#460: Blue Moon Of Kentucky by Elvis Presley

Peak Month: September 1956
5 weeks on Vancouver’s CJOR Red Robinson chart
Peak Position #2
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube.com link: “Blue Moon Of Kentucky
“Blue Moon Of Kentucky” lyrics

Elvis Aaron Presley was born on in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8, 1935. His twin brother, Jessie Garon Presley, was stillborn. When he was eleven years old his parents bought him a guitar at the Tupelo Hardware Store. As a result Elvis grew up as an only child. He and his parents, Vernon and Gladys, moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1948. The young Presley graduated from high school in 1953. That year he stopped by the Memphis Recording Service to record two songs, including “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”, song #1117 on this Countdown. Elvis’ musical influences were the pop and country music of the time, the gospel music he heard in church and at the all-night gospel sings he frequently attended, and the black R&B he absorbed on historic Beale Street as a Memphis teenager. In 1954, Elvis began his singing career recording “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” at Sun Records in Memphis on July 19.

Blue Moon Of Kentucky by Elvis Presley

“Blue Moon Of Kentucky” was written by bluegrass singer Bill Monroe in 1945. Monroe was born on a farm near the hamlet of Rosine, Kentucky, in 1911. He learned to play the mandolin since his brothers had already learned to play the fiddle and guitar. He began playing professionally in 1927 in his brothers’ band. When he moved to work at an oil refinery in Indiana in 1929, Bill and a few of his brothers formed the Monroe Brothers. They played at house parties and local dances. In the early 30s Bill and Charlie Monroe were featured on local Indiana radio stations. By 1934 they were heard on radio shows in Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina and South Carolina. He was signed to RCA Victor in 1936. By 1939 he landed a regular spot on the Grand Ole Opry.

Monroe wrote “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” as a waltz. Monroe performed the tune at the Grand Ole Opry that year and recorded it for Columbia Records in 1946. Monroe’s single was released in 1947. In 1946 his song “Kentucky Waltz” peaked at #3 on the Billboard Country & Western chart. He later wrote “Gotta Travel On”, a #1 hit for Billy Grammer in Vancouver (BC) in 1959 for four weeks. Bill Monroe became known as the ‘Father of Bluegrass’.

“Blue Moon Of Kentucky” is a song about someone appealing to the moon to shine on the one “whose gone and left me blue.” Hopefully, the blue moon will “bring me back my  baby tonight.” A blue moon is the second full moon that occurs in the same month. The phrase ‘once in a blue moon’ is taken from the rare occurrence of a blue moon, In 2018, there were two Full Moons in January and March in most time zones. This is sometimes called a double Blue Moon and takes place only about three to five times in a century. This will happen next in 2037. As for upcoming blue moons, the next month there will be two full moons in October 2020. Generally, a blue moon occurs only once every two and a half years.

In 1954 “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” was the B-side to “That’s All Right”. Billboard has the song listed only in Memphis, and as number six with “That’s All Right” at number 7 on October 9 in the C&W Territorial Best Sellers. By October 23, “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” was in the Top 10 in Memphis, Nashville, and New Orleans. It also was getting airplay in Henderson, Tennessee. But the song didn’t make the national pop chart in the USA.  Once RCA Victor signed Elvis to the label in November 1955, the label re-issued “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” on RCA. Vancouver DJ Red Robinson added the song to his Teen Canteen playlist in September 1956, which at the time was on CJOR. The song climbed to #2 in Vancouver. In 1988, “Blue Moon of Kentucky” was named by the Kentucky General Assembly as the ‘Official song of the state’.

In late 1955, Elvis’ recording contract was sold to RCA Victor. In 1956 he had his first #1 record titled “Heartbreak Hotel.” He had a sound and style that uniquely combined his diverse musical influences and blurred and challenged the social and racial barriers of the time. Bill Haley & His Comets ushered in the rock ‘n roll into mainstream culture in 1955 when “Rock Around The Clock,” appeared in the film about juvenile delinquents and anti-social behavior in an inter-racial school. The song became an anthem for teenage rebellion. However, it was Elvis in 1956 who ensured rock ‘n roll was here to stay with his swiveling hips and R&B infused songs with sexually suggestive lyrics. He had his first number one hit with “Heartbreak Hotel” in February 1956. He starred in 33 successful films, made history with his television appearances and specials, and knew great acclaim through his many, often record-breaking, live concert performances on tour and in Las Vegas. Globally, he has sold over one billion records, more than any other recording artist.

Between 1956 and 1959, Elvis Presley continued his chart-topping ways with “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”, “Hound Dog”, “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Love Me Tender”, “Too Much”, “All Shook Up”,  and “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” peaking at #1. He also starred in several films. His second film, Loving You, was released in 1957. Though it was not featured the film, the song “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?” made it onto the Loving You Soundtrack album.

Elvis kept on topping the charts in the fall and winter of 1957 and into 1958 with “Jailhouse Rock”, “Don’t” and “Hard Headed Woman”. But during his chart-topping ways, he got a letter from Uncle Sam. Sergeant Elvis Presley served with the U.S. Army from March 24, 1958, to March 2, 1960. Meanwhile, Presley managed to climb to the top of the charts once in 1959 with “Big Hunk o’ Love”.

His return to civilian life saw a return to a string of successful single, album and film releases. From April 1960 to March 1961, Elvis topped the Billboard Hot 100 with “Stuck On You, “It’s Now Or Never,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” and “Surrender” for a total of 17 of 52 weeks in that timeframe. The album from his first film on return from serving in Germany, G.I. Blues, was a best-seller at the box office (#2 on Variety Magazine for the year 1960) and a number one album in October 1960. He released His Hand In Mine, a collection of sacred gospel music and in November, 1960, began to record his 6th studio album, Something For Everybody.

Presley continued to have major hits in 1961-62. In Vancouver he topped the charts with “Marie’s The Name (His Latest Flame)”, “Little Sister”, “Good Luck Charm” and “Return To Sender”. Other Top Ten hits included “She’s Not You”. On November 22, 1961, Elvis’ film Blue Hawaii was released. The debut single from the movie, “Can’t Help Falling In Love”, appeared on the CFUN chart on November 18, 1961. It peaked in Vancouver (BC) at #9 in December and #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Then the B-side of the single, “Rock A Hula Baby”, entered the CFUN chart on January 5, 1962.

In 1962 Presley released his seventh studio album, Potluck. From that album the song “Kiss Me Quick” would peak at #34 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964. But his song, “Suspicion”, climbed onto the CFUN chart in the summer of 1962. Also in 1962 Elvis was filming a number of movies. The first to be released in late August ’62 was Kid Galahad, which included the song “King Of The Whole Wide World”.

Elvis continued to enjoy more Top Ten hits between 1963 and 1965. His most notable hits were “One Broken Heart For Sale”, “(You’re The) Devil In Disguise”, “Ain’t That Loving You Baby”, “Such A Night” and “Crying In The Chapel”. Less successful in the USA was “Witchcraft” which stalled at #32 on the Billboard Hot 100. But in Vancouver, the song peaked at #4.

After 1965, Elvis found it increasingly challenging to enter the Top 30. Between the end of 1965 and the winter of 1968 Presley released 22 singles and only four of these made the Billboard Hot 100’s Top 30. But in 1969, Presley had his best year since 1962 charting three singles into the Top Ten with “In The Ghetto”, “Suspicious Minds” and “Don’t Cry Daddy”. Between 1970 and 1983 Elvis released 36 singles, including eight posthumous singles. Of these, “Burning Love” and “The Wonder Of You” were his most successful and six others made the Top 20 on the Billboard charts.

Over his recording career Elvis Presley earned 14 Grammy Award nominations including for Record of the Year with “A Fool Such As I” (1959) and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” (1960) and won six Hall of Fame Awards. After his comeback tour in 1968 Presley had continued to tour extensively, with 168 concerts in 1973, a pace he kept through the mid-70’s. By 1976 he was suffering from multiple ailments: glaucoma, high blood pressure, liver damage, and an enlarged colon, all believed to be related to prescription drug abuse. He died on August 16, 1977, and a funeral was attended by over 80,000 mourners. His legacy continues to live on. There were also numerous sightings of Elvis including around the 40th anniversary of his death in 2017.

February 7, 2020
Ray McGinnis

References:
C&W Territorial Best Sellers,” Billboard, October 9, 1954.
C&W Territorial Best Sellers,” Billboard, October 23, 1954.
graceland.com (Elvis bio)
Elvis Presley: Rock’s First Icon,” Rolling Stone, September 22, 1977.
Paul Lichter, The Boy Who Dared to Rock: The Definitive Elvis, Garden City, NY: Dolphin Books, 1978.
Elizabeth Nix, “7 Fascinating Facts About Elvis Presley,” History.com, July 1, 2014
Wendy Sauer, Elvis Presley: A Complete Reference, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1984.
Bill Monroe,” The Famous People.com.
When is the next blue moon (through 2029)?,” FullMoonology.com.

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.


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