In this sentimental soft-rock ballad, written by Eddie Rabbitt and Dick Heard, a desperate Elvis goes on a cold and rainy search for the woman who left him without explanation. Aside from peaking at #16 on the Hot 100, the single reached #3 on the Adult Contemporary tally.
Elvis recorded this during his landmark two-week sessions at American Sound Studio in Memphis, which provided material for two hit albums in 1969: From Elvis In Memphis and From Memphis to Vegas / From Vegas to Memphis. "Kentucky Rain" didn't make the cut for either album, but was added to the 2000 re-release of From Elvis In Memphis. Its first appearance on an album was the 1970 compilation Worldwide 50 Gold Award Hits Vol. 1.
This features Ronnie Milsap on piano (he recalled Presley telling him, "More thunder on the piano, Milsap!"). Eddie Rabbitt went on to write the hit "Pure Love" for Milsap in 1974. Having earned a reputation as one of Nashville's hottest young songwriters, Rabbitt successfully embarked on his own recording career a couple years later, rounding out the decade with five albums, three of them landing in the Top 10 on the country chart.
Rabbitt was working at Hill and Range Publishers when he wrote the song, and it nearly scored him a record deal when a major producer heard it and gave him the go-ahead to record it. Then Lamar Fike, who worked at the publishing company and was one of Elvis' best friends, heard the demo and brought it to Elvis. Rabbitt recalled in a 1987 interview, "He took the song to Elvis and Elvis wanted to record it as the A side of his new single. I said, 'That's great and not so great.'" Ultimately, he realized it was a smarter move to give up the song. "I thought if this is the only hit song I ever write, then it is better that Elvis does it because he's the King."
In 1978, the year after Elvis died, Rabbitt released his own version on his album Variations.
Prior to this, songwriter/producer Dick Heard's biggest hit was "Tears and Roses," first recorded by George Morgan in 1964 and brought to the Top 20 by Al Martino that same year.
A live version from February 1970 was included on the 2001 box set Live In Vegas.