Blue Moon of Kentucky
|Single by Bill Monroe and The Blue Grass Boys|
"Blue Moon of Kentucky" is a waltz written in 1946 by bluegrass musician Bill Monroe and recorded by his band, The Blue Grass Boys. The song has since been recorded by many artists, including Elvis Presley.
"Blue Moon" is the official bluegrass song of Kentucky. In 2002, Monroe's version was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. In 2003, CMT ranked "Blue Moon" #11 on its 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music.
Bill Monroe wrote the song in 1946, recording it for Columbia Records on September 16. It was released in early 1947. At the time, the Bluegrass Boys included vocalist and guitarist Lester Flatt and banjoist Earl Scruggs, who would later form their own bluegrass band, the Foggy Mountain Boys. Both Flatt and Scruggs performed on the recording, although Bill Monroe supplied the vocals on this song.
The song, described as a "bluegrass waltz", had become a nationwide hit by 1947 and also became enormously popular with other bluegrass, country, and early rockabilly acts. Although the song was revered by the Grand Ole' Opry and others, Carl Perkins played an uptempo version of this song in his early live performances.
In 1954, The Stanley Brothers recorded a version of the song using Presley's 4/4 arrangement with bluegrass instrumentation, neatly bridging the stylistic gap between Monroe's and Presley's approaches. Bill Monroe subsequently re-recorded and performed the song using a mixture of the two styles, starting the song in its original 3/4 arrangement, then launching into an uptempo 4/4 rendition.
The search for another song to release along with "That's All Right" at Sun Records in July 1954 led to "Blue Moon of Kentucky" via Bill Black. "We all of us knew we needed something," according to Scotty Moore, and things seemed hopeless after a while. "Bill is the one who came up with "Blue Moon of Kentucky."...We're taking a little break and he starts beating on the bass and singing "Blue Moon of Kentucky," mocking Bill Monroe, singing the high falsetto voice. Elvis joins in with him, starts playing and singing along with him," as did Moore himself. Presley, Moore, and Black, with the encouragement of Sam Phillips, transformed Monroe's slow waltz (3/4 time) into an upbeat, blues-flavored tune in 4/4 time.
After an early rendition of the song, Sun Records owner Sam Phillips exclaimed, "BOY, that's fine, that's fine. That's a POP song now!." As with all of the Presley records issued by Sun, the artists were listed as "ELVIS PRESLEY SCOTTY and BILL".
The same night that Dewey Phillips first played the flip side of this first release of Presley's music on WHBQ ("That's All Right"), Sleepy Eye John at WHHM loosed "Blue Moon of Kentucky". Bob Neal of WMPS played the record too. The pop jockeys, entranced by something new, began slipping "That's All Right" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky" in among the more "easy listening" pop of Teresa Brewer, Nat Cole and Tony Bennett.
With Presley's version of Monroe's song consistently rated higher, both sides began to chart across the South. Billboard has the song listed only in Memphis, and as #6 with That's All Right at #7 on October 9 in the C&W Territorial Best Sellers. By October 23, "Blue Moon" was in the top 10 in Memphis, Nashville, and New Orleans, with "That's All Right" absent from the listings.
Fellow Sun Records artist Charlie Feathers has often claimed that he came up with the arrangement of the song used by Presley.
The song was later used for the 2005 TV miniseries Elvis in a scene.
Numerous artists have recorded the song, including John Fogerty, Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Ronnie Hawkins, Rory Gallagher, Jerry Lee Lewis, LeAnn Rimes, Paul McCartney, Boxcar Willie, Ray Charles, Jerry Reed, Jimmy Martin, Brian Setzer, Patrick Wall and Raul Seixas.The song was also performed in 1980 by Levon Helm (The Band) for the movie "Coal Miner's Daughter".
In 1995, the remaining Beatles - Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr - performed an impromptu 4/4 version of the song that was eventually released on the Bonus DVD of The Beatles Anthology video release. McCartney had earlier performed and released the song in 1991 as part of his appearance on MTV Unplugged.
On the late '80s/early '90s time travelling sci-fi show, Quantum Leap, Sam Beckett performed "Blue Moon of Kentucky" after Leaping in as Elvis Presley in the "Memphis Melody" episode. John Candy and Steve Martin sing the song in the 1987 film Planes, Trains and Automobiles. In the King of the Hill episode "The Bluegrass Is Always Greener", first aired in 2002, Jeff Boomhauer performed the song, with Vince Gill providing the singing voice.
- Sleevenotes to Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys, All the Classic Releases, 1937-1949, CD box set by JSP (2003).
- Jerry Naylor and Steve Halliday (2007). The Rockabilly Legends; They Called It Rockabilly Long Before they Called It Rock and Roll. p. 39. ISBN 978-1-4234-2042-2.
- Official legal title of Crudup's (and Elvis's) 'That's All Right'
- Ken Burke and Dan Griffin (2006). The Blue Moon Boys - The Story of Elvis Presley's Band. Chicago Review Press. p. 20. ISBN 1-55652-614-8.
- Burke, Griffin, p. 41
- "RCS Label Shot for Sun (Tenn.) 209". Rockin' Country Style.
- Robert Johnson (February 5, 1955). "Thru the Patience of Sam Phillips Suddenly Singing Elvis Presley Zooms Into Recording Stardom". Memphis Press-Scimitar. Archived at http://www.scottymoore.net/
- "Elvis Presley's Sun Recordings". Elvis Australia. July 21, 2004. Retrieved August 17, 2007.
- "C&W Territorial Best Sellers". Billboard 66 (41). Oct 9, 1954. p. 62.
- "C&W Territorial Best Sellers". Billboard 66 (43). Oct 23, 1954. p. 44.
- Bill Monroe original version sample @ cduniverse Click on Track Listing
- Elvis version sample @ cduniverse
- Kentucky's State Bluegrass Song: Blue Moon of Kentucky
- NPR report including various versions
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics