For those of you who are not big fans of history and tracking the genealogy of a song- two months after Kenny Rogers released his version of The Gambler and receive critical acclaim and dominated charts for his would-be concerts and tour character, Johnny Cash placed his bets on the same song and recorded it for his album Gone Girl.

Listen to his version here:

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“The Gambler” Lyrics

On a warm summer’s eve, On a train bound for nowhere
I met up with the gambler, We were both too tired to sleep
So we took turns a-starin’, Out the window at the darkness
The boredom overtook us, he began to speak

He said, “Son, I’ve made a life, Out of readin’ people’s faces
Knowin’ what the cards were, By the way they held their eyes
So if you don’t mind me sayin’, I can see you’re out of aces
For a taste of your whiskey, I’ll give you some advice”

So I handed him my bottle, And he drank down my last swallow
Then he bummed a cigarette, And asked me for a light
And the night got deathly quiet, And his faced lost all expression
He said, “If you’re gonna play the game, boy, You gotta learn to play it right

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away, Know when to run
You never count your money, When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’, When the dealin’s done

Every gambler knows, That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away, And knowin’ what to keep
‘Cause every hand’s a winner, And every hand’s a loser
And the best that you can hope forIs to die in your sleep”

And when he finished speakin’, He turned back toward the window
Crushed out his cigarette, And faded off to sleep
And somewhere in the darkness, The gambler he broke even
And in his final words, I found an ace that I could keep

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away, And know when to run
You never count your money, When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’, When the dealin’s done

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away, And know when to run
You never count your money, When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’, When the dealin’s done

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away, And know when to run
You never count your money, When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’, When the dealin’s done

 

The Gambler, Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers

Johnny Cash Takes on The Gambler by Kenny Rogers

Photo Courtesy: HDwallsize

 

1978 was one of those troughs on Johnny Cash’s music career after waves of issues such as his amphetamine addiction as well as the pressure of maintaining his number one streak after “One Piece at a Time.”

On the other hand, a 23-year old Nashville hopeful tried shopping his song “The Gambler” for almost two years until Bobby Bare recorded it on his album. While Bare’s version did not have a huge chart impact, producer Larry Butler had a different game in mind after he persuaded both Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers to try their luck.

Kenny Roger’s version was not released until October of 1978. It’s not until Larry Butler finally gave a nod on Roger’s move of releasing the song as a single due to several creative disagreement between Butler and Cash during recording. Ultimately, Kenny Rogers emerged as the winner after the song charted to number one and winning him a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal.

Consecutively, Johnny Cash still released ‘The Gambler’ as a track of his Gone Girl album but it only enjoyed subpar success compared to the Kenny Rogers version.

For comparison, here’s Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler:

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