Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town

First recorded by Johnny Darrell (C&W #9/UK #2 1967).
Also recorded by The Statler Brothers (1967).
Hit version by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition (US #6/C&W #39/UK #1 1969).
See also: “Billy, I’ve Got to Go to Town” by Geraldine Stevens (1969).

From the wiki: “‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town’ is a song written by Mel Tillis about a paralyzed veteran of a ‘crazy Asian war’ (given the time of its release, widely assumed but never explicitly stated to be the Vietnam War). ‘Ruby’ was originally recorded in 1967 by Johnny Darrell, who scored a #9 country hit with it that year. The song was made world-famous in 1969 by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition.

“In 1969, after Kenny Rogers and the First Edition’s success with the hits ‘Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)‘ and ‘But You Know I Love You’, Rogers wanted to take his group more into a country music direction. They recorded their version of ‘Ruby’ (with Rogers singing the lead) in one take. The record was a major hit for them. It made #1 in the UK, staying in the UK Top 20 for 15 weeks. In the United States it reached #6 on the Hot 100 and #39 on the country chart. Worldwide, the single sold more than 7 million copies.

“‘Ruby’ also had some cultural significance outside of the music industry. A music video consisting solely of a camera panning back and forth in a bedroom closed a Huntley-Brinkley Report during 1969, over news footage of that week’s carnage in Vietnam. Chet Huntley set up the video by linking it to the controversial Vietnam War and the sacrifices by U.S. servicemen and their families. Chet Huntley and David Brinkley paused after the video and then signed off in their usual fashion.

“An answer song to ‘Ruby,’ entitled ‘Billy, I’ve Got to Go to Town,’ was released in 1969 by Geraldine Stevens (and co-written by ‘Ruby’ writer Mel Tillis and Vic Dana) who had previously recorded successfully under the name Dodie Stevens (‘Pink Shoe Laces’). Sung to the same melody with an arrangement quite similar to the First Edition version, ‘Billy’ peaked at #117 pop, #57 country. In Stevens’ song, Ruby affirms her love for her disabled husband and pleads in turn for her man to have faith in her fidelity and her commitment to him, even in his crippled condition.”

The Statler Brothers, “Rudy, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” (1967):

Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” (1969):

Geraldine Stevens, “Billy, I’ve Got to Go to Town” (1969):

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