Article by Carolyn Cooke
Surrey Now Newspaper
Kenny Rogers met his match when he came face to face with a look-alike who looks more like him than he does.
On July 5 in Billings, Montana, a local musician was thrilled to finally meet one of his favourite singers, Kenny Rogers, in person. The meeting had been set up by Dale Crump, along with the Billings Chamber of Commerce president and Rogers' concert promoter. They thought it would be interesting to get Rogers together with tribute artist and look-alike Marty Edwards.
Edwards, a singer from White Rock, BC headed to the backstage gate, making sure he had his pass. When I was walking through the building you could tell people were looking and you could hear them saying "Kenny Rogers". "Kenny Rogers."
Edwards was the first person on the list to meet with the country music legend. He was directed to stand in front of a screen on a spot marked by black tape.\
"I go stand on the black tape and then Kenny came out, probably 30 seconds later, and he looks at me and says, 'Hey, I just got taller!'" Edwards said.
Rogers, being very personable, shook his hand and had a few pictures taken before quipping, "Now don't go get me into any trouble," as Edwards was leaving.
Once again, as Edwards headed back to his seat from the entrance at the side of the stage, people were looking and talking. Edwards got settled into his seat with his wife to watch the show.
He makes a point of catching as many of Rogers' shows as he can to pick up material, like jokes, for his tribute. He says he tries to create the experience of seeing Kenny Rogers.
While waiting for Rogers to take the stage, Miss Montana came up, tapped Edwards on the shoulder and asked if they could have their picture taken together.
"I said you know who I am right and she said, "Yeah, you're Kenny Rogers. And I said no, I'm not. I'm Kinda Kenny."
"I use the name Kinda Kenny that's my stage billing, Edwards said. Miss Montana was actually kind of embarassed that she made the mistake but this kind of mistaken identity happens quite regularly to Edwards. He was in Billings this summer to do his Kinda Kenny act for the opening ceremonies at the 22nd annual Wing Ding rally.
The night before Rogers' concert, Edwards sang for the street dance that is part of the international motorcycle rally that draws more than 10,000 people. After his act, Edwards was swamped by fans wanting autographs and pictures, even after they found out he was Kinda Kenny, and not the real Rogers.
Edwards has often heard the comment that he looks more like Kenny Rogers than Kenny Rogers. He attributes this to the fact Rogers has been out of the limelight for a few years and is beginning to age. The younger Edwards, at 51, looks very much as Rogers did about 10 years ago in his heyday.
A muscian for many years, Edwards got out of the business for a few years to develop audio-visual educational software and also to teach multi-media studies at BCIT and UBC. He recorded an album a few years ago and the producer asked him if he had ever thought of doing a Rogers tribute because he looks and sound so similar.
The actual tribute didn't come into being until 1998 when Edwards was producing the Put a Little Love in Your Heart Benefit Concert and was short of acts to fill the bill.
"Readers Digest really turned it for me," he said. "I read an article in there (about child abuse) and it brought me to tears and that's when I knew what I had to do."
After years of wanting to give something back to the community, Edwards decided to put together a benefit with his connections in the music business and donate the proceeds to helping kids.
The benefit is in conjunction with the Vancouver Police Union Charitable Foundation and Edwards notes that there are not administration charges.
"Every penny somebody spends to buy a ticket goes to the foundation and goes to help the kids."
When he started out with this idea Edwards wasn't aware that Kenny Rogers also does a lot of charity work, particularly to help feed children.
"It's kind of ironic in a way, I'm doing this and this is how I got started."
Over the last three years he has had to work hard to get Rogers' more gravelly voice down perfectly. The work has paid off, though, as Edwards finds there is such a demand for his Rogers' tribute he has no time these days to do his original music.
"I have a Marty Edwards act that I basically don't do anymore because the demand is for Kenny Rogers stuff," he said. "I can't do both so I focused on this. The whole experience is way more rewarding."
Kinda Kenny has recently been picked up by Superstars in Concert, an organization promoting tribute artists internationally. Edwards is going to do a few shows with the group over the next few months and see how it goes. In the meantime, he is working on putting together another benefit next month.
The third Put A Little Love in Your Heart Benefit is set for Sept. 23 at the Chandos Pattison Auditorium, 10238-168th St., Surrey. The acts on this year's bill include Essence of Elvis by RCMP officer Jeff Bodner. He recently returned from an annual Elvis festival where the 84 Elvises who attended competed in the world's largest such festival. Bodner came in ninth overall. Another act to look forward to is Sammi, a 12-year-old diva with a voice way beyond her years.
The range of musical genres goes from gospel with People Get Ready to a cappella quarter named Wildcard, to a contemporary producer, singer and songwriter, Paul Garay. Also performing is singer/songwriter Leslie Mounteney and Toronto recording artist Don Hulse.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for children 14 and under and are available from the Chandos Pattison Auditorium box office or by phoning 582-7285.