Angella sent me a note asking about Ronnie Milsap as her "much older" sister was a big fan, but Angella was not into country then and was too young. I'm glad you asked because Ronnie Milsap was a gigantic star for many years. 40 #1 hits and 35 million albums sold. And the amount of CMA, ACM, Grammy, and other awards he won is simply staggering!
Pure Love - His First Number One!
Milsap's story is a cool one. He of course is blind, was abandoned by his mother, but he rose up to be a great star, showman, and piano player. He has some cool highlights too, like playing keyboards on Elvis' classic, Kentucky Rain - (a song Eddie Rabbitt wrote, both of them unknown at the time.) Also the legendary Charlie Pride gave him advice (in a chance conversation after seeing him sing at a club) in Nashville, that he should concentrate on COUNTRY music. - Milsap took that advice - A few years later Milsap scored his first #1 solo hit with Pure Love (another song Rabbitt wrote.) At that time no one could have imagined that would be the first of 40 #1's for him. Not a bad average considering he released only 69 singles. (58% went #1)
This Song Changed A Lot Of Things - Incredible Performance!
Country is very different today, as it evolves each year as much as any genre. Each trend and evolution brings us more fans. Understand that during his run, he was the one that set the pace in country. Also, when writing these, I always look for the intangibles they brought to us outside of the music. Milsap had many, but he really introduced country to literally millions who had never listened to us before. His image, story, likeability, and some darn good music was his calling card, and he enjoyed a whole lot of crossover success in addition to country. He also, from my seat, had the most powerful and best voice in Nashville for a long time. He may be the best pure singer we have ever had. His incredible range, and mainstream sounding voice was loved by virtually everyone. He is on the "Mt. Rushmore" of more recent classic country artists. He's in the same breath and Dolly, George Strait, Garth Brooks, and Alan Jackson, just a bit earlier for the most part.
Some Early Success Was Remaking Classics Like This One
After a good start on the charts that included some remakes of traditional country songs, in 1976 Milsap recorded a song that changed everything. It Was Almost Like A Song, is a big, powerful ballad that elevated Milsap to the next level, and he would stay there for the next 15 years or so. It's also one of my favorite Milsap songs. He then had 7 #1's in a row, and was on his way. The very best songwriters in Nashville were now writing for Ronnie Milsap. - All of them! And even though a lot of his run was during the Urban Cowboy craze, he was not. Milsap was - Milsap.
Smoky Mountain Rain - Huge Hit!
The 1980's were great to Milsap. Smoky Mountain Rain was a huge hit both country and adult contemporary as most of his singles did well on both charts. He then discovered a songwriter named Mike Reid, a former NFL player turned songwriter/singer. Reid had a few hits on his own, including a wonderful song, Walk On Faith, which went #1. But he wrote 7 number ones for Milsap including, Stranger In My House, In Love, and the absolute gem, Lost In The Fifties Tonight. The list of his hits is too long to list here, but a Google search will astound you!
An Absolute Masterpiece - HUGE Hit!
Milsap recorded with everyone, performed with everyone, and was loved by everyone. I emceed a couple of his shows during his run, and they were always incredible, plus his concert voice was as powerful as his recorded one. I saw him in Nashville just a few years ago perform in a show that involved many contemporary stars in a showcase. He was about 70 at the time and he was terrific, and it was fun to watch MOST of today's biggest country stars sit and watch him in awe perform. Sue Wilson and I interviewed him a number of years ago, and he still does a great interview! He is now 77.
Stranger In My House - Many People Discovered Us When They Heard This Song!
Ronnie Milsap came from very little and rose to the top of the ENTIRE MUSIC WORLD, not just the country music world. He was an international star, one of our first. If you are unfamiliar, or too young, I strongly suggest you discover him. We owe him a thank you for expanding our horizons, and helping us discover where we could eventually go.
Any Day Now - #1 Country and Pop (Written by Burt Bacharach)
Milsap was as good as they got. A giant of his era, with timeless music, that sounded good then, now, and in 50 more years.