Kenny Rogers’ Song “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” Was Based On a Sad True Story
Kenny Rogers Passed away Friday night. He was 81. Kenny had been making music since his first tune in 1958. That first one, "That Crazy Feeling" was not a hit but when he teamed with a group called "The First Edition" things started to happen. The 1969 song "Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town" by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition was a smash international hit. It was also a top 10 pop tune and made a decent showing on the country chart. "Ruby" had a good country pedigree because it was written by established country singer/songwriter Mel Tillis (that's Mel and Kenny at a CMA reception in the photo above).
Years after the tune helped Kenny Rogers move from the rock charts to country, Mel explained how he came up with the song. When he was a youngster, the Tillis family lived in the little Florida town of Pahokee. Behind their home was a small three room house where a WWII wounded vet lived with his wife. Mel said the couple used to argue a lot and when the neighbor had to go to the VA hospital for treatment, his wife would date other men. The couple divorced and the neighbor remarried, divorced and married again. This third marriage ended in the most tragic way. He shot and killed his wife and committed suicide.
Mel changed the war in his song from WWII to "that crazy Asian war," which most of us assumed was the Vietnam war which had heated up when the song came out. Here's Kenny at age 34 sporting brown long hair, earring and glasses with his group the First Edition doing the big hit: