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For most people, Mel Tillis was the voice that delivered major country hits such as “Coca-Cola Cowboy” and “I Ain’t Never.” But to those who knew more about the life and career of the Country Music Hall of Famer, he was also an expert songwriter.
You probably never realized it before, but Tillis served as the force behind the pen that crafted songs for some pretty big names. Just a few include Patsy Cline‘s “Strange,” George Strait‘s “Thoughts of a Fool,” and Waylon Jennings‘ “Mental Revenge.”
Perhaps one of the most well-known songs that Tillis ever wrote was “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.” Originally recorded by country artist Johnny Darrell and released in 1967, the song tells a heartbreaking story. It focuses on a paralyzed veteran who painfully watches his wife get all dolled up to go out on the town without him. Fearful that she’s looking for a lover, the veteran pleads for her not to go, but she doesn’t listen.
Darrell managed to take the song to the ninth spot on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. But his name is not the one that people most often associate with the song.That’s because two years after Darrell released his recording, another artist scored an even bigger hit with it.
That artist was Kenny Rogers, who was still recording with the First Edition at the point in his career. Because of this, his rendition of “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” took on more of a country-pop sound.
The song didn’t perform as well on the country charts as Darrell’s version did, and stalled at the 39th spot on the Hot Country Singles chart. But it experienced immense success on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at the sixth spot.
While many others have recorded “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” over the years, including George Jones and Jerry Reed, Rogers’ name is the one that most often comes up. We’re sure you’re used to hearing Rogers’ version of the song, so how would you like to hear it from the man who wrote it?
In the video below, you’ll get the chance to watch Tillis perform the hit song that he wrote for Rogers all of those years ago. Surrounded by a group of enthusiastic country fans, Tillis delivered a smooth-as-honey performance while the entire crowd clapped along to the beat.
Watching this, there’s no way you can deny how brilliantly talented Tillis was. We’ll never find another one like him, that’s for sure.