Elvis began the 1970s on great footing when he released Eddie Rabbit and Dick Heard’s mournful “Kentucky Rain” as a single in January of 1970. The song reached Number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold more than a million copies, though it only stayed in his live show for a few weeks.
Kentucky Rain and the People Behind It
Let’s circle back to the year it started.
Elvis Presley. He must have been overjoyed on the evening February 19th, 1969. A lengthy all night session just two nights earlier had proven that his initial run at Memphis’ American Sound Studios the month before hadn’t been a success. That February evening, while most of the sessions produced at least three masters per evening, this one only did two, but they were both smashes. Elvis seemed passionate, though, about the song he spent hours on in the earlier part of the evening – a haunting and eerie tale about a wanderer looking for a long lost love on a rainy Kentucky day.
He would have had no way of knowing that he was in the midst of a breakthrough. And that, it would one day be considered one of the most important in rock history.
Eddie Rabbitt. He was nearing thirty years old then and was wondering when his big break was coming. The Brooklyn born has built a solid reputation as one of Nashville’s top songwriters throughout the mid to late sixties. Music and writing had always been his passion at that he was 12 years old when he penned his first song, a ballad entitled ‘Susie’. Feeling a long way from home as he resisted to get his words and music to quality artists, there was something special about him that Chips Moman realized. Chips continually asked him for a material. Presley’s co-conspirator, Lamar Fike who heard a demo of Rabbit’s ‘Kentucky Rain’ in the late part of 68 called him with a news. A news that Elvis not just wanted to record the track but that he wanted to put it out as his next A-Side single.
….and, Of Course, Let’s Not Forget The Sound That Made It Alive
Ronnie Milsap, Chips Moman, American Sound Studio. Upon setting up shop in Memphis in the late 1960s, Ronnie Milsap collaborated with super-producer Chips, Moman. By the end of the decade, he was playing the ivories, Elvis Presley. Obviously, it doesn’t take a trained musical ear to distinguish how the pounding piano chords in The King’s ‘Kentucky Rain’ sound curiously similar to those in Milsap’s smash ‘Smoky Mountain Rain’. Milsap thought it worked for Elvis’ record as it certainly worked for him. He said he was given total artistic freedom on ‘Kentucky Rain’, to which he recalled,
“The only suggestion I got from Elvis was that he wanted to hear thunder roll on the piano. He made that comment, and beyond that, he didn’t say anything. He basically said, ‘Play what you feel’.’’