We’ve got a winner of the Jackpot Capital ‘theme song’ contest! Tons of votes piled in over the past 2 months, and after a close race which ran down to the very last day, you have spoken! There were some worthy competitors, from Sinatra to Elvis to Bruce, but none were able to overcome the massive shadow set by Kenny Rogers ’The Gambler’! The truly legendary track, which spawned an entire genre of music, has polarized people since its release in 1978, and we are honored to have it as our ‘theme song!’ You can now look forward to this winning tune being played over our Customer Service telephone line, as we are committed to you having a great time every moment you’re with us! Be sure to keep reading, as we have dedicated this post to the story behind the song!
Our contest winner, Kenny Rogers’ ‘The Gambler’ isn’t just Jackpot Capital’s players’ favorite song, but it is one of the most famous and classic American songs of all time! It took a long road to becoming the song we know today, going through various iterations with different artists through time, before finally attaining the acclaim we know it for today. By now you know that success doesn’t come overnight, rather it takes years of hard work, patience, and persistence before breaking through the plateau and achieving your goals. To no surprise, the road taken by The Gambler is a no different.
Made famous by Kenny Rogers, the song was actually written by Don Schlitz, and it made a few rounds around recording studios before falling into Rogers’ lap. Schlitz, who was working as a computer operator at Vanderbilt University, was also an aspiring songwriter being mentored by the successful songwriter Bob McDill (“Good Ole Boys Like Me” and “Gone Country.”) One night, on a walk home from McDill’s office in August 1976, 23 year old Schlitz entered into a zone and came up with the lyrics for the song, which he promptly typed out as soon as he hit home. After 6 weeks of tweaking the song, he finally began shopping it. However, due to its conversational tone and non-love story narrative, it took 2 years before it was recorded, eventually by Bobby Bare. This track never caught on and consequently wasn’t released as a single.
It floated around for a while afterwards, catching many musicians’ attention. Johnny Cash even got his hands on it at some point, and recorded it for his 1978 album, Gone Girl, but it still didn’t become a hit. It took until a 40 year old Kenny Rogers, who many thought was on his way out, recorded it for it to ascend. Rogers’ version hit #1 not only on the country charts, but also the pop charts. This was one of the first crossover country-pop songs, and paved the way for country to become a force in the American pop music industry. Needless to say, this song made both Schlitz and Roger’s career, bringing them both Grammy’s and raising them to a status few attain. Schlitz went on to become the professional songwriter he always wanted to be, and Rogers was able extend his recording career. On top of this, Rogers was able to parlay the hit by building a franchise platform to crossover into the TV world. His portrayal of the gambler Brady Hawkes led to Emmy awards, and pushed the song further into the American collective consciousness.
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The story follows a man who is carrying a troubling feeling and finds himself sharing a train coach with a professional gambler. Whiskey in hand and on a road to nowhere, the silence is broken by the gambler who reads him and offers up some advice. What follows is a story which makes the listener feel like a fly on the wall, culminating in the now ubiquitous earworm of advice, “know when to hold'em/know when to fold’em/ know when to walk away/ and know when to run.” Life is a matter of chance or luck, but what really matters to one’s life is learning the ability to play the hand the best you can, whether that means a slow play or folding it out of the gates.
The man reaches his epiphany as he sits staring through the window with the advice repeating in his head and comes to the understanding that he must deal with his problem head on. In this epiphany, he now realizes he has “an ace that I could keep” and things aren’t as bad as they seem. While it is assumed by many that the gambler dies in his sleep at the end, it isn’t clearly stated. This is a large part of the allure of this great song, as there is no real conclusion. This may have led to Schlitz’s struggle with turning the song into a hit, but he knew that is he persisted and stayed true to his art, it would all work out in the end.
Perhaps this is the best lesson of all from this incredible song, that if you stay true to yourself and persist, you will come out on top in the end. So, go ahead and collect a bonus on us, as you continue the journey to your own success! And, most of all, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy playing!
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