On the Lighter Side: More on music legend Ronnie Milsap
Last week, I discussed the career of country music legend Ronnie Milsap. Just as there’s more to come with the career of this great artist, there’s more to the story of his road to success.
In the fall of 1964, Milsap declined a scholarship to law school and left college to pursue a full-time career in music. He met Joyce Reeves one night at a dinner party during this period, and the two were married in 1965.
In 1963, Milsap met Atlanta disc jockey Pat Hughes, who became an early supporter of his music career. Around the same time, Milsap auditioned for a job as a keyboardist for musical J.J. Cale and over the next few years, he worked soul music artists like Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder.
Also in 1965, Milsap recorded “Let’s Get Stoned,” which was relegated to a B-side. A month later, it became a million-seller for Ray Charles, who heard the song and liked Milsap’s version so much that he decided to record it himself. At about that that time, Milsap recorded “Ain’t No Soul Left in These Old Shoes,” which eventually became popular in England, where northern DJs discovered the song, which became a floor-filler in northern soul clubs.
Like other artists of the same era as Linda Ronstadt, Glen Campbell, Marty Robbins and Ray Charles, Milsap’s albums during the 1980s often featured songs in a variety of musical styles that showcased his remarkable range and versatility as a singer. Milsap, in fact, became the first country music artist to be played in full rotation on MTV.
“I’m a singer, not a vocal stylist,” Milsap explained. “My breathing is correct, my enunciation is precise, and because of that I can sing anybody’s music.
“Yet there are stylists whose technical skills are so underdeveloped that they can sing only their own sings their own way,” he said. “They might be remembered for their hits longer than I am. I’ll probably be working longer than they are. I can sing whatever the times and the trend demand.”
Between 1985 and 1987, Milsap enjoyed a string of uninterrupted country singles, enjoying great success at this time with “She Keeps the Home Fires Burning,” “In Love,” Snap Your Fingers,” “Where Do the Nights Go,” and his Grammy-winning duet with Kenny Rogers “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine.”
Milsap did a lot of work as a session musician on numerous projects including several recordings with Elvis Presley.
Milsap has remained as one of country music’s best loved and most successful artists, despite lack of airplay since the mid-1990s. In 2000, Milsap recorded a CD set of 40 No. 1 hits. This new collection earned him a Gold Record. In 1990, Milsap wrote and released his autobiography “Almost Like a Song.”
Milsap’s biography was featured in an edition of “A&E Biography.” He has also been featured in numerous CMT programs, including “40 Greatest Men of Country Music.”
A highway north of his hometown has been named “Ronnie Milsap Memorial Highway” – a nice honor for a true music legend.