45 RPM Records

Kenny Rogers and the First Edition – School Teacher (1972)


This is definitely not my parents’ First Edition. I may still have the 8-track somewhere that, among the handful of others secured by my dad for “just one penny” via the Columbia Record and Tape Club, played incessantly on weekend afternoons when my folks would host cook-outs with their neighborhood friends. Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town was, by far, my favorite track and would–for quite some time–remain in my mind “The Gambler’s” best work. And, heck, I’ll even play Something’s Burning on a jukebox whenever I can find it. Now, I doubt my folks had recognized Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) as the First Edition when picking out that 8-track and so I can only assume that the grooviest First Ed they’d ever experienced was on Burning. Hence the first sentence of this review.

School Teacher is a mystery to me. I don’t possess nor have I ever come across a copy of  the LP from whence it came, The Ballad of Calico. Before spending time researching this track I spent some time scratching my head thinking “how does Kenny make his voice sound so different on this song?” He doesn’t. Enter Kin Vassy. Vassy replaced founding singer/guitarist Mike Settle in 1969 and was subsequently featured on what I believe may be the only single released for this album. A Kenny Rogers and the First Edition song not sung by Kenny Rogers? WTF??? Well sorry, Kenny, but this track’s burning. While Vassy lacks Kenny’s buttery smooth character he nails down an impressive performance backed by a rhythm track that’s got the unique blend of folky-bluesy-soul that made the Edition famous. The opening arpeggiated Spanish guitar and gentle quality of Vassy’s voice does nothing to hint at the down-right funky chorus that follows with backing vocals that are inconceivably high-pitched and squeezed out as if almost painfully.