Marty Edwards knows a good thing when he hears it. Having spent the past two decades performing across the globe as a Kenny Rogers tribute act, he’s had the pleasure of listening to the wild applause that comes when performing some of Roger’s classic hits, like Lady.
Unfortunately, Edwards also knows bad news when he hears it.
In January of 2016, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
“I was living the dream” said Edwards. “And then, with no warning and no symptoms, I found out I had cancer. I still get chills when I remember the doctor giving me the news.”
Ten months of treatment, where he wasn’t sure he would survive, let alone perform ever again, Edwards made it back to the stage.
He said the initial diagnosis had him thinking about end-of-life plans, not touring.
Early detection of the disease meant he was able to keep going. But the months of chemotherapy left him doubting. At one point, he lost his voice. But slowly, he recovered. He finally made it back to the stage in October.
Now he brings his show alongside Dolly Parton tribute performer Wendy Engler for a show at the ACT on Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m.
The Kenny and Dolly Together Again – The Ultimate Tribute show, features Edwards alongside Engler, who has been performing as Dolly Parton for the past 10 years. She’s headlined in Atlantic City and Las Vegas and performed alongside the legendary Parton.
The two will also donate a portion of the ticket sales to the Canadian Cancer Society. He said the concert is just an avenue to help spread the message.
“It’s not the focal point of the show, but I do take a little time to remind people to be aware, get checked out,” he said.
He said he loves delighting the crowd with the pair’s most famous songs.
“The energy we see from the crowd, especially when we play outdoor festivals, is incredible. When we perform duets, you can see the crowd surge. Wendy is incredible and brings so much to every show,” he said.
That, combined with an incredible back-up band, makes for an authentic experience, he said.
Edwards, who lives in Peachland, has toured around the world, from shows in U.S, Ireland, and Australia, to performing on Oprah and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Edwards said the opportunity “has been truly a blessing,” said Edwards.
He started out covering Rogers when his wife was putting together a charity benefit in the mid ’90s.
It was only supposed to be a one-time gig. But he said the reaction to the performance was so overwhelming he decided to run with it.
But what truly keeps Edwards going is the endorsement he received from the Rogers.
Edwards said in the mid ’90s he ended up booking a gig for a New York law firm that had hoped to book Rogers. But the cost was a little excessive for the firm. When they contacted Rogers to let him know they were going with a cover version, he was insistent on knowing who was going to perform.
When Rogers found out Edwards was the act, he emphatically gave his thumbs-ups. Rogers also followed Edwards Facebook page, something not lost on Edwards.
“To me it was certainly a validation of what I do and what I put into the shows,” said Edwards. “I see myself as an ambassador and I feel truly blessed to be able to do this knowing Kenny appreciated my work.”
Edwards didn’t always perform as a tribute act. He was a musician with his own band, but was persuaded to give the Gambler a try while performing at his wife’s charity event two decades ago.
“The organizers came up to me immediately after the show and wanted to book me for the following year. It just kind of took off from there.”
He said crowds in Maple Ridge can expect to see the traditional fan favourites, but warns they can’t cover everything.
“We’d be up there for four hours and still would cover everything,” he laughed.”