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Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town


by Jonathan van Bilsen


In my early twenties, I had a great job being an announcer on a radio station in Owen Sound. The station, CFOS, hired me for the graveyard shift, which was midnight to 5:30 a.m. It was the start of the summer season, so the listening audience was great. There were truckers, shift workers, and just a number of people who enjoyed early morning radio.

The $45-a-week income paid the rent and the odd hamburger, so when an opportunity to be a newscaster surfaced at a Toronto station, I jumped on it. I was at CFGM for a few months when the morning show host, Bob McAdorey, left. I was given an opportunity to take over the spot, and it was awesome, not to mention a paycheque of $50 a week.

To supplement my income, I would emcee the local high school dances Friday and Saturday nights, which was quite enjoyable. It was a time before DJs spinning records, instead it was always live bands, many of which were quite good.

Numerous bands came up from the US who were trying to make a name for themselves and came to Canada to play the high school circuit in an effort to gain popularity. One Saturday night, a new and upcoming group, which branched out from the New Christy Minstrels, was making headlines with a few hits. They had a soon to start contract to join ‘Rollin’ on the River’, a show which would gain popularity throughout the American country scene.

As the emcee, I was given their names and went backstage to meet them. I was confronted with the lead singer for the band, a large, bearded Texan with a softer than expected voice. I asked what song they were going to open with and he answered, ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town’, a newly written tune by Mel Tillis. I nodded and went back to the wings.

A few minutes later I stepped onto the stage, staring at a packed gymnasium, and began my introduction. “please welcome our next group, all the way from the American heart of country music, performing their new hit, ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town’. As the crowd started their applause, I yelled out, ”Please welcome Teddy Rogers and the First Edition.”

I walked toward the wing, and as I passed the lead singer, he looked at me and said, “It’s Kenny, not Teddy.” I could feel my face turning red from embarrassment. I finished introducing the next band and went to find Kenny Rogers with the intent of apologizing. He had already left the building, and no doubt, that faux pas was remembered by him for the remainder of his life. It certainly stuck with me.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website and YouTube.

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