'Blue Moon of Kentucky': The Story Behind Kentucky's State Song

When thinking of classic bluegrass songs, "Blue Moon of Kentucky"' is one that comes to almost everyone's mind.

The tune was written in the late 1940s by musician, songwriter, and father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe.

The song has been recorded by artists like Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Patsy Cline, Jerry Reed, Earl Scruggs, Carl Perkins, and The Beatles' Paul McCartney.

In 2003, the song was added to the U.S. Library of Congress National Recording Registry.   That same year CMT ranked the song as #11 of the 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music.

The Legacy of Bill Monroe

Monroe was born on a small farm in Rosine, Kentucky. He picked up on the mandolin because his brothers had already learned to play the fiddle and the guitar. The brothers started a band together in 1927 and eventually formed the Monroe Brothers. In 1930, Monroe, and his brother Charlie Monroe, were featured on local radio stations in Indiana, where they had moved to work in the oil industry. In 1934, their music had spread to Iowa, Nebraska, and the Carolinas. In 1936, Monroe was signed by RCA Victor and landed a spot as a regular on the Grand Ole Opry.

"Blue Moon of Kentucky" was recorded by Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys for Columbia Records in 1946. The single was released in 1947 but didn't prove a huge success for Monroe. Thankfully, his single "Kentucky Waltz" peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard chart and made his music go nationwide on the radio. He also found success in the single "Gotta Travel On," which became a No. 1 hit for Billy Grammer.

The song is now the official bluegrass song for Kentucky and one of the most popular songs of bluegrass music. Below are our favorite covers of the classic:

Elvis Presley's 'Blue Moon of Kentucky'

Presley had arguably the most success with the song. He turned the song from a slow, Kentucky waltz to a rockabilly pop hit.

Presley, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black were scrambling to find a rock and roll B-side single to "That's All Right Mama" to record at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. The trio started to mess with Monroe's famous bluegrass tune "Blue Moon of Kentucky." Monroe had written and recorded it as a slow waltz, but Presley had another idea. They gave the song a new beat and took it in an entirely different direction. When the group was done, Sam Phillips, the producer and studio owner, said "...that's different. It's a pop song now!"

Presley's career skyrocketed after its release. The song earned an RIAA gold record, the first of many for Elvis Presley.

Carson Peters & Ricky Skaggs (live performance at the Grand Ole Opry)


Vince Gill

Paul McCartney

LeAnn Rimes


'Blue Moon of Kentucky' Lyrics:

Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shining
Shine on the one that's gone and proved untrue
Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shining
Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue

It was on a moonlight night
The stars were shining bright
When they whispered from on high
Your love has said good-bye

Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shining
Shine on the one that's gone and said good-bye



Now Watch: Willie Nelson's Children are Carrying on His Legacy