Of all the songs written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, "Blue Moon" is the one best known by rock listeners and casual pop fans, making it unique in the career of a songwriting duo who did their work decades before rock & roll was ever even thought of. It is also unique in the team's output as the only one of their hits that wasn't written for a specific stage or film work, and it went through numerous transformations to take on the form in which it is now known. And it was one of the very few lasting products to come out of the songwriting team's unhappy period in Hollywood in the mid-'30s. Rodgers and Hart were signed as songwriters to MGM, in what proved to be a less-than-fruitful relationship for all concerned -- they were very unhappy with the quality and nature of the movies to which they were assigned, and the studio was taken aback by the fact that the songwriters' work didn't seem to help make the films in question significantly more successful. "Blue Moon" was initially spawned, under the working title of "Prayer," written for a film called Hollywood Party, starring Jean Harlow. She was supposed to sing a lyric that began "Oh Lord, if you're not busy up there...." The song was dropped from that film, however, and then Lorenz Hart changed the lyric slightly to read "Oh, Lord! What is the matter with me...." That version, sung by Shirley Ross, ended up in a movie called Manhattan Melodrama, starring Clark Gable, William Powell, and Myrna Loy -- the movie itself was notable for setting up a plot (later reused in Angels With Dirty Faces and a dozen other lesser movies) about two boyhood friends who end up on opposite sides of the law, and for being the film that was playing at the Biograph Theater in Chicago on the night that bank robber John Dillinger was allegedly caught there and shot to death by federal agents. "Oh, Lord! What Is the Matter With Me" was barely present in the movie, Ross' performance of it in the background buried under dialogue between Powell and Loy, and that would have been the end of it, had it not been for publisher Jack Robbins, who liked the melody and saw no reason why something couldn't be salvaged. Hart took a third pass over the song, recasting the lyrics and coming up with "Blue moon, you saw me standing alone." It was published in that version at the end of 1934, and went on to become one of the best-known songs ever written by Rodgers and Hart, recorded by Mel Tormé and dozens of others before rock & roll audiences discovered it -- Elvis Presley gave it an early entre to audiences for the new music, cutting it on August 19, 1954, in Memphis; as the B-side to "Just Because," it was one of many pop standards (including "Harbor Lights") that the young Presley appreciated and recorded. Presley's version of "Blue Moon," sung in a subdued manner with barely any instrumental accompaniment to his reflective, lyrical vocal performance, is today considered a classic recording and a high point of his early career, but in 1954-1955, like all of his Sun releases, it never reached the national pop charts. The song surfaced to a wider audience only later, in various incarnations on RCA-Victor once Presley and his Sun catalog moved to the new label. "Blue Moon's real breakthrough into rock & roll took place in New York during February 1961 when, at the tail-end of their first recording session, the Marcels, a racially mixed vocal group from Philadelphia (consisting of Cornelius Harp, Richard F. Knauss, Fred Johnson, Gene J. Bricker, and Ron Mundy) were asked by their producer, Stu Phillips, to record "Heart and Soul," a pop standard by Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser. The Marcels didn't know that song, and instead cut a version of "Blue Moon" -- which they did know -- with a prominent bass vocal and fine falsetto ornamentation, and a frantic tempo. A tape of that recording, brought to New York DJ Murray "the K" Kaufman on WINS (which was then a music station), was played more than two dozen time the next night. The song, released within a week on the fledgling Colpix Records label, rocketed to number one on the pop and R&B charts. Although often cited as a nonsense rendition for its upbeat vocal acrobatics, this doo wop-style rendition, in tandem with Elvis Presley's version, helped popularize the song among tens of millions, and perhaps hundreds of millions of new, younger listeners around the world over the decades that followed, making it one of Rodgers and Hart's most lucrative copyrights, decades after Hart's death, and during and after Rodgers' late career, in which he otherwise steadfastly ignored the presence of rock & roll in the musical environment around him.