40 Years With the Legend
by – Chuck Jacobs
With encouragement from friends, family, colleagues, and fans, I was inspired to let the world know more about behind the scenes with Kenny Rogers. This book is the materialization of all the love, support, and motivation from everyone who asked to know what it was like to travel the world on tour with a legend for 40 years.
This book is for the Kenny Rogers’ fans, it gives you an insight into one of the most successful music careers ever. Over the last 40 years playing bass on tour and in the studio with Kenny I’ve had some wonderful adventures and experiences which I document here along with many photos through the years on the road.
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About The Book
This book gives the reader an insight into one of the most successful music careers ever. It documents my journey with the legend through pictures and stories that only someone who was there could tell.
The book covers:
◆ Who is Chuck Jacobs
◆ How I joined the group
◆ The Band
◆ The Fabulous 80’s
◆ All the TV times
◆ Dolly, Winona, Smokey, Garth, and all the acts we toured with
◆ Traveling the world with a superstar
◆ TONS OF PHOTOS! ◆
Come join me on my journey and relive the life and adventures of one of the great entertainers of our time.
What Kenny Rogers says about Chuck Jacobs ~
“Chuck Jacobs is a bass player’s bass player. He’s been with me over thirty-three years and never missed a show. He knows how to play each genre, and he lets each retain its integrity.”
Kenny Rogers, from his 2012 book
“Luck or Something Like It”
How I came to join the group
The Kenny Rogers Band Members
The TV Specials and Opening Acts
Touring through the years
Adventures Behind the Scenes
Special trips and Special Events
Kenny Rogers Group
“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
– Kenny Rogers
This quote has been said concerning chasing a career and these words hold so much value and truth. Almost everyone has heard of the statement, but only a few blessed ones have actually tasted its sweetness. Yes, you guessed it… I’m one of those who got the sweet, satisfying taste of living a life that is quite literally a dream. I have been lucky enough to live a life doing what I love – playing bass guitar.
They told me I was blessed and I never denied. It was indeed nothing short of a godsend gift that I was able to do what I love, playing bass and making people happy for over 50 years with various groups all over the world, of course, most notably with the legend Kenny Rogers… since 1979. That is right. I was part of the country music legend, Kenny Rogers’ band for over forty (40) years. However, like most success stories, mine didn’t magically start at the top either. Although my love for bass and music, in general, is quite deep-rooted and dates back to my childhood, I didn’t start playing professionally until the mid-1960s. Thus, in that magical decade began journey to becoming Kenny Rogers’ bass player.
Now, this may come on the heels of overstating it, but another quote that I often heard growing up was,
“Do something you don’t need a vacation from.”
And I did. In its truest form, I pursued a career that never made me want to take a break, in fact, I never missed a show in the 40 years with Kenny Rogers. I didn’t even want to rest. All the back and forth that I did in those fifty (50) years felt anything but work. I was essentially sketching my dream to become a reality.
Back in the 1960s, I was playing for a Michigan-based rock ‘n’ roll band, The Rainmakers.
The band produced contemporary hot classic rock at the time and it was a good gig while it lasted. During my time with the group, we were able to record two singles that gained popularity across the mid-west area and charted on the regional radio stations. This was quite the achievement for a young fella who had just started. While I had no problems with the band, heck I was living the time of my life, I had to bid my goodbyes to those boys in the late 60s, having gained memories that I cherish to this day.
The early 70s brought more opportunities, more music, and a lot of realization of dreams. This was the decade that I was on no less than a roller coaster. Highs and lows alike, I tasted the real sweetness that comes with doing what you love. I switched from one band after another and lived my passion with a multitude of different groups until I found my destiny in the late 70s. Some of the bands that I played in prior to joining the legend Kenny Rogers included The Dapps, based in James Brown’s studio in Cincinnati, and toured throughout the Southern “chitlin circuit” with Hank Ballard and Little Johnny Taylor during my time with The Dapps.
But time eventually ran its course and I moved on to join Wayne Cochran and CC Riders.
It was 1972 when I got an opportunity to take over the bass chair for the legendary Jaco Pastorius in Cochran’s band. I played with the group for close to a year before I moved to New York City. In NYC, I joined the Jazz circuit with The Roy Meriweather Trio, playing jazz clubs coast to coast as well as college concerts. Finally, it was from there that I found the route that led me to Kenny Rogers. Sounds simple enough? I did mention earlier I was a blessed one.
The question I get asked the most is… yes, you guessed it… how did I come to play in the band with Kenny Rogers? Hailing from northern Michigan with family musical roots in classic Jazz, one wouldn’t assume that I would be a natural fit to go off and play with one of the greatest country music legends like Kenny Rogers. It’s an honest question and the answer turns back to the same phenomenon. It was luck or something like it.
My story of reaching the point where I decided to spend the next forty years of my life in music with Kenny is a series of fortunate incidents. It is that classic tale of “I knew a guy, who knew a guy, who recommended me to the guy.” Sounds familiar? Maybe that is how you got your dream job or managed to secure something rare, like an unreleased book, or got your hands on a song that is yet to hit the market. For me, that guy was Edger Struble, a long time friend of mine who I played with in a band called Chopper from 1973 to 1975.
The group Chopper was quite a popular R&B horn group in the mid-west and east coast. Edgar & I left the band around the same time in the summer of 1975 and Edgar moved to Nashville. He started playing in various groups, never sticking to one, but maintained his roots of playing music. During that time, just a year after Edgar moved to Nashville, Kenny came to town. Although it took a few years for me to get there, the seed of me finding my destiny was planted in that same year. It was just a matter of time when the tree started to bear fruit.
During his time in Nashville in 1976, Kenny was in need of a backup band. As was his practice, he hired a local band to play as his backup in his concerts. It turned out that Edger was friends with the group that Kenny hired. So, in the same year, when that group needed another player, they called Edgar to join.
Between the years 1976 and 1978, I was living in New York City. And part of the Jazz Trio at the time. I was living my dream, playing jazz and living in NYC. I enjoyed every moment of it. The music and playing bass had always been my passion. To be able to do those things in one of the greatest cities in the world was beyond my wildest imaginations. But it had become my reality and I planned to live every second of it to the fullest. Little did I know it was from there that my life only got better and much more adventurous.
During that time, whenever Kenny came to the New York area to perform, naturally, his backup group came with him. This included Edger as well. Edger would invite me to come to the whenever I was not performing with the Jazz Trio and little by little, as conversations got deeper and interests collided, I started to form close friendships with the KR band mates and Kenny as well. Nothing was forced, I was never planning to make my way into the band or boost in front of my friends. It was natural and the exchanges we had flowed freely.
It was in those visits that I formed one of the closest friendships I’ve ever had with a player in Kenny’s band, Randy Dorman. He had a major interest in Jazz, as he was and is still an amazing Jazz guitarist. So, when he found out that I played in the Jazz Trio, it instantly struck the right chord in us (Pun intended). As is the norm, when two musical heads come together in a close friendship, jam sessions follow to commemorate the bond, and the same happened with us as well.
One night in New Jersey, right after a KR concert, I went back to the hotel with Randy where the band was staying. That night, our forged friendship shaped its true musical form when we jammed on Jazz music ‘till three in the morning. Unbeknownst to us, Kenny was in the room next to us. Normally, he wasn’t someone who enjoyed noise at late hours when he was trying to sleep, especially when he was in his hotel room. However, we never got any complaints from him. Not that night or the morning after. As it turned out, he liked the session and actively listened in on it the whole time.
Before I continue, it is important to note here that Kenny didn’t have a bass player in his band at the time but a keyboard player who played bass on the keyboard, and he was very good at it. But the band didn’t have a bass player. Now, coming back to the story, Kenny had heard me play live (from across a thin hotel wall, of course), and apparently, he was interested. ….
to be continued…
About the author.
Chuck Jacobs, Bassist, author (40 Years with the Legend – Kenny Rogers, The Bottom Line, and Bass Beginnings Cherry Lane). Originally from northern Michigan, Chuck Jacobs has been a professional musician, playing electric bass for over 40 years, performing in the studios and live the world over with artists from a long list of superstars from; Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Ray Charles, Lionel Richie, Alison Krauss, Wynona Judd, Smokey Robinson and many others listed below.
Jacobs has played on numerous Gold and Platinum albums with Rogers. (Kenny, Gideon, The Greatest Hits, and many others…
Jacobs also has distinguished himself as a producer, producing country acts in Nashville, as well as CDs in Los Angeles for Simplicity Records, which he co-owns with his brother Dan Jacobs, producing, and mixing over 30 albums. As a bassist, Jacobs worked regularly in the studios of Nashville from 79 – 89 before moving to the Los Angeles area where he has lived for more than 20 years.
Bass Guitar Designer: In 1989 Heritage guitars approached Chuck to design a new bass for their custom hand-made guitar and bass company, and the result was this state-of-the-art hand-made 5-string bass, the “Chuck Jacobs” model.
Early Work: Jacobs was a member of the Michigan based Rock-n-Roll group “The Rainmakers” in the mid-late 1960’s recording 2 singles that charted on the regional radio stations and were popular in the mid-west area, playing primarily in the active Teen Club market of that era. The Rainmakers were contemporaries of hot classic rock Michigan groups such as The Bossmen, Terry Knight & the Pack (later to become Grand Funk Railroad) and even used to open for the legendary Bob Seger.
In the late ’60s, early 70’s Jacobs played with various bands including “The Dapps” based out of James Brown’s studio in Cincinnati, touring throughout the south with Hank Ballard, and Little Johnny Taylor until hooking up with Wayne Cochran & the CC Riders. Jacobs replaced the legendary Jaco Pastorius who played with the Cochran band from 1972-1973.
From there Jacobs moved to NYC and went on to play the Jazz circuit with The Roy Meriwether Trio, performing with that group from 1976 – 1978 playing in jazz clubs in NY, LA as well as throughout the US in college concerts, until in Jan of 1979 when he joined the Kenny Rogers band and performed with Rogers until Kenny’s retirement in 2018 performing both with his touring band throughout the world and actively recording on numerous albums, TV & film projects in studios in Nashville and Los Angeles.
Currently, Jacobs continues to provide bass parts on recording projects from his home studio in Florida and is also keeping alive the musical legacy, memories, and legend of Kenny Rogers by touring with “The Kenny Rogers Band” playing to standing ovation audiences throughout the country.
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