Kenny Rogers married five times in his life, and it’s fair to say that the fifth one to Wanda Miller was the most successful. But he didn’t meet her at a celebrity party or red-carpet extravaganza. No, the country singer met the woman of his dreams in the most unexpected of places.
It’s fair to say that throughout his life, Rogers was a bit of a ladies’ man. Indeed, as a public figure, news of his dating life often gained interest. And when he felt there was something real, he was happy to commit to a woman.
The singer got hitched to Miller in 1997, and the pair remained happily married for the rest of his life. Furthermore, in August 2019 the latter posted a sweet message on Instagram that encapsulated her feelings. Miller wrote, “We love you [Rogers]… Another blessed year.” A few months later, however, the country star sadly passed with his family gathered around.
Rogers’ life had begun in Houston, Texas, 81 years earlier. He was one of eight kids in a blue-collar family. When still only ten, Rogers showed his skills by winning a talent contest at the Texan Theatre. But he was no child star – he made his way as a busboy and a floor sweeper. And the future singer would later go to school at the University of Houston.
In the 1950s Rogers embarked on a career in recording that would see him try teen and psychedelic rock before landing in the genre that defined him: country. As part of the First Edition he enjoyed hits on both country and pop charts – including the song “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.”
After quitting First Edition, Rogers’ success continued. The song that he became perhaps most known for, “The Gambler,” was a 1978 solo hit and won a Grammy two years later. So beloved was the character of the tune that Rogers managed to spin it off into a set of TV movies that were also popular.
Although Rogers was best loved as a country singer – with two albums featuring in an About.com listing of the 200 most influential – he also had popular appeal. In 1986 the readers of People and USA Today voted him their all-time favorite singer. Furthermore, throughout his career Rogers enjoyed hits and awards on an almost unparalleled scale.
Away from work, Rogers enjoyed the company of many women. However, as he noted to Reuters in 2012, “Hey, you can’t say I’m afraid of commitment… I’ve been married five times.” He continued, “This may seem like an absurd statement, but every woman I married, I really loved when I married her… and I don’t blame them for the marriage falling apart.”
The singer didn’t have a bad word to say about the women who he’d married over the years. Instead, he said, “I blame myself and my chosen field of music. That’s why I say that music is a mistress because you can’t wait to get out there to it, and usually, the mistress wins in a situation like that. That’s kind of what happened to me.”
Rogers’ first entry into the world of marriage was with Janice Gordon when he was still a teen. It only lasted a couple years, though it was long enough for the singer and his wife to have his first child: daughter Carole Lynn. But despite the marriage’s failure, Rogers still believed it had been the right thing to do.
In 2012 the Gambler told Fox News, “You know what? I loved her. At 19 I thought, ‘This is okay with me. That was a thing where her parents thought I’d ruined her life and were determined to break me. It didn’t work, and it’s really sad because I think it could have worked.”
One thing in particular had apparently driven Rogers toward getting hitched. According to the singer, Carole Lynn had been the outcome of he and Gordon’s first time making love together. And the sight of Gordon’s swelling belly had prompted Rogers to marry. Ironically, after the two divorced, Rogers did not have a great deal to do with his daughter.
Rogers explained why not to Fox News in 2012, saying, “That was my promise to them, that I would be her father, but he [his ex-wife’s second husband] would be her dad, and I don’t want to disrupt that. He stepped in at a time that was really awkward for all of us, and he became her dad, and I love him for that. He was a good guy.”
But getting divorced didn’t quench Rogers’ thirst for marriage, and he walked down the aisle again mere months after quitting Gordon. He wed Jean Rogers, but again it didn’t last. He explained why to the Independent newspaper in 2006, saying, “That only lasted three years because we finally realized this isn’t right. And in the end, it was boring for me and for her.”
Still, Rogers was not dissuaded from marrying again. Next up was Margo Anderson, and she’d be the mother of Rogers’ second child: his son Kenny Jr. This time, the marriage lasted for 12 years, and although it did eventually end, the singer was left with happy memories of this liaison.
The singer told the Independent, “So then I met this girl and that was a really exciting relationship which lasted 12 years, and out of it we had a son. In fact, the first nine years were as good as it gets, and it was only the last few that got ugly. I was touring a lot, and that is part of what killed the marriage.”
Next up came Marianne Gordon – who Rogers married in 1977. The former had enjoyed a small part in the film Rosemary’s Baby among other roles. And together with Rogers, she had a son called Chris in 1982. But although the marriages were getting longer, this one still ended 11 years later.
Gordon had no complaints about the star, though, at least at first. She told Closer Weekly magazine, “I always felt his total focus was on me. If anyone wanted anything from him, he was looking me in the eye and said, ‘Whatever she wants to do.’” But it didn’t last, as she further explained.
Rogers’ ex-wife continued, “I think that when he turned 50, I didn’t have his full attention anymore but it looked like he still wanted me here. His life was such an open book and after two years he felt this craving, this longing. He said he felt he was having a mid-life crisis. He felt like his career was fading.”
Well, they say that practise makes perfect, and perhaps that’s true for Rogers and marrying. His fifth wife was Miller, and they remained together for the rest of his days. He had met her in the 1990s, and they tied the knot in 1997. Seven years later they had twin boys – Justin and Jordan – bringing him to five kids in all.
Apparently, the pair were inseparable during those early days of their marriage. In 2015 Miller told the Valdosta Daily Times newspaper, “The first 12 years we were together, I went everywhere with him. Then when the kids came along, you have to prioritize.” But the opportunity for globetrotting didn’t turn her head; she still kept close touch with home and family, and Rogers would often join her.
Rogers had no doubt about the value of Miller as the person who maintained his family. He told Fox News, “She is truly my soul mate. She knows me better than anyone has ever known me before. She is the most phenomenal mother I have ever seen. The boys are so lucky to have her, and so am I.”
But Rogers didn’t feel that Miller was the only good parent in the relationship. In 2016 he spoke to TV channel CMT about ending his career as a live artist. He said, “I hope my fans understand that I’m a father first and a singer second. I know as well as anybody else how that time gets away from you. And I don’t want to miss it. I just worry about how much longer I’m going to be here, and I want to have time to spend with them. It’s pretty simple.”
During the interview with CMT, Miller actually phoned Rogers to say hello. This presented an occasion for him to display how strong their marriage was. He told Nicki Swift, “I can’t be mad at her.” And indeed, Miller told the Valdosta Daily Times that she’d only ever seen him get mad a few times in her life.
That the singer adored his wife was evident in a 2012 interview with Reuters. In that, Rogers said, “[Miller] and I have been together now for 20 years [and] married 15 years. She’s 28 years younger than me, and I say this from the bottom of my heart – she is my soul mate. [Miller] knows me better than anyone else has known me. She loves what I do, and I’m not as insensitive to her needs as I may have been in the past.”
How the pair got together was interesting; before it’d happened, Miller had just been seeing the occasional woman without commitment. One of these women was one who he’d been introduced to by a friend of his. That friend was Charlie Minor – who was responsible for promotion at the Capitol Records label.
Rogers had taken the woman who Minor had suggested to him to dinner. But things weren’t going well as the essential spark was very much missing from their conversation. In his autobiography Luck or Something Like It, Rogers described the meal. He wrote, “We both knew the food was great, but the relationship wasn’t going anywhere.”
But things were about to change. Rogers continued the story, “[My date and I] had chosen a little Italian restaurant called Pricci and were in the middle of our ‘getting to know each other’ banter when the hostess walked by our table.” The young hostess was Miller, but she was an unknown to Rogers.
The young hostess certainly caught the singer’s eye, although he wasn’t sure whether he’d caught hers. Rogers continued, “I’m honestly not sure she even looked at me, but I saw her. I don’t know what, and I don’t know why, but there was just something incredibly different about her from the minute I saw her.”
Rogers had no doubt what it was about Miller that attracted him. He wrote, “She had a smile, not a hostess smile, but something more genuine, and believe it or not, it rocked me to my core.” But Rogers could do nothing about the attraction that he felt. Ever the gentleman, he couldn’t do anything since he was already on a date.
Rogers then took his date back to her home and was left alone with his thoughts. Who was this woman who had smitten him and how could he arrange to meet her again? The “Coward of the County” singer wrote, “I didn’t want to go back to the restaurant. But I didn’t want to miss this opportunity – if there was one.”
Luckily, the superstar’s record label buddy Minor was a regular at the restaurant and had even been there the night that Rogers had gone. So perhaps he might know the hostess. Minor suggested that he ask the manager of the restaurant, Jessie, about her. The latter asked if Rogers was looking for a date and let him know that Miller was 21.
Rogers then said that he’d let Miller choose if she wanted to date him. So, he gave Jessie his number. Miller told the Valdosta Daily Times, “I came in the next day and they all said, Kenny Rogers called asking about you. They gave me a piece of paper with a number on it. I threw it away. I thought it was a joke. They dug it out of the trash and said it was for real.”
Rogers had his doubts when he was told that Miller was only 21. An age gap was okay by him, but she was surely a little on the young side. Luckily, Minor put it to him that Miller was in fact 26. So, Rogers had a change of opinion and asked Miller out.
The two of them hit it off, and they started seeing each other more regularly. But Miller’s mom and dad weren’t keen on the pairing. Rogers said in his autobiography, “The fact that I was two years older than her parents put an awkward slant on things right from the start. Not for me, but I’m sure it would be troublesome to any caring parent, and I understood that.”
Rogers explained that his beau’s parents hadn’t taken news of his courtship too well. He continued, “[Miller] and I dated for almost six months before she worked up the nerve to tell her parents about me. Actually, I’m not sure whether she told them, or they read it in the tabloids. Either way, it was not pleasant.”
Eventually, Miller’s mom and dad came to accept Rogers. But that might partly be because he’d made a vow to them. The singer explained to Fox News that he told them, “I will make you a promise. I will never lie to her, and I will never lie to you.” Clearly, that impressed them because they would become very good friends with the singer.
Five years after they had started dating, Rogers and Miller got hitched. Furthermore, the star never regretted it; he finally had found the right woman, and the length of time that they were together showed the age difference just didn’t matter. He wrote in Luck or Something Like It, “As wrong as it may have looked, I also knew this – my relationship with [Miller] felt right to me.”
The singer concluded that his time with his last wife had been the best years of his life. Rogers explained to Closer Weekly, “I think the years with [Miller] have been the most rewarding. That’s no offense to any of the other people I was married to. I just think I wasn’t ready before.”
Rogers felt that he had learned the meaning of his life. He added, “I’ve had a lot of things in my life. I’ve made loads of money and had the biggest and best of everything, but now I’m back to looking at the small things that matter: my boys. [Miller]. It’s not about me anymore. It’s about them.”