The Long Life and History of “Moon Over Memphis”

Last Week, my song “Moon Over Memphis” won the 2015 International Bluegrass Musicians Association (IBMA) ‘Song Of The Year’ award, as recorded and performed by Balsam Range. Here’s a video of them doing their awesome version of the tune:
Fresh and brand new to the bluegrass world, but the song has been around in my life for a long time. I remember when it came to me in my music room out behind our first Nashville house on Morton Ave., sometime in the early 1990’s. I was just walking around in circles strummin’ on my ’61 Harmony Rocket, basically playing the opening chord to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Green River”, when I just burst out singing, “there’s a moon over memphis looking down on what i’ve done”, and all I had to do after that was figure out what it was I had supposedly done in memphis and write it down. The answers came fast and clear from where ever these good tunes come from.
I was in a pretty hot rock-n-roll band in the early ’90’s, the Planet Rockers, and we use to kick around a version of it back then, but for some reason didn’t include it on either of our first two albums. As fate would have it, Planet Rockers have re-united of late and we did record it on our comeback album last year “Return Of The Planet Rockers”. Our guitarist Eddie Angel used an open “G” tuning and gave it a great Stonesy groove. Listen:
I also recorded a version of it, with the great Kenny Vaughn on guitar on my solo “Upright” album that I released a couple of years ago, and you can hear it on the Music page of this website.
I’m so proud that the song has won an award in it’s new version by Balsam Range. I’ve played it many times over the years when I’m supporting other artists on the upright bass and they ask me to sing a number. I choose “Moon Over Memphis” often in those situations because it follows a basic blues form that musicians can catch on the fly, and it can be done in a variety of styles. Here’s an example of that captured on video when I was working with the wonderful Lauren Hagan, helping her promote her “Pine” C.D. on the Viva Nash Vegas radio show. Kind of a mix of my Creedence inspired tempo/groove with bluegrass instrumentation.
We’re wingin’ it there and it ain’t too shabby. A testament, I hope, to the staying power of a good, simple blues number. Long live “Moon Over Memphis”. May the songwriter gods send me some more. mark w.