Kenny Rogers Wrote a Song About His Grandfather After a Conversation About Aging

Kenny Rogers became one of the most famous country music stars, but he didn’t forget about his family. Here’s what Rogers said about the conversation he had with his grandfather that inspired the song “There’s an Old Man in Town.”

Kenny Rogers had good memories of his grandfather

Kenny Rogers at a concert in New Jersey in 1982 | Luciano Viti/Getty Images
Kenny Rogers at a concert in New Jersey in 1982 | Luciano Viti/Getty Images

Kenny Rogers said some of his best memories are of the time he spent with his grandfather. Although Rogers described him as “a man of few words” in his book Luck or Something Like It, they still had a deep connection.

Some of my best memories of early childhood were in that house with Papa, who was as much a character as Byrd Rogers. Papa had epilepsy and was also in what seemed to be the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Like Byrd, Papa was a man of few words. I remember him sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of the house we rented, watching us kids run and play. He’d watch as long as he could stand the commotion, then stand up and say, “Can that fuss!” at the top of his voice. And believe me, we did.

Kenny Rogers said this was his most unusual memory

Kenny Rogers | Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Outback Concerts
Kenny Rogers | Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Outback Concerts

Rogers had a lot of good memories about his grandfather, but he said some of his experiences were quite unusual. The country singer recalled the time his grandfather took him on a late-night trip when he was just three or four years old.  

Perhaps it was because of Alzheimer’s or just senility, but he had taken to walking in his sleep. I must have been three or four years old when he decided to take me on a nighttime excursion. I remember waking up as he lifted me out of bed, stood me on the floor, and took my hand.

Then we went to the screen window, which was open on that hot, humid Houston night. Papa unlatched the screen and out we climbed. My parents found us much later, blocks away, just sitting in the middle of Root Square Park. Grandpa Hester was sound asleep at a picnic table, and I was sitting there just watching him and looking around.

Kenny Rogers, Luck or Something Like It

The song Kenny Rogers wrote about his grandfather after a conversation about aging

Rogers said his grandfather used to have these sayings that made him think. One of his sayings was about aging. Rogers said he was so moved by his grandfather’s words that he was inspired to write the song “There’s an Old Man in Our Town.” It appeared on his album Love Lifted Me. Here’s what Rogers said about his grandfather and the song inspiration:

Papa Hester was a sweet old guy. He used to say, ‘Son, youth only happens to you one time, so if you should miss it when you’re young, you can still have it when you’re old.’ Although Papa just sat there on the porch all day long, doing nothing, I thought his words of wisdom were so thought-provoking that, years later, they inspired me to write a song about him.

Kenny Rogers, Luck or Something Like It

Rogers wrote a song about an elderly man in a town who used to sit on a rocking chair. In the song, Rogers included his grandfather’s saying. He said his grandfather wasn’t very affectionate, so the song was his way to let him know how much he appreciated him. “Papa wasn’t an overtly affectionate person, so it was hard to tell him just how much he meant to us,” wrote Rogers. “That tribute in the song was the only way I knew how to do it.”

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