Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton wave goodbye to the crowd after performing for the last time at the "All In For the Gambler" tribute to Rogers at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Oct. 25, 2017.

Kenny Rogers tribute: Dolly Parton, Keith Urban, Tanya Tucker and more share their memories; CMT will air retrospective

Following news of Kenny Rogers’ death at the age of 81 the night of March 20 at his metro Atlanta home, the singer’s peers offered loving tributes to the man with whom many had worked or crossed paths during his 60-year career.

CMT will also memorialize Rogers with the 30-minute special, “CMT Remembers Kenny Rogers,” which premieres at 9 p.m. March 21 and will repeat at 11:30 a.m. March 22, 8 p.m. March 23 and 8:30 a.m. March 24. 

Here are some of the memories shared by the music community:

"The world has lost a great artist and interpreter of songs. I had the honor of announcing his election to the Country Music Hall of Fame, and was thrilled when I realized how much it meant to him. Even after all the other honors he had won, he was truly excited about this one. His accomplishments will live forever."
–Bill Anderson

Miley Cyrus, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton and Billy Ray Cyrus. (Photo Courtesy: Billy Ray Cyrus)

"No one bridged the gap between country and pop more often and better than K R. He will be missed but his music and diverse style of story-telling will live on forever."
–Billy Ray Cyrus
"Going back to the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, we played a lot of dates together. He was one of the first artists to have a stage in the round, in the middle of the arena. He was also an accomplished photographer, and he shot some portraits of Howard and me. We really got to know Kenny through the years and are thankful for the memories. Love and prayers to his family." 
–David Bellamy, Bellamy Brothers 
“I had so much respect for Kenny Rogers - he was from Houston, Texas too. He was a truly unique vocalist and artist who easily transitioned from a group (First Edition), a duo, solo artist and actor. If he did it, it was the best.”
–Gene Watson
"Kenny Rogers was a dear family friend and he was one of the kindest, nicest guys. A true gentleman. I had the privilege sharing the stage with him as well as on screen, in the film Rio Diablo. The Judds were honored to celebrate him a few years ago during his tribute concert. Rest In Peace, Kenny. We love you. "
–Naomi Judd
“Not just my hero, but my friend. Thank you for your guidance my brother. The world has lost the greatest storyteller."
–Phil Vassar 
"Hearing Kenny Rogers’ magnificent voice singing MY lyrics, my music, to ‘I’m Missing You,’ that was definitely a highlight! When KR sang that song, he OWNED it. What a talent and what a sweet man. Kenny, you certainly made this world a better place. Rest In Peace my friend."
–Steve Wariner

Grayson Tucker, Layla Tucker, Tanya Tucker, Kenny Rogers, and Presley Tucker. (Photo Credit: Derrek Kupish/dkupish productions)

"What a career, what a talent, what a legacy. Now this world is left with a big shadow, center stage where Kenny Rogers stood. No one else can take his place. Now he's taken his place amongst the Heavenly stars. It's a very sad day for all of us. But God is smiling. Rest easy my friend."

- Tanya Tucker

"Kenny Rogers was a pioneer in the music world. He was a friend of ALABAMA and will be missed by all. Rest in Peace."

-Jeff Cook, ALABAMA

"Last night we lost a friend and one of the classic voices that easily melted county, rock and pop together in a way no one had done before. We will certainly miss you Kenny."

-Teddy Gentry, ALABAMA 

"With sadness I heard about the passing of a great Hall of Famer. Kenny Rogers was a special treasure to country music and the world. He will be missed by all."

-Randy Owen, ALABAMA

"Thank you Kenny Rogers for being a part of our lives for so long. Your songs are woven into the fabric of our memories — classics, that will live on in the musical heart of a world that will miss you so much. Rest in peace, Gambler."

-Charlie Daniels

"Kenny Rogers was truly an artist of the highest caliber. As a singer, songwriter, entertainer, and actor, he opened doors and enhanced the careers of many other artists just by recording a song with them. His voice and smooth singing style enabled him to move in and out of different musical genres like walking from one room to the next. But music was not his only creative outlet. He was also an amazing photographer. Rest well my brother, you gave us a lot in this life!"

-Ricky Skaggs
"Kenny was a nice man and a great entertainer who had a way of making a song all his own. He will be missed."

-Ray Stevens

"I have lost an old friend and the world has lost a consummate entertainer. 'The Gatlin Boys' did hundreds of shows with 'Kenneth' as we called him. More often than not, I watched from the wings as he masterfully strutted and fretted his hour upon the stage. Last night, 'the Gambler he broke even.'"

-Larry Gatlin

"Kenny was one of the few that successfully crossed genres. I've been a fan from a long time back, and we will all miss his voice and style."

-John Anderson

"As long as I can remember there has been Kenny Rogers. It began the moment daddy brought home his 'First Edition' album with the soon to be hit single 'Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town.' That song put daddy on the map as a songwriter, and Kenny Rogers became a legend in the making. And I loved that voice! Many years later as a fledgling entertainer, I got to open for him and watch a true master at work. A dream come true was getting to sing with him. Totally unreal. Another special moment was having Kenny Rogers, the photographer, take one of my favorite portraits of dad and I. Ever. A true renaissance man. Kenny, thank you for a lifetime of music and memories. Sending deepest sympathies to his family."

-Pam Tillis

"To one of the old guys that taught me so much, God Bless you, Kenny. Keep an eye out for Larry Butler."

-Doug Gray, The Marshall Tucker Band

"Kenny Rogers was not only my friend, he was my mentor. The void he leaves will be impossible to fill. Countless memories 'Through the Years' will never leave the people's lives he so graciously touched. Rest in peace, dear friend. My thoughts and prayers go out to Wanda and his beautiful family."

-T.G. Sheppard

"Kenny Rogers was a true southern gentleman. He brought sophistication, elegance and class to country music. He broke down many barriers and paved the way for so many artists. He taught me the importance of work ethic. My heart goes out to the entire Rogers family."

-Billy Dean

"The world has lost a legend and a great man. He was one of a kind and such an amazing talent. Prayers to Kenny's family from ours."

-Aaron Tippin
"I am deeply saddened by the news of Kenny Rogers' passing. I am honored to say that I had the privilege and pleasure of working with Kenny on many occasions. He was always so kind, respectful, and uplifting to me. Being chosen by Kenny to perform at his Songwriters Hall of Fame induction in New York City years ago was one of the great honors of my career. Whenever I asked for his help at a charity event or show, Kenny always said yes. He was a wonderful, kind, loving, human being and a truly amazing artist who transcended all genres for every generation. Kenny will never be forgotten. I'll forever be grateful and humbled to have known him and shared the stage with him. There will never be another Kenny Rogers. May God be with you, my friend."

-Collin Raye 

"In a time such as the days we are living through, Kenny Rogers embraces a known bright tomorrow. He left the pain in this world and has moved onto the shores of the everlasting. To his family we send our deepest condolences."

-Marty Raybon, Shenandoah

"Kenny Rogers set the gold standard for the music industry. Restless Heart was honored to tour with him in our early years, and we'll never forget his kindness and encouragement. We were fortunate to perform with him again in 2013 and he still had the easy going manner, the storytelling magic and the unforgettable voice that made him a global superstar. We were inspired by his artistry and comforted by his humanity. Our sincere condolences go out to his family and loved ones."

-Dave Innis, Restless Heart

"Kenny's songs, his voice and his style made a huge impact on me. He single-handedly changed the sound of the radio like no one else has since. What a wonderful human being as well. Thank you for your music, Kenny Rogers. You will be missed."

-Larry Stewart, Restless Heart

"Kenny was always very kind to me. My mother was one of his biggest fans and he was very gracious to her as well. We will surely miss that unmistakable voice."

-Darryl Worley

"What a super legend. He was always nice to me. God bless the "Sweet Music Man."

-Sammy Kershaw

"The passing of Kenny Rogers is a great loss to the entertainment industry, but his musical legacy will endure forever."

-Leroy Van Dyke

"Kenny was in Branson for a time with me. What a great talent and a great legend in our business. He was always so nice to me. I always respected his talents so much."

-Moe Bandy

"I was deeply saddened by the news of Kenny's passing. Early on, I was profoundly influenced by his work in 'The First Edition.' For me it represented an early country rock musical persona done in precise and ultimately professional style. He went on to stardom of staggering heights and remained gracious through it all. An extremely rare talent!"

-Henry Paul, BlackHawk / The Outlaws

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About the Author

Melissa Ruggieri
Melissa Ruggieri
Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for the AJC. She remembers when MTV was awesome.