Okay, so technically this isn’t a 70s song. However, it was released in 1969 and sat on the charts into 1970 – that’s near enough for me. Plus the fact that I have fond memories of Kenny Rogers and the First Edition and their television show. Oh, and also because I love this song, Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town (along with Something’s Burning, Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In, But You Know I Love You and the numerous other songs they produced).
- The First Edition were a rock ‘n’ roll band formed in 1967 from the remnants of The New Christy Minstrels.*
- Amazingly, they only had two US hits; Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) peaking at #5, and But You Know I Love You, peaking at #19.
- In 1969, the band added the name of their lead singer and bassist to their name and became Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. In their new form they only hit the top ten only once with Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town which made it to #6 in the US and #2 in the UK.
- The band’s highest peaking US hit, Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In), features no other than Glen Campbell playing the backward guitar intro. The song’s guitar solo was played by Terry Williams. Jimi Hendrix liked it so much that he told Kenny it was his favourite song.
- Kenny’s post-First Edition exploits are well-known. Drummer Mickey Jones also had an interesting musical career. Prior to The First Edition he was drumming for Trini Lopez’s band before being asked to join Bob Dylan. These were the days when The Band were backing Bob. Mickey took Levon Helm’s place. Mickey toured with Bob and was on stage on May 17, 1966, when Bob was jeered (one audience member calling him Judas) for playing an electric guitar. After The First Edition, Mickey became an actor and appeared in a number of American sit-coms including Home Improvement.
- In the early 70s, The First Edition hosted their own TV variety show, Rollin’ on the River (later shortened to “Rollin'”).
* The New Christy Minstrels performed from 1961 – 1971 before reforming in 1976. They still perform today and are run by The New Christy Minstrels Foundation, a charitable organisation dedicated to preserving the group’s music. Past members include Barry McGuire, Gene Clark (of The Byrds), and Kim Carnes.
ruby, don’t take your love to town fax
- Surprisingly, Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town was not a Kenny Rogers and the First Edition original. Written by Mel Tillis, it was released in 1967 by Johnny Darrell who took it to #9 on the US singles chart.
- Kenny Rogers and the First Edition recorded their version in one take in August 1969.
- It reached #2 on the UK single charts, stayed in the UK Top 20 for 15 weeks and sold over 1 million copies. It peaked at #6 in the US where it was also a million-seller.
- Several other artists have covered the song including, The Statler Brothers, Waylon Jennings, Roger Miller, and The Killers. Nana Mouskouri recorded a French version, Ruby, garde ton cœur ici.
- A response song was released in 1969. Billy, I’ve Got to Go to Town was released by Geraldine Stevens. With an arrangement quite similar to the First Edition’s version, the song peaked at #117 in the US charts. In the song, the singer affirms her love for her disabled husband and pleads for him to have faith in her fidelity and her commitment to him, even in his crippled condition.
- In 1972, Bobby Womack’s album Understanding, included a song titled, Ruby Dean, telling the story from the perspective of Ruby’s son. In this song, Ruby’s son urges Ruby to respect his father and stop seeing other men.
- Mel Tillis is recorded to have said of the song:
The song is based on a couple who lived near our family in Florida. In real life, the man was wounded in Germany in World War II and sent to recuperate in England. There he married a nurse who took care of him at the hospital. The two of them moved to Florida shortly afterward but he had periodic return trips to the hospital as problems with his wounds kept flaring up. His wife saw another man as the veteran lay in the hospital.
- Mel changed the war in the song to the Korean War and left out the real life ending in which the man killed Ruby in a murder-suicide. In the song, the man says he would kill her if he could move to get his gun.
- Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town lyrics.
ruby, don’t take your love to town – kenny rogers and the first edition – 1969 – video
billy, i’ve got to go to town – geraldine stevens (aka dodie stevens)
ruby dean – bobby Womack – 1972 – video
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