Bill Monroe was the Father of Bluegrass. He was also a big baseball fan.
And if musicians had to choose one song for their Hall of Fame plaque the way baseball players have to choose one team’s cap, “Blue Moon of Kentucky” would be the logical choice for Monroe.
His most famous song is in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry.
Monroe wrote it on a long drive in 1945 while following the moon back home to Kentucky after a tour in Florida.
“Blue moon” refers to the rare second full moon in a calendar month—as in, “once in a blue moon.”
Monroe first performed the song on the Grand Ole Opry in 1945, where it may have been heard by a 10-year-old Elvis Presley. Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys recorded it for Columbia Records in 1946—their first recording session with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs in the band.
It was a mournful waltz, but not everyone knows it that way. That’s because Presley ended up recording it as the B-side to his first single at Sun Records in 1954. He and his band were goofing around with a 4/4 version of the song between takes, and Sam Philips decided to record it. The rollicking rockabilly version became a hit.
Monroe liked Presley’s version well enough to record his own version later that year, in which he transitioned from 3/4 to 4/4 time after the first verse. You’ll still hear it played that way at many bluegrass jams today.
When you’re playing it on guitar, keep it slow and sweet during the waltz part, but be ready to step on it after the transition to 4/4 time. Jammers like to play it fast!
(And don’t forget to use that 7th chord to flag your transition to the IV chord at the start of the B-part. It sounds great.)
“Blue Moon of Kentucky” Lyrics and Chords
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