When you hear the song “The Gambler,” what immediately enters your mind is the famous country singer Kenny Rogers, isn’t it? Well, what can we do, Rogers made the single his signature song. Therefore, every time “The Gambler” plays on the radio, we know it’s Kenny Rogers. Yet, how did Rogers get to record the song? Who wrote and recorded it first?
Don Schlitz, The Songwriter
Donald Alan Schlitz Jr. or known as Don Schlitz is a country singer and songwriter. Schlitz worked as a computer operator before he became an award-winning songwriter. He wrote the song in 1976 and went around pitching it to different artists. Finally, in 1978, Bobby Bare took Schlitz’s song and recorded it. However, Bare was not successful in making Schlitz’s song a hit. After Bare released his recording, Johnny Cash covered the song, but it still did not become successfully known.
“The Gambler” By Kenny Rogers
On the same year, Schlitz’s song fell into the hands of Kenny Rogers. During those times, Rogers has already scored three number one songs on the Billboard country chart. When Rogers released his version, he earned another number one on the chart. In addition, his track crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts. Rogers won his second Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for “The Gambler.”
Works with Other Artists
When Rogers made Schlitz’s song a hit, he decided to quit his job and focused on writing music. He wrote other hit songs for Randy Travis, Garth Brooks, George Strait, Reba McEntire, Keith Whitley, and many more. Schlitz won various awards from 1979 to 2017. Last year, he was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Don Schlitz Version
Don Schlitz also recorded his song “The Gambler” in 1987. His single entered the Billboard chart peaking at number sixty-five. Schlitz’s version is a bit similar to Rogers’.
Here’s the songwriter’s recording of his masterpiece.