♫ Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town ♫

As part of this week-long tribute to Kenny Rogers, one of my all-time favourites, each night I plan to include a bit of trivia.  In 2017, Kenny Rogers did an interview with Southern Living magazine.  One of the questions he was asked was to recount his favourite memory of Dolly Parton, his long-time friend and singing partner.  Kenny said his favorite moment was in 2013 while they were recording their final duet together called You Can’t Make Old Friends. At one point, he looked up and saw Parton was no longer at her microphone. Suddenly, she appeared by his side, and put her arms around his neck. “Kenny, I think you should know, I could never sing at your funeral.”

Rogers laughed at the memory. “I went, ‘So we’re assuming I’m going first?’ ” He chuckled again. “But I love her for that. You never know what she’s going to say, but it always comes from love.”Kenny-DollyWhen I first mentioned that I was considering Ellen’s idea for a week-long tribute to the late Kenny Rogers, you guys started giving me ideas, letting me know your favourites, and I jotted them all down.  The #1 favourite, with four requests, is this one … Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town.

I had no idea that Mel Tillis had written this song!  The song tells the story of a wounded soldier who has returned home to a woman who shows him little sympathy, leaving him to go out at night and enjoy the company of other men. All he can do is beg her to stay home and keep him company, but his pleas fall on deaf ears.

Tillis based the song on a real-life couple who lived near his 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 made 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.  The real couple’s story had a tragic ending:  the man killed her in a murder-suicide.

I also didn’t know that Tillis was the first to release this song, including it on his 1967 album Life’s That Way. Waylon Jennings, Johnny Darrell, The Statler Brothers and Bobby Goldsboro all recorded the song later that year, with Darrell’s version going to #9 on the Country chart. Kenny Rogers recorded the definitive version with his band The First Edition in 1969, taking it to #2 in the UK and to #6 in the U.S.

A lot of controversy surrounded this song when it became a hit for Kenny Rogers in 1969, as the Vietnam War was raging and the song was often assumed to be about a man who came home crippled from that war. Rogers would perform the song in a jovial manner, and the crowd would often clap and sing along, so to some it was seen as disrespectful to veterans. In a 1970 interview with Beat Instrumental, Rogers defended the song, saying:

“Look, we don’t see ourselves as politicians, even if a lot of pop groups think they are in the running for a Presidential nomination. We are there, primarily, to entertain. Now if we can entertain by providing thought-provoking songs, then that’s all to the good. But the guys who said ‘Ruby’ was about Vietnam were way off target – it was about Korea. But whatever the message, and however you interpret it, fact is that we wouldn’t have looked at it if it hadn’t been a GOOD song. Just wanna make good records, that’s all.”

I’ve included two versions here.  The first is Kenny with The First Edition back in 1972, and the second is Kenny sans The First Edition, some thirty years later.  They are both good, I think my preference is the second, however.

Kenny Rodgers

You’ve painted up your lips and rolled and curled your tinted hair
Ruby are you contemplating going out somewhere?
The shadows on the wall tell me the sun is going down
Oh Ruby, don’t take your love to town

It wasn’t me that started that old crazy Asian war
But I was proud to go and do my patriotic chore
And yes, it’s true that I’m not the man I used to be
Oh Ruby, I still need some company

It’s hard to love a man whose legs are bent and paralyzed
And the wants and needs of a woman your age really I realize
But it won’t be long, I’ve heard them say, until I’m not around
Oh Ruby, don’t take your love to town

She’s leaving now cause I just heard the slamming of the door
The way I know I heard its slams one hundred times before
And if I could move I’d get my gun and put her in the ground
Oh Ruby, don’t take your love to town

Oh Ruby, for God’s sake, turn around

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Mel Tillis
Ruby lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

34 thoughts on “♫ Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town ♫

  1. I love the backstory, and the fact that it was inspired by true life. I always thought it was linked to the Vietnam War also, so it’s interesting that it was actually linked to Korea, and was inspired by a murder-suicide. I enjoy the tune, but it does feel a little troubling that it might somehow encourage the murder of unfaithful women. Guys, don’t do it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • One of the biggest pleasures I get from these music posts is learning the backstories of songs I’ve loved seemingly forever, but never knew how they came about. I, too, always believed the vet was a Vietnam War vet. Yeah, there are better ways out than murder, but think … he had nowhere else to turn, nobody else to rely on … it’s a tough call, and I wouldn’t venture a guess as to what most of us would do in similar circumstances.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. YOU are certainly giving the KENNY ROGERS TRIBUTE WEEK your all!! And, you have done your homework well! The story behind this story was not new to me…did you even for a New York minute doubt that?! I suppose that in light of the fact that Dolly is about 7 years younger than Kenny, it would seem likely that he would be gone first. If you’ve ever heard that song though, you know what triggered that moment betwixt them. I can only add two bits of trivia about this song. As you may know The First Edition…I loved them from their first self titled album in 1967 with the hit sing “Just Dropped In”…released their last album before becoming Kenny Rogers and The First Edition. That album “The First Edition ’69” begins with one hit “But You Know I Love You” and ends with another “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.” This was followed by the first album that bears the group name as Kenny Rogers and The First Edition, “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”. In addition to the title song on the album is the previously posted “Reuben James” and also “Me and Bobby McGee”. It took me awhile to pull those old original albums out, but so worth it! I also have The First Edition’s Second which was their inbetween 1968 album that did not realize any hit songs on it. Might I just say that it was a lovely touch to include the two versions of this song. The Kenny in the first video shows the difference in appearance beyond those of age, but also those of voice. Kenny Rogers improved with age in appearance and voice…until those ill fated surgeries. Thank-YOU!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh bother! This only proves that one should proofread a comment prior to hitting post. Upon rereading, I find that this lacks clarity in more than one place. Be that as it may, I will leave it to you to decipher the entire comment as best you can and correct only the last sentence. The surgeries did NOT change his voice, only his adorable face!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Nope … not for a New York minute did I doubt it! Your added trivia always enhances my music posts. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the Kenny Rogers tribute, as I am enjoying doing it. I agree … Kenny is like a fine wine who improved with age … until the surgeries. Sigh. Why mess with perfection?


  3. “If I could move I’d get my gun and put her in the ground”

    Thanks, but no thanks. Too many men still think they own women, and can play god with their lives. I do not listen to this song.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jill, thanks for the background of the song. I had no clue that Mel Tillis had a hand in this. A couple of thoughts jumped out at me:
    – the effortless singing and timing of Rogers and the band.
    – the criticism he received – people can still honor those who fought, even if against the war.

    This last point is especially true after the Pentagon Papers were released and reported on. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who didn’t realize Mel Tillis had both written and recorded this song! Your points are very good … we don’t have to approve of the war, but the people fighting it were doing what they felt was their duty. I was dating a guy in 1969 who died in Vietnam, even though his was only a ‘desk job’. He hated the war, but loved his country and felt it was what he had to do.


  5. The second version is superior but neither is the one that came out on 45 that piqued my interest in a slice of country. I’ve long believed that Dolly is the most genuine person in the music or film industry over there though the size of that waist is a real worry., is iit like that for our benefit only?
    RIP Kenny. You made a lot of people very happy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Like you, neither version sounded like the one I remembered, but I went through 6-7 of them and none of them were quite right, so I settled for these two. I can’t answer your question about Dolly, but according to her, “I always wanted to be pretty, and I always wanted to be a star, whatever that meant. I wanted to shine; so I created my own look to build my confidence, because very few people are born beautiful, with natural beauty, and I certainly am not one.” But, where it counts, her persona, she is about as real as they come, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah, Jill, this opened up a can of old wrinkly worms! My very first ‘real’ party as a teenager, my first ever boyfriend. He was very insistent, I wasn’t really that keen – I should never have agreed to go out with him, it was just vanity and I hurt him and he lived nearby so after that I still saw him often in passing, not a great start to dating! It’s such a sad, sad song. That, for God’s sake turnaround.
    I prefer to remember ‘400 children and a crop in the field ‘ as we students sang. Ha! That too holds memories, a taxi drive along a dirt road in Zambia, well-meaning driver puts in a cd of Lucille, but every time the car hits a bump (often) it goes right back to the beginning, ‘In a bar in Toledo, across from the depot’ by the time we got to our destination we were bursting from trying not to laugh hysterically. The song is a brilliant, capsule story, as the best country and western is.
    I hope you’re coping with the lockdown. I am finding it very hard, worrying about all the possibilities, what may or may not happen. Worrying about getting groceries. Worrying about getting red wine (no emojis or I’d add a slew of hysterical laughing ones there). And acting as domestic head of IT now Larry is home working.
    It’s a tough time all round. You take care of yourself and keep well. Big hugs old friend! xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ahhhh … the good ol’ days, yes? 😉 Your memory is better than mine, I think! Ha ha … I used to think it was ‘400 children’ too! Until I studied biology and realized that she would have to be a rabbit or some such. I am coping, I suppose, with the lockdown. Not much difference, as I’m a homebody anyway, and I still go to the grocery … actually twice a week now instead of once, hoping to find a pound of butter, or pack of leeks. I’m highly frustrated by a couple of things, though … people’s attitudes and the fact that corporations and our government are exploiting the situation. Plus, I am watching closely, for I fear our November 3rd presidential election, our chance to get rid of the maniac in office, is in danger. I have to wonder … what would people in this country do if North Korea bombed all the toilet paper and pasta factories. Sigh. Prof planning any digs this summer? You take care, my friend, try to find a reason to smile each day. Love ‘n Hugs!!!


  7. I love that picture of Dolly and Kenny in your header, Jill. I always thought it ironic that a soldier who was obviously suffering from wounds would think of using a gun to solve his angst. That’s just me. I always enjoy this one. Thanks, Jill.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Wow! I never knew that song was based on a true story. That story is really sad! Thanks for sharing though, and I do like the song. Had almost included it yesterday,but didn’t exactly know how. 🙂
    Awh! Those words from Dolly! ❤
    Cheers to close friendships!

    Liked by 3 people

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