Meaning Behind Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky”

The well-renowned “Blue Moon of Kentucky” has an extensive history and has taken on many forms, from Bill Monroe’s original bluegrass version to Elvis Presley’s pop rendition.

Videos by American Songwriter

The popularity of the song stems from Presley’s 1954 cover, in which the singer took creative liberties by transforming the bluegrass waltz into a mainstream pop hit. In addition to Presley, other artists who have covered the piece include Paul McCartney, Vince Gill, Patsy Cline, Ray Charles, and Jerry Reed.

The earliest known performance of the song transpired when Bill Monroe & The Blue Grass Boys took the stage at the Grand Ole Opry in August of 1945. This performance is one of the many that solidified Monroe as both a legend of the Grand Ole Opry and what helped him score “The Father of Bluegrass” title. Given the song’s success, Monroe, his band, and famed Banjo picker Earl Scruggs, later recorded the hit at Columbia Records in September of 1946. “Blue Moon of Kentucky” was then released in 1947.

Though, before the Opry and Columbia Records, the origin of this song comes from behind the wheel of Monroe’s car from one of his many drives between Kentucky and Florida while on tour. Monroe actually wrote the song in his car on one of these long drives.

“I always thought about Kentucky, and I wanted to write a song about the moon we could always see over it,” Monroe was quoted saying in the book The Music of Bill Monroe. “The best way to do this was to bring a girl into the song.”

Thus the melancholic love tune was born. The song itself is evidently about a deep sense of loneliness and need for companionship, articulated through simple lyrics like Blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining / Shine on the one that’s gone and left me blue and The stars shining bright / They whispered from high / Your love has said good-bye. The robust lyrics lend listeners an honest sentiment about the power of heartbreak.

That being said, given Monroe’s cult following, both bluegrass fans and academics have speculated where the seemingly autobiographical song idea arises from in Monroe’s life. Some assume that the woman Monroe sings about is a past lover of his, and others believe that the woman is an entirely fictitious figure solely created for the sake of the song.

Real or fake, the classic bluegrass tune has prevailed over both generational boundaries and music genre conventions given the authenticity it entails.

(Photo by John Byrne Cooke Estate/Getty Images)

Leave a Reply

5 of the Best Keyboard Solos in Rock Music

New Song Saturday! Hear New Tracks from Niall Horan, The Weeknd, First Aid Kit, Coolio and More