The First Edition is the debut album by the group The First Edition. Kenny Rogers sang the lead vocals on two tracks "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)", and "Dream On". "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" became the only hit single from the album and marked the start of things to come, with Rogers soon becoming the lead singer of the group and being renamed "Kenny Rogers & The First Edition".
The producer of this album (and also the band's second and third albums), Mike Post gained later renown for the theme music for many TV dramas such as Hill Street Blues, Magnum, P.I., Law & Order and others.
Though this album is no longer in print, most of the tracks can be found on various compilation releases.
The First Edition (later known as Kenny Rogers and the First Edition) was a rock and roll band, who also performed R&B, folk music, and country music. Its stalwart members were Kenny Rogers (lead vocals and bass guitar), Mickey Jones (drums and percussion) and Terry Williams (guitar and vocals). The band formed in 1967, with folk musician Mike Settle (guitar and backing vocals) and the operatically trained Thelma Camacho completing the lineup.
The First Edition signed with Reprise Records in the summer of 1967 and had its first big hit in early 1968 with the pop-psychedelic single "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" (US No. 5). After only one more chart hit, "But You Know I Love You" (US No. 19), the group, newly billed as "Kenny Rogers and the First Edition", once again hit the top ten, this time in the summer of 1969 with the topical "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town" (US No. 6, UK#2).
For the next six years, First Edition bounced between country rock, pop and mild psychedelia, enjoying worldwide success.
The First Edition were (outside of Mickey Jones) made up of former New Christy Minstrels who felt creatively stifled. In 1967, with the help of Terry Williams' mother, who worked for producer/executive Jimmy Bowen, they signed with Reprise and recorded their first single together, "I Found A Reason", which picked up minor sales. Like much of the work by the original lineup, this was a distinctly contemporary composition with an intensely-performed Mike Settle vocal. Settle had first come up with the idea of forming the band as his work took on the characteristics of rock. Over the previous seven years, Mike had been writing decidedly more folk-oriented songs, most notably the oft-covered "Sing Hallelujah".
It was their follow-up (sung by Rogers), the proto-metal-psychedelic single "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" that earned them their first brush with fame. The single, with an arrangement by their producer Mike Post that had Glen Campbell playing the backward guitar intro and Mike Deasy providing various psychedelic sounds, became a hit early in 1968, climbing to No. 5 on the Hot 100. Terry Williams played the solo that later led Jimi Hendrix to tell Kenny that it was his favorite record. Though they were interesting, the group's next three single releases bombed, as did their second album. The fall 1968 release "But You Know I Love You" (composed by Settle) possessed a unique brass-tinged country-folk sound, broadening their fan base. In the group's rendition on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour that aired on 8 December 1968, the audience was unwittingly fooled into clapping too soon, right after the false ending but way before the real ending. The record peaked at No. 19 on the Hot 100 just under a year after "Just Dropped In" was at its Billboard summit.
According to Mickey Jones' book "That Would Be Me", Thelma was fired from the group in late 1968 (soon after the release of "But You Know I Love You" and the aforementioned Smothers Brothers television appearance but before the record would chart on the Hot 100) after missing too many gigs and rehearsals. For her part Thelma didn't see it the same way. She has stated that while she always loved being with them in the studio, the road was too hard on her from a health and personal standpoint. Slowly growing apart from the others, Camacho began to feel restricted by the band in a number of ways. All agree that the situation couldn't continue, and she was replaced by her roommate, Mary Arnold, an Iowa born singer who beat out newcomer Karen Carpenter for the job. Thelma appears on the first three LPs, plus half of the fourth album. Mary made her debut on "Reuben James".
By the end of the decade Rogers had long brown hair, an earring, and pink sunglasses. Known affectionately in retrospect as "Hippie Kenny", Rogers had a notably smoother vocal style at the time. In the summer of 1969 the band scored another Top Ten hit with Mel Tillis' "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town." "Ruby" was the global smash that firmly established the First Edition's longevity in the business. Mickey's drumming was part of the hook, but it was Kenny who made the song his own. At Rogers' current shows, the song is often clapped along to, or joked around with, but it was meant very seriously at the time. Telling the graphic story of a crippled veteran was admirably daring at the height of America's involvement with the war in Vietnam. It should be noted that the song lyrics were originally meant to address the Korean War, albeit in such a vague way that it could have referred to Korea, Vietnam, or even the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor. The song was picked up by some of the more attuned disc jockeys, and there was suddenly great demand to release the final track recorded for, and included on, the "First Edition '69" album. In order to release "Ruby" at the same time as the "But You Know I Love You" soundalike "Once Again She's All Alone", the group renamed themselves "Kenny Rogers and The First Edition". When "Ruby" became the hit, the name stuck. Terry later claimed this made him feel like one of Gladys Knight's Pips, but Kenny had sung the hits and had the most identifiable voice. The group had not changed musically, but Kenny had became its spokesman.
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