Makes sense, since according to industry data, more than 36 percent of Cracker Barrel's patrons are heavy country music listeners. "Generations of Cracker Barrel guests have listened to his music," a label rep says of Rogers. "He's a true icon in American history, and that really works very well with our positioning as an 'old country store.'" Cracker Barrel, which has released sets by Alison Krauss & Union Station, Alabama, Amy Grant, Ricky Skaggs and Sara Evans, has sold more than 3 million units of exclusive music since launching its CB Music label in 2003.
When he hits the road at Christmastime - which includes a stop at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie this Saturday, December 20 at 8 p.m. - Rogers likes to do the season's classics, "Silent Night" and "White Christmas" among them. But fans won't be satisfied unless they hear about the four hungry children and the crop in the field. Rogers, whose hit-making streak began in the late '60s with the psychedelic-tinged First Edition, has had a remarkable career by any measure. Songs like "The Gambler" and "Islands in the Stream" infiltrated the American consciousness in ways that pop songs rarely do anymore. He will do two sets: one of the big guns and one of the holiday tuneage.
In a business where only a tiny percentage of performers have even one career-making song, Rogers has had a half-dozen. And people want to hear them, so Rogers keeps on traveling.
Not all has worked nicely for the singer: Rogers did have an unsuccessful stint as a roasted-chicken magnate. Kenny Rogers Roasters, a restaurant chain that he started in the early '90s with a former Kentucky Fried Chicken executive, went bankrupt by the end of the decade. Rogers blames a poor business model for its failure in America. In Asia, the brand is still going strong. A store opened this year in the Beijing airport - a pretty long hike from Rogers' home in Georgia. Rogers knows better than anyone: You've got to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.
Tickets are $47.50 and $42.50, available at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center at 14 Civic Center Plaza in Poughkeepsie, or at www.ticketmaster.com.