Kenny Rogers + Lucille

by

Riley Johnson

Updated

March 18, 2024

Updated

March 18, 2024

Updated

March 18, 2024

After a successful decade-long run, Kenny Rogers and his band, the First Edition, disbanded. With that, the singer launched his solo career under United Records. His debut studio album, Love Lifted Me, charted minor hits, but it was his self-titled sophomore release – particularly his tearjerking country ballad “Lucille” – that catapulted his name and established him firmly in the country genre.

“Lucille”

Kenny Rogers was at the cusp of 40 when he began his solo, and the top brass at United Artists considered him a long-shot country artist. And their doubts never really left. 

When they first heard this song, they questioned it and thought it was “all wrong for a Kenny Rogers release.” Even Rogers initially doubted the original ending of the song, but after reworking the last verse, he thought it worked for him and would fly on the radio, too. 

And he was right. After performing the song on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, he earned a reorder for ten thousand copies. It topped the Country Singles chart both in the US and the UK and grabbed the Top 5 position on the Hot 100. In fact, he even took home his very first golden gramophone for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male. 

But his mom, who was also named Lucille, wasn’t too happy to hear the song, especially the iconic line: “You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille, with four hungry children and a crop in the field.” To which he responded that she had eight kids – not four. Second, it wasn’t about her. Third, he didn’t write it. 

Meaning Behind the Song

The song was actually written by Hal Bynum and Roger Bowling. According to Bynum, it was inspired by a blind busker he met on his way to a bar and his song about a Star Spangled Banner. It stuck with him, and so he finally wrote the song. 

It was a man narrating the story of a woman whom he met at a bar in Toledo who had finally quit in her dreams and left her husband and their four kids. She told him that she was no quitter, but she was hungry for laughter – and she wanted to see what the other life would bring. Then came the man, with his big hands calloused, his body shaking and heartbreaking, confronting her that he had lived through sad and bad times, but this time, her hurting won’t heal. 

The narrator wanted to hold the woman, but the woman’s husband’s words kept echoing in his head. 

RELATED: 35 Country Tearjerkers: The Saddest Songs for a Good Cry

Bynum pitched the song to Doc Watson, who was blind, but he didn’t cut it, so the song sat on a shelf for a while. He then had the opportunity to work with Bowling, a new writer whom Paul Richey signed. For five minutes, they kind of improved the song, and that was it. 
Catch Kenny Rogers’ hit song “Lucille” in the video below. And don’t forget to enjoy some more Kenny Rogers classic songs with this playlist.


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