arly in February 1959 music history changed when Dion DiMucci missed the plane carrying the other musicians with whom he was touring: Charles Hardin “Buddy” Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.
Dion turned in seven top ten singles during 1962 and 1963, one of which was the Lieber/Stoller collaboration “Ruby Baby.” Only 19 years later, Ruby got quite a facelift at the hands of the more vocal half of Steely Dan, Donald Fagen.
Fagen’s The Nightfly“, released in 1982, contains seven of Fagen’s own tunes, “Ruby” being the only cover. While Dion’s almost doo-wop, almost rockabilly version fit his times, Fagen makes it timeless as a pure jazz tune. Nearly discordant backing vocals and a piano solo credited to Greg Phillinganes (which sounds to me a lot like Fagen) transform the 60s pop tune into an after hours meeting at your favorite smoky club. Larry Carlton‘s guitar sounds less jazzy, more edgy than you’d expect from him, but fits neatly into the package’s arrangement.