” set the tone for the evening and got the audience at McAllen Mobile Park ready for a good time. Members of the audience sang along when McEwen got to the lines where he sang, “Know when to hold ‘em; know when to fold ‘em.” McEwen encouraged the audience, that he referred to as the McAllen Mobile Tabernacle Choir, to join in many of the songs.
Switching gears, he moved to a love song, “Love Will Turn You Around.” Then he sang another all-time favorite of Rogers’, “Lucille,” a song about a farmer confronting his cheating wife in a bar. Then it was back to another love song, “All I’ll Ever Need Is You.”
McEwen joked with his audience asking them if they knew what killed chivalry in many men.
When there was no answer, he told them it was the key fob. Many men thought there was no need to walk around the car to open the door for a lady when all they had to do was press a button. In the dead of winter, there was no need for a man to go out and warm up his wife’s car when it could be done with the touch of a button.
Buying the “little lady” a rose or some chocolates or opening a car door once in a while would help keep the chivalry in a marriage and help keep it going, he said.
He asked how many years couples had been married. One couple in the audience had been married 73 years.
McEwen asked the couples who had been married 60 years or more to circle those married over 70 years on the dance floor and share the love as they danced around the couples. It looked as if a third of the audience was up dancing!
McEwen said he is often asked, “Where’s Dolly?” The question referenced the fact that Rogers often sang duets with Dolly Parton.
With a sorrowful look on his face, he said, “Sorry folks, she ain’t comin’.” Dolly gets $1-200,000 just to show up at a show and wave.
She gets more than that for singing.
Still, he sang Rogers’ most popular song he did with Dolly, “Islands in the Stream.” Before he started he asked if anyone from the McAllen Mobile Tabernacle Choir would like to join him and sing her part. When no one responded he began singing but toward the end asked again.
At that point, two “Dolly Parton” look-alikes joined him on stage to complete the song.
He started the second half of the show with a Mel Tillis song, “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town.” He explained that Tillis had a neighbor injured in the Korean War whose wife would run around on him. Tillis wrote the song honoring the injured veteran and the sorrow he faced in his home.
He added “Reuben James,” another strong song from the era.
There were whistles and shouts of approval from the audience for both songs. He added songs like “Through the Years,” “Coward of the County,” “You’re My Lady” and ended with a classic duet Rogers sang with Dolly shortly before his death, “You Can’t Make Old Friends.”
The show was well received and afterwards, many ladies lined up to have their picture taken with the Kenny Rogers look-alike.