Wednesday, July 7, 2004

50 years ago: Elvis Presley recorded “Blue Moon of Kentucky”

Blue Moon of Kentucky

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys

Writer(s): Bill Monroe (see lyrics here)

Recorded: September 16, 1946

Released: September 22, 1947

First Charted: --

Peak: -- (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 5.2 video, 6.47 streaming

Blue Moon of Kentucky

Elvis Presley

Recorded: July 7, 1954

Released: July 19, 1954

First Charted: --

Peak: 5 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 1.17 video, -- streaming

Awards (Monroe):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Presley):

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Country singer William Smith Monroe was born on 9/13/1911 in Rosine, KY. He grew up playing mandoline and in 1938 at age 27 formed the Blue Grass Boys. They integrated gospel, country, and string band music in a faster style which came to be known as bluegrass – named after the band. TC It has also been described as “a form of country music which combines harmony singing with the banjo and the fiddle.” LW

In 1946, they recorded “Blue Grass of Kentucky,” which music historian Steve Sullivan called “the beloved theme song of the Father of Bluegrass.” SS As Monroe said, “it seems every trip we made was from Kentucky to Florida driving back and forth…I always thought about Kentucky and wanted to write a song about the moon we could always see over it. The best way to do this was to bring a girl into the song….I wrote it in the car on the way home from one of those Florida trips.” TC

The song was composed in waltz time with the barn dances in mind which Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys often played. LW The recording featured the famed duo of guitarist Lester Flatt and banjoist Earl Scruggs. SS It not only became the state song of Kentucky, but the B-side of Elvis Presley’s first single, “That’s All Right,” recorded at Sun Records. He sped the song up to become “a giddy rockabilly raveup” SS and “one of the first rock & roll songs.” TC Music critic Dave Marsh called it “high lonesome with ants in its pants.” DM He also said that Elvis’ covers of “country standards like this was as audacious as his blues reworkings.” DM He “radically recasts one of the most sacrosanct number in all bluegrass.” DM

The song features “gutbucket bass and rocketing guitar solos and that relentless rattling – probably Elvis baning on the body of his guitar ‘like it was the lid of a garbage can,’ as he once described it.” DM Sun Records’ founder Sam Phillips thought if he could market Presley to a country audience, he could make some money. LW However, the country market suffered more than R&B did from the arrival of rock ‘n’ roll. “To admit Elvis to the C&W charts was an acknowledgment that there was an essential vitality missing.” DM Monroe himself liked Elvis’ version enough that he re-recorded it more in the King’s style. SS


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First posted 8/22/2023.

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