Peachland's Marty Edwards knows exactly who he is - some people he meets aren't quite so sure.
"I think of myself as a Kenny Rogers ambassador," said Edwards, who has been re-creating the country and popular music legend on stage for some 15 years.
With his shock of white hair and beard, Edwards does indeed bear a striking resemblance to the country crooner, which has put him in the occasional awkward
situation over the years.
Like the time he was just walking down the street in Vancouver and a woman stopped him out of the blue.
"She came up to me and wanted to take her picture with me," said Edwards. "I said, you don't know who I am, and she said, 'Sure, you're Kenny Rogers.'
"I told her no, I'm a Kenny Rogers impersonator and she said, 'Why'd you have to tell me that!'"
Edwards will portray Rogers on stage at Kelowna Community Theatre March 21 when he headlines the Country Gold: Caravan of Stars show, which will also
feature performances from impersonators Wendy T as Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire, Philip Bauer as Johnny Cash, and Marion Deaton as Willie Nelson.
But, although Edwards has gotten used to the sometimes-misplaced attention of the public, he said he's never tired of recreating Rogers songs and live
performance for dedicated fans.
"This has taken me a lot further than I ever anticipated," he said. "And I know I'm responsible for some record sales of his."
By his own estimation, during the decade and a half he's performed his Kinda Kenny show, he's played close to 1,000 times, everywhere from the Far East to Australia, England, Ireland, the U.S. and across Canada.
With a career that has spanned some
50-plus years, the real Kenny Rogers has done just about everything in music. He first recorded with a rockabilly outfit in the mid 50s, then sang jazz, and following that went on to some success with the New Christy Minstrels and First Edition, before striking out on his own in the late '70s.
He's struck gold on both the country and pop charts with a string of hits; such memorable tunes as Don't Take Your Love to Town, Lucille, Ruby, Coward of the County, The Gambler and Islands in the Stream (with Dolly Parton).
All said, he's charted more than 60 top 40 singles. And he's still going strong; in 2012 he re-recorded the huge hit Lady, with its writer Lionel Ritchie and even performed live with jam band Phish.
Edwards started out portraying Rogers by accident really. He has been an entertainer since the early '70s, and even performed some Rogers' hits in a country band he fronted and played guitar for. But is was while recording and album of his won in a Vancouver studio that producer James Bowers noted how he not only resembled Rogers, but his voice bore an uncanny
resemblance as well.
It wasn't, however, until a few years later, in 1998, that he first took to the stage as Kenny Rogers.
"I was playing a benefit show, and put together a set sort of as a Kenny Rogers tribute," said Edwards.
When that performance went over better than he had expected, he decided to follow it with more, and now, 15 years later, he has Kenny Rogers nailed.
"It's all about the look, the vocals and the mannerisms," he pointed out. "That's why I don't like to be seen until I go out on that stage. It's an illusion, and I don't like to break the illusion."
"I'm kind of lucky, I suppose, because he's still out there performing (at age 74). Although I don't travel in the style he does," he joked.
Although he had a hard time finding footage of Rogers performing in the early pre-YouTube days, it helped that he's seen the real Kenny Rogers perform live, and even got to meet the real guy twice, in 1998 and 2002.
As far as favourite Rogers hits he performs, Edwards said he's fond of some of the slower numbers.
"They come from the heart," he said. "Lady is a favourite of mine, and the Gambler."
Having recently done his sixth tour of Australia late last year, according to Edwards, he still loves to bring Rogers songs to life. "It never gets old," he said.
With the remarkable physical resemblance to Rogers, though, he's learned to never take advantage of that, tempting though it might be for others.
"I've had people come up to me and say 'I used to watch your TV show and I've got all your albums," he said. "But I've never tried to pass myself off as Kenny Rogers.
"I'm really careful with that now, breaking people's bubbles."