Kenny Rogers tribute artist Marty Edwards learned not to be a gambler with his health.
The Peachland performer now uses his platform to encourage men, specifically, to be screened for cancer.
Edwards, along with Dolly Parton tribute artist Wendy Engler, are set to perform a show of country classics and Christmas songs at the Cleland Theatre on Nov. 16. Some of the proceeds from the night will be donated to the B.C. Cancer Foundation.
“I was fortunate. I think back on it and I was an idiot. I was 67 before I had my first colonoscopy,” he said.
The colonoscopy was done in January 2016 and it revealed Edwards had three spots of cancer and a blockage in his colon.
“Unfortunately the places were not close together and essentially they had to take all my colon. The six to eight weeks post surgery were brutal,” he said.
Although concerned about the cancer, Edwards was also worried he might lose his signature Kenny Rogers voice. During the surgery, he was intubated so there was risk his vocal chords could be damaged.
Although medical professionals were careful, it took two months for his voice to return.
“At eight weeks the recovery started to happen really fast. I had amazing surgeons, a lot of positive thoughts and prayers. The key really is that early detection.”
Edwards recently had a screening and he remains cancer free. He talks about his health scare during his shows.
“I just like to take the opportunity to get that message out there loud and clear that early detection is the best way to deal with these things,” he said.
Edwards, a lifelong entertainer who’s played in a number of bands over the years, started doing a Kenny Rogers tribute about 20 years ago. While working on an album of his own, Edwards was encouraged by a producer to try out the well-known Gambler, Lucille and Lady singer’s style. He certainly had the looks even then — white hair, white beard.
“He asked me if I ever thought about doing a Kenny Rogers tribute. I’d always sang his songs. I always enjoyed him and thought it was great music but I had never tried to emulate him,” he said.
After reading about a two-year-old child who died from neglect and abuse, Edwards and his wife decided to put on a benefit concert to raise money for children.
“I put the Kenny Rogers thing in for something different. I did three songs and it went over really well. We did the benefit for a number of years when I was living on the coast,” he said. “I worked at it and tried to get the look down a bit better and the mannerisms. My wife started sending out materials to agents and venues and it got to the point I turned down more work than I did.”
Edwards met Dolly tribute artist Engler about seven years ago while they were both doing a show in Michigan. At the time she was crooning the songs of Patsy Cline.
“A couple years later I asked her if she might be interested in doing Dolly. She thought it was a possibility but she was tied up doing Cher in Legends in Concert. After that was over, we were finally able to do something. It’s great. We have a great rapport on stage and we’re great friends off stage,” he said.
Edwards said there are different types of tribute artists — ones that do multiple people and others that just do one.
“When I’m not doing Kenny, I do myself,” he said. “I have a couple different shows I do. One is a salute to Tom Jones and Roy Orbison. I don’t have the look of them but it appeals to a certain demographic. My solo shows are 60s and 70s covers with a band.”
Edwards has met Kenny Rogers several times over the years and the iconic country western star is even a fan of his Facebook Page, Kinda Kenny Rogers.
“He’s been great to me. He told a New York City law firm that I was his favourite impersonator. That meant a lot to me,” he said.
Both the real Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton officially stopped performing in late October of this year.
“We’re really proud that we can keep their performances alive through our shows,” he said.
On Nov. 16 concert goers will be treated to a mix of classic Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton songs and duets and festive songs.
“I like to say to folks coming to the show that they’re going to hear all their favourite songs but the problem is there’s so many we can’t get them all into one show but there definitely will be many,” he said with a laugh.
Tickets are $48 for the show happening on Nov. 16 at Cleland Community Theatre.
Tickets are available at etixnow.com or charge by phone 888-790-1477 or at the door.
The show starts at 7:30 p.m.