Kentucky Bluegrass State Song

"Blue Moon of Kentucky"

Words by William Smith "Bill" Monroe
Music by William Smith "Bill" Monroe

Adopted in 1989.

In 1989, the General Assembly passed KRS 2.100, designating the song "Blue Moon of Kentucky" as Kentucky's official state bluegrass song.

Kentucky Bluegrass State Song:
"Blue Moon of Kentucky"

"Blue Moon of Kentucky"

Blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining,
Shine on the one that's gone and proved untrue;
Blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining,
Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue.

It was on a moonlight night, the stars were shining bright;
And they whispered from on high, your love had said goodbye.
Blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining,
Shine on the one that's gone and said goodbye.

Origin of Song: "Blue Moon of Kentucky"

In 1989, the General Assembly passed KRS 2.100, designating the song "Blue Moon of Kentucky" as Kentucky's official state bluegrass song. It was written in 1947 by William Smith "Bill" Monroe, a native of Rosine, Kentucky.

The song has had many adaptations since its original performance by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. A young Elvis Presley chose to sing a cover of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" when he auditioned for the Grand Ole Opry in 1954 and recorded the song for his first Sun Records single. Presley later apologized to Monroe for changing the arrangement of his song. Other entertainers that have included it as repetoire on their albums include Patsy Cline, Patty Loveless, and Ricky Skaggs.

Bill Monroe: The Father of Bluegrass Music (1911-1996)

Bill Monroe was born in 1911 in Rosine, Kentucky. A descendent of President James Monroe, he was destined for greatness. Monroe is considered the founder of bluegrass music in its truest form.

Influenced by his Anglo-American background, Monroe grew up singing the Scotch and Irish ballads brought to the Appalachians by settlers in the region during the 18th century. The Monroe family would spend many an evening on the front porch singing about war, God, and unrequited love. To accompany the tunes, family members would improvise instrumental parts on fiddles, guitars, and anything else handy. After his father died Monroe, age 16, moved in with his uncle Pendleton Vandiver, who taught him tone and bow timing on the fiddle.

Also an avid guitarist by the age of 12, Monroe's developing instrumental style was likewise shaped by the African-American musical traditions/teachings of black fiddler/guitarist Arnold Schultz. Music historians credit Schultz with putting the "blues" in bluegrass. Monroe blended these two styles into his own, a combination of the raw tonalities of Negro blues and the "lonesome" sound of the mountain modal ballads. (It is rumored that shortly after Monroe's years of tutelage, Schultz was murdered, given poisoned whiskey by fellow musicians jealous of his talent.)

"It's got a hard drive to it. It's Scotch bagpipes and old-time fiddlin'. It's Methodist and Holiness and Baptist. It's blues and jazz and it has a high lonesome sound. It's plain music that tells a story. It's played from my heart to your heart, and it will touch you." - Bill Monroe*

In 1928, Monroe left Kentucky with his brothers, Charlie and Birch, to seek employment with an oil refinery in Chicago. Fed up with working only part-time as musicians and dancers on the WSL Barn Dance, they quit the refinery to form their own band. Monroe, being youngest, was drafted to play the mandolin because neither Charlie or Birch knew how to play it. This did not hinder his success. Monroe took fiddle techniques and applied them to the mandolin, making it a new lead instrument. Monroe's innovative style was characterized by playing single strained notes, sharp sustained tremelos, bouncy rhythms, and syncopated timing of the old square dance. The Monroe Brothers sang Appalachian songs about sin and redemption with ethereal, haunting harmonies, the music reflecting the hard lives of their rural audience. By 1930, the Monroe Brothers had found success with "Kentucky Waltz," which peaked at #3, "Footprints in the Snow," which hit #5, and "Blue Grass Ramble," as well as being regulars on the WSL Barn Dance.

In 1938, the Monroes separated due to ego conflicts and differing opinions of musical style. Monroe formed his own group, the Kentuckians, which eventually evolved into The Blue Grass Boys. This was considered finest band in country music history, featuring Lester Flatt (guitar), Earl Scruggs (banjo), and Chubby Wise (fiddle), and later Cederic Rainwater (bass). With this group, Monroe's new vision of musical style included driving rhythms, tight harmonies and combined elements of church, breakdown and jazz music styles. The combination is considered the beginnings of true bluegrass music. Also, at Monroe's insistence, the band wore jackets, ties and smart Stetson hats, rather than the rough and ready hillbilly clothes worn by most mountain string bands at that time. As a result his music gained a bearing and dignity with which it is still associated.

"To me bluegrass is really THE country music. It was meant for country people." - Bill Monroe*

In the years of 1939-1941, the Bluegrass Boys performed on the Grand Ole Opry, signed a contract under RCA Victor Records, and then formed their own touring company. Scruggs' three-finger banjo style would become the standard for future bluegrass groups. It was when Flatt and Scruggs were in the band that Monroe first recorded the song that would soon become his signature, "Blue Moon of Kentucky."

In 1948, Flatt and Scruggs left the group to form the Foggy Mountain Boys. The Bluegrass Boys still continued to perform with a variety of members. Over the next 20 years, membership in the group propelled the careers of such bluegrass stars as Mac Wiseman, Don Reno, Jimmy Martin, Carter Stanley, Gordon Terry, Sonny Osborne, Chubby Wise, Dave "Stringbean" Akeman, and Vassar Clements.

"He was a man of few words, you know, but he--he spoke to the heart of America and to the heart of many nations with his music."
- Ricky Skaggs**

In 1970, Monroe, dubbed the "Father of Bluegrass Music," was inducted into the the Country Music Hall of Fame. Shortly after, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Association International Hall of Fame (1971). In 1981, he created the Bean Blossom Festival, which not only hosted concerts, but also allowed audiences to participate in the performances with their own instruments. In 1984, he opened the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee. In the years before his death, he was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Honor, and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the National Medal of the Arts. On August 13, 1986, the US Senate passed a resolution recognizing "his many contributions to American culture and his many ways of helping American people enjoy themselves." It also said, "As a musician, showman, composer, and teacher, Mr. Monroe has been a cultural figure and force of signal importance in our time."

Bill Monroe died from a stroke on September 9, 1996, in Springfield, Tennessee. His funeral was held at the old Ryman Auditorium, where he had performed on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry for decades. He was buried in Rosine, Kentucky.

Kentucky Law

Kentucky Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 2, Section 2.100. Words to the songs are not included in the statutes.


2.100 State song - Bluegrass song.
(1) The song, "My Old Kentucky Home," by Stephen Collins Foster, is the official state song of Kentucky.

(2) The song, "Blue Moon of Kentucky" by Bill Monroe, is the bluegrass song of Kentucky.

Effective: July 15, 1988

History: Amended 1988 Ky. Acts ch. 134, sec. 1, effective July 15, 1988. - Recodified 1942 Ky. Acts ch. 208, sec. 1, effective October 1, 1942, from Ky. Stat. sec. 4618p.

Legislative Research Commission Note. The modern version of "My Old Kentucky Home" was adopted during the 1986 Regular Session of the General Assembly by the House of Representatives in House Resolution 159 and the Senate in Senate Resolution 114. This version substitutes the word "people" for the word "darkies."

State Songs
US State Songs
Forty-nine states of the United States (all except New Jersey) have one or more state songs, selected by the state legislature as a symbol of the state.