Why Elvis Presley’s Producer Felt Audiences Might Hate ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’

“Blue Moon of Kentucky” is one of Elvis Presley‘s early classic songs. A famous record producer, Sam Phillips, decided Elvis should release the song as the B side to his first single. Subsequently, the producer was worried fans would get upset at the cover.

Elvis Presley with a guitar
Elvis Presley | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Why a record producer decided Elvis Presley should cover ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’

Phillips was the founder of Sun Records. He worked with artists such as Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash during their early careers. Elvis released his first single, a cover of Arthur Crudup’s “That’s All Right,” on Sun Records. The B side of the record was a version of the bluegrass song “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” 

During a 1986 interview with Rolling Stone, Phillips discussed why he paired “Blue Moon of Kentucky” with “That’s All Right.” “This was before anybody thought of young people being interested in bluegrass,” he recalled. “But we did this thing, and it just had an intrigue. And that’s the one where I thought maybe there was a good possibility of getting run out of town, ’cause hey, man, you didn’t mess with bluegrass. Bluegrass is kind of sacred, you know.”

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Sam Phillips recalled how audiences responded to Elvis Presley’s 1st single

Phillips explained why he felt there was a fervor surrounding “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” “Rock ‘n’ roll probably put more money in the collection boxes of the churches across America than anything the preacher could have said,” he said. “I certainly know that to be a fact.”

Phillips noted churchgoers were not the only listeners to embrace rock ‘n’ roll. “Disc jockeys broke the hell out of my records,” Phillips remembered. “Broke ’em on the air. Slam them over the damn microphone. Now if I hadn’t affected people like that, I might have been in trouble.”

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The way ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’ performed on the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom

“Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “That’s All Right” never charted on the Billboard Hot 100 as the chart didn’t exist when Elvis first released the song. “Blue Moon of Kentucky” appeared on the compilation album The Sun Sessions. The album reached No. 76 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for 11 weeks.

According to The Official Charts Company, “Blue Moon of Kentucky” did not chart in the United Kingdom either. Meanwhile, The Sun Sessions was an even bigger hit in the U.K. than it was in the U.S. In the U.K., the album peaked at No. 16 and stayed on the chart for 13 weeks.

“Blue Moon of Kentucky” created a positive fervor even though Phillips worried it would upset listeners.

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