Kenny Rogers reveals star-studded final concert: 'This will be our last time on stage forever'


In Sept. 2015, Country Music Hall of Fame member Kenny Rogers announced his intention to retire from performing after one final tour. Those performances are still being scheduled through the end of 2017, but Tuesday morning (July 18) in Nashville, the singer announced the date of his final performance: Wednesday, Oct. 25 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

Before this morning's announcement, Rogers spoke with Billboard about the show. Titled All In For The Gambler: Kenny Rogers' Farewell Concert Celebration, the show will bring together fans, friends and music icons to celebrate Rogers. All In For The Gambler will feature performances by Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Little Big Town, Alison Krauss, The Flaming Lips, Idina Menzel, Jamey Johnson, Elle King and many other special guests to be announced in the coming weeks.

Rogers and Parton first joined their talents together in the fall of 1983 for their blockbuster Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 "Islands In The Stream," and also scored with "Real Love" (1985), "Love Is Strange" (1990), and "You Can't Make Old Friends" (2013). It's been over a decade since the two performed together in a public setting -- Rogers did join Parton for her telethon last fall for those affected by the fires in East Tennessee -- and this time will be the final opportunity to see the legends together.

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UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: (AUSTRALIA OUT) Photo of Kenny ROGERS (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)
UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 01: TOP OF THE POPS Photo of Kenny ROGERS, Kenny Rogers & The First Edition (Photo by Ron Howard/Redferns)
UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of Kenny Rogers (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of Kenny Rogers (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
American musician Kenny Rogers performs at the Rosemont Horizon (later renamed the Allstate Arena), Rosemont, Illinois, May 17, 1980. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)
LaToya Jackson. Kenny Rogers and Janet jackson 1985 American Music Awards (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)
UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 01: Photo of Kenny ROGERS (Photo by Roberta Parkin./Redferns)
UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 01: BOURNEMOUTH Photo of Kenny ROGERS (Photo by Harry Herd/Redferns)
LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 28: Musician Kenny Rogers attends the 12th Annual American Music Awards on January 28, 1985 at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd/WireImage)
Kenny Rogers received the Career Acheivement Award at the 36th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, Ca. 5/9/01. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.
Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers perform their hit duet 'Islands In The Stream' at the CMT's 100 GREATEST DUETS concert. A celebration of the the Top 12 duets in country music history, the concert included live performances by 21 of country music?s biggest artists, including Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Rogers, Trace Adkins, Terri Clark and more. The two-hour concert will round out a remarkable six-hour special, CMT 100 GREATEST DUETS, which airs on Saturday, September 17. (Photo by Ed Rode/WireImage)
Kenny Rogers, presenter Video of the Year during 2006 CMT Music Awards - Show at Curb Events Center at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, United States. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic)
NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 07: Kenny Rogers performs at the VAULT Concert Stage during the 2008 CMA Music Festival on June 7, 2008 at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/WireImage)
AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 24: STATE THEATRE Photo of Kenny ROGERS, Kenny Rogers performing on stage (Photo by Bob King/Redferns)
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"This will be our last time on stage – forever. It will be worthwhile to come and see that," Rogers said. Ironically, despite their careers being linked together, they've rarely shared the same stage in concert. But he stresses that sharing the spotlight with Parton is something he relishes. "We do love it when we get a chance to be together. She's everything that everybody thinks she is – and more. I'm so excited about her being there. It's hopefully going to be a night to remember for all involved."

Parton says it's a mutual admiration society. "Kenny is like a family member to me. We have been friends for over 30 years and made musical magic together. Since 1983, when we released 'Islands In The Stream,' everyone has had an expectation to see Kenny everywhere I go and me with him wherever he goes," says Parton. "Well, I guess for many of those fans that wanted to see us together, this will be that night. Performing with Kenny for the last time ever on Oct. 25 is going to be emotional for both of us, but it's also going to be very special. Even though Kenny may be retiring, as he fades from the stage, our love for each other will never fade away."

Rogers says he is looking forward to the event – with one minor bit of hesitation. "I'm a little uncomfortable talking about a tribute to me, but it's going to be a fun night. It strikes me as something for me to get together with a lot of the people I have met over the years, and say goodbye legitimately."

When asked about the farewell tour itself, Rogers admits it's been grueling yet rewarding. "I think I have worked harder in saying farewell than I have ever worked when I was busier. It's been a wonderful opportunity for me to say goodbye and thank everyone. We started it in South Africa, then went to China and ten different countries. We've been everywhere just about, and it's been a long tour. I'm glad that it's winding down."

The concerts are a multi-media trip down memory lane for the fans and Rogers, with film clips of his storied six-decade career. He says that during his commercial peak years of the 1970s and 1980s, the career pace was so fast and furious that it was tough to absorb all of the career moments that happened to him. Even now, viewing his career collectively, it's still tough to believe the successes he has had. "It's much more than I ever expected to – and much more than I deserve. It's really been something to behold for me. It's very hard to put it in perspective and say 'That was my career,' because it wasn't what I set out to do. I was just trying to survive in the business."

Rogers' set list runs the gamut of his recording career – including the days of The First Edition, the group that he was lead singer of from 1967-1975. The singer jokes with the audience about the clothing styles the group adopted during their run together, but says they were pretty snazzy-looking for the time. "We came up with the clever idea that The First Edition was a printing term. So, we wore all black and white outfits. We had some great stuff. Bill Whitten was one of the best designers in the nation, he made a lot of those outfits for us."

Producing the Nashville date -- for which tickets go on sale this Friday (July 21) -- is Keith Wortman of Blackbird Presents. He says it's an honor to get to work with an artist whose music has served as the soundtrack of his life – literally.

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Dolly Parton through the years
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Dolly Parton through the years
20th May 1977: Country music queen Dolly Parton is back in London after performing at the King's Theatre, Glasgow, at a Scottish Royal Jubilee Television Special in the presence of the Queen, she now commences on a tour of Britain and the continent. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
UNDATED FILE PHOTO: Singer Dolly Parton. (photo by Newsmakers)
NASHVILLE, : Dolly Parton (R) performs with Alison Krauss (L) during the 75th Birthday for country music's Grand Ole Opry 14 October 2000 in Nashville, Tennessee. Several country music stars showed up to help celebrate the event. AFP PHOTO/Neil BRAKE (Photo credit should read NEIL BRAKE/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 16: American country and western singer Dolly Parton poses 16 February 2001, during the launch of her new album 'Little Arrow' in a London record store. (Photo credit should read HUGO PHILPOT/AFP/Getty Images)
Dolly Parton performed with Brad Paisley at the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center, Los Angeles, Ca. 2/21/01. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Dolly Parton accepting at the Songwriters Hall of Fame 32nd Annual Awards at Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers in New York City. June 14, 2001. Photo: Scott Gries/ImageDirect
NEW YORK - JULY 5: Singer Dolly Parton performs for the 'NBC Today Show Summer Concert Series' at Rockefeller Center July 5, 2002 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Mainz/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 7: Country Singer Dolly Parton performs at the House of Blues on August 7, 2002 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Robert Mora/Getty Images)
LONDON - OCTOBER 8: Singer Dolly Parton poses for photographers on October 8, 2002 at the Oxford Street HMV store in London, England. Parton was at the store to sign copies of her recently released album, 'Halos and Horns,' which includes a cover of Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven.' (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 15: Singer Dolly Parton poses for a photograph prior to the Tennessee Film & Music Commission's industry reception at the W Hotel on October 15, 2002 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Robert Mora/Getty Images)
BURBANK, CA - OCTOBER 9: Singer Dolly Parton appears on 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' at the NBC Studios on October 9, 2003 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 15: Singer Dolly Parton (L) and actress/singer Reba McEntire appear on the set of The WB's 'Reba' at 20th Century Fox Studios on February 15, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - MARCH 4: Singer Dolly Parton performs at the Weinstein Co. Pre-Oscar Party at the Pacific Design Center on March 4, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - MARCH 5: Singer Dolly Parton arrives at the 78th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre March 5, 2006 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - OCTOBER 26: Singer Dolly Parton performs at the Country Music Television's CMT Giants honoring Reba McEntire at the Kodak Theatre on October 26, 2006 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
US country music singer Dolly Parton performs onstage in London as part of her 'Backwoods Barbie' world tour, on July 5, 2008. The tour will see her promoting the self-released album with concerts across the world. AFP PHOTO/Leon Neal (Photo credit should read Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 08: Musician Marty Stuart and singer Dolly Parton perform during Marty Stuart's 10th Annual Late Night Jam at the Ryman Auditorium on June 8, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 10: Dolly Parton talks to the media at a press conference at the InterContinental Sydney on November 10, 2011 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 09: Actress Dolly Parton arrives at the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'Joyful Noise' held at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on January 9, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
RANCHO MIRAGE, CA - JANUARY 24: Singer Dolly Parton Performs at Agua Caliente Casino on January 24, 2014 in Rancho Mirage, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 18: Stella Parton and Dolly Parton attend Stella Parton's Red Tent Women's Conference 2014 at the Doubletree Hotel Downtown on April 18, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 27: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Dolly Parton performs on QVC Presents, Dolly Parton Q Sessions Live from Nashville - Featuring 'Blue Smoke' Dolly Parton rehearses at NorthStar Studios on April 27, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Webster PR)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 27: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Dolly Parton performs during Dolly Parton Q Sessions featuring 'Blue Smoke' QVC Presents A Night In Nashville With Dolly Parton - Show at NorthStar Studios on April 27, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Webster PR)
KNOXVILLE, TN - MAY 28: Dolly Parton performs during a concert to benefit Dolly's Imagination Library & Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation at The University of Tennessee's Thompson-boling Arena on May 28, 2014 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 13: Dolly Parton performs on NBC's 'Today' at Rockefeller Plaza on May 13, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
US country music singer Dolly Parton performs on the Pyramid Stage, on the final day of the Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts on Worthy Farm in Somerset, southwest England, on June 29, 2014. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Richie Sambora of US rock group Bon Jovi joins US singer Dolly Parton on the Pyramid Stage, on the final day of the Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts on Worthy Farm in Somerset, southwest England, on June 29, 2014. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
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"Like millions of fans around the world Kenny Rogers songs have been the soundtrack of my life. In my case it's deeply personal as I remember long drives in the car with family singing Kenny's songs on the top of our lungs. And so as he approaches 80, and finishes out this beautiful final victory lap of a touring life, I feel privileged to able to create and produce a show honoring this special artist on this special occasion."

Rogers has praise for the work that Wortman does as well. "I saw the tribute that he did for Merle Haggard, and it was really great. It was wonderful. I got to perform on the one for Randy Travis, and I was thrilled to be a part of it."

As Rogers winds down his touring days, what song seems to mean the most to him? "Believe it or not, it would be the most recent - 'You Can't Make Old Friends.' I think that there is so much said in that song about life and about my particular career. There's so much truth in it."

For complete show details and the official concert website, visit www.AllInForTheGambler.com. For concert dates of The Gambler's Last Deal, visit www.KennyRogers.com

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