Don Schlitz releases bluegrass version of The Gambler

Don Schlitz has been one of the most successful songwriters in Nashville, writing hit after hit for top country acts like The Judds, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tanya Tucker, and Mary Chapin Carpenter, as well as bluegrass-adjacent artists like Keith Whitley and Alison Krauss.

Songs like On the Other Hand and Forever and Ever, Amen helped make Randy Travis a star, as did When You Say Nothing At All for Keith Whitley, and later for Alison Krauss. Along the way Don has won three CMA Song of the Year awards, two Academy of Country Music Song of the Year prizes, and two Grammy Awards plus induction into the Nashville Songwriters Association Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

But none have had the widespread impact of his first #1, when Kenny Rogers recorded The Gambler in 1978. The song reached across genre lines internationally, showing up on pop and country charts all over the world. It remained Rogers’ biggest hit up until his passing in 2020, and has left such an impact that The Library of Congress chose his single for preservation owing to its cultural, historical, and artistic significance.

And now Don has released his own bluegrass version of The Gambler as a debut single from his new album with Engelhardt Music Group, Mountaintop. This project features twelve of his songs, sung by the songwriter, and assisted by some of the biggest names in bluegrass. In addition to an all-star cast of super pickers, Don is joined by both Del McCoury and Ricky Skaggs on a grassed up take on I Won’t Take Less Than Your Love.

Mountaintop marks his second bluegrass project with EMG, proving the old adage that behind every songwriter is a singer trying to get out.

Check out his version of The Gambler, which offers a different feel and structure than the Kenny Rogers recording. Don is supported by Aubrey Haynie on fiddle, Scott Vestal on banjo, Dennis Crouch on bass, Cody Kilby on guitar, Casey Campbell on mandolin, Rob Ickes on reso-guitar, with Eddie Sanders and Glen Duncan singing harmonies.

Both The Gambler and the full Mountaintop album by Don Schlitz are available now wherever you stream or download music online. Audio CDs can be ordered from the EMG web site.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.