Regular visitors to the GMC might remember that the Special Feature known as Country Catalyst is my humble effort to bring new fans to the genre by spotlighting a classic song. Today’s choice might be familiar to many because it’s been a hit in several different styles, but “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” has kept its identity through all of them — even though the original version is Kentucky’s official state bluegrass song.
It began life in 1946 when the legendary Bill Monroe wrote and performed the song with his Blue Grass Boys and followed up with a best-selling record. It was called a ‘bluegrass waltz’ and it didn’t take long for it to become a favorite of other country musicians, but within a few years some of them had started to add a few wrinkles of their own.
In 1954 a young Elvis Presley was working with Sun Records, trying to come up with what would be his first successful recording. They’d already decided on “That’s All Right” for the ‘A’ side, but were searching for something to back it. They finally cobbled together an upbeat, bluesy version of “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” that even featured a jury-rigged echo effect. Quite a change from the original.
Another treatment that did well was the country-pop version offered up by Patsy Cline in 1963 (the same year she tragically died). Although it wasn’t a huge hit for the amazingly talented singer, it has become a favorite for a lot of her fans, including me. And of course, a lot of other performers have recorded the song in the nearly seven decades it’s been around, including everybody from Ray Charles to the Beatles. A true classic.