Kenny Rogers is unrecognizable in this early, groovy performance of his Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP
Kenny Rogers performs in concert during the Star-Spangled Spectacular: Bicentennial of Our National Anthem Concert at Pier Six Pavilion on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014, in Baltimore. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)

No matter how old you are, if you’re a fan of country music, you should have some knowledge of the great Kenny Rogers. Maybe it’s from a Dolly Parton duet, maybe it’s from one of the movies he made, or maybe it’s from his own stellar solo career. Kenny has scored more than 20 No. 1 country hits on the Billboard charts, including “The Gambler,” “She Believes In Me” and “Lady.”

But did you know that Kenny wasn’t always a country star? He wasn’t even always a solo artist?

RELATED: Kenny Rogers struck gold the day he recorded this catchy country singalong

Kenny started out in a jazz trio, but his musical journey eventually led him to form The First Edition with members of a previous band, The New Christy Minstrels. The First Edition wasn’t a country act, they were more of a rock/folk band, although they did have some success on the country charts with a couple of songs that Kenny later recorded for his solo career — “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town” and “Reuben James.” However, neither of those songs were the first hit that Kenny had with The First Edition.

Turn the calendar back to 1968. Kenny was an incredibly handsome and dark-haired frontman for The First Edition. The group was completely immersed in the psychedelic ’60s with their look and their sound, and the first Top 5 for the band definitely reflected the feel and culture of the time.

RELATED: This collaboration between Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie remains one of music’s finest moments

Longtime Kenny Rogers fans — boy, do we love y’all — might remember this song from Kenny’s pre-“Gambler” days, but for those of you that don’t, listen closely. You’ll recognize that voice we all love in “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).”

Kenny sure has come a long way.

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Based in Nashville, Tammy is a 20-year veteran of the country music community. She has worked in marketing, PR and artist development. Follow her @TammyGooGoo and join the conversation @RareCountry
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