Blue Moon of Kentucky

"Blue Moon of Kentucky"
Single by Bill Monroe and The Blue Grass Boys
Released September 1947
Genre Bluegrass
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Bill Monroe

"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. In 2003 the song was chosen to be added to the United States Library of Congress National Recording Registry.


"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" number 11 in its list of 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music.

Bill Monroe

Bill Monroe wrote the song in 1946, recording it for Columbia Records on September 16. It was released in early 1947.[1] 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 United States wide hit by 1947[2] and also became enormously popular with other bluegrass, country and early rockabilly acts. The song was revered by the Grand Ole Opry and others;[2] Carl Perkins played an uptempo version of this song in his early live performances.

Elvis Presley

"Blue Moon of Kentucky"
Single by Elvis Presley
B-side "That's All Right"
Released July 19, 1954
Format 7" single
Recorded July 7, 1954
Genre Rockabilly
Length 1:57
Label Sun (original)
RCA Victor (reissue)
Writer(s) Bill Monroe
Producer(s) Sam Phillips
Elvis Presley singles chronology
"Blue Moon of Kentucky"
"Good Rockin' Tonight"

The search for another song to release along with "That's All Right"[3] at Sun Records in July 1954 led to "Blue Moon of Kentucky" via Bill Black. According to Scotty Moore:

We all of us knew we needed something...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
The Blue Moon Boys - The Story of Elvis Presley's Band, [4]

Presley, Moore and Black, with the encouragement of Sam Phillips, transformed Monroe's slow waltz, in 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!."[5] As with all of the Presley records issued by Sun, the artists were listed and stylized as "ELVIS PRESLEY SCOTTY and BILL".[6]

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 amongst the easy listening pop of Teresa Brewer, Nat Cole, Tony Bennett and others.[7]

With Presley's version of Monroe's song consistently rated higher, both sides began to chart across the Southern United States.[8] Billboard has the song listed only in Memphis, and as number 6 with That's All Right at number 7 on October 9 in the C&W Territorial Best Sellers.[9] 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.[10]

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 in a scene of the 2005 TV miniseries Elvis.

Other recordings

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 time arrangement, then launching into an uptempo 4/4 rendition.

In 1968, Al Kooper recorded a version for his debut solo album I Stand Alone.[11]


  1. Sleevenotes to Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys, All the Classic Releases, 1937-1949, CD box set by JSP (2003).
  2. 1 2 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.
  3. Official legal title of Crudup's (and Elvis's) 'That's All Right'
  4. 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.
  5. Burke, Griffin, p. 41
  6. "RCS Label Shot for Sun (Tenn.) 209". Rockin' Country Style.
  7. Robert Johnson (February 5, 1955). "Thru the Patience of Sam Phillips Suddenly Singing Elvis Presley Zooms Into Recording Stardom". Memphis Press-Scimitar. Archived at
  8. "Elvis Presley's Sun Recordings". Elvis Australia. July 21, 2004. Retrieved August 17, 2007.
  9. "C&W Territorial Best Sellers". Billboard. 66 (41). Oct 9, 1954. p. 62.
  10. "C&W Territorial Best Sellers". Billboard. 66 (43). Oct 23, 1954. p. 44.

External links

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