Ronnie Milsap remembers his experiences growing up in North Carolina and his winding path to Nashville during this interview, recorded February 7, 2015, to coincide with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum exhibition “Ronnie Milsap: A Legend in My Time.”
Raised in a loving environment by his grandparents as a toddler, Milsap enrolled in a state-supported school for the blind when he was six. He learned to play violin and piano at the school, yet his counselors told him he would be a burden on the state if he pursued music professionally, Milsap remembers. While still a student, he met Ray Charles, who encouraged him to chase his dream.
The singer-keyboardist also recollects the importance of spending time at the Peacock Club in Atlanta and crossing paths with figures such as R&B singer Ben E. King and producers such as Huey P. Meaux and Chips Moman.
The interview includes discussion of Milsap’s first singles, geared toward the soul and R&B market, and time spent with Elvis Presley in Memphis. (Milsap played piano on the Presley smash “Kentucky Rain.”) Shortly after relocating to Nashville, Ronnie Milsap became a local sensation by performing in the showroom at the King of the Road Hotel. Manager Jack Johnson (who also managed Charley Pride at the time) discovered him there, paving the way to a record deal with RCA and more than forty Top Ten country singles.
The Country Music Hall of Fame member offers insight into many of his signature hits, including “It Was Almost Like a Song,” “Stranger in My House,” and “Lost in the Fifties Tonight.”
“I listened to the radio every night and I knew pretty much when I came to Nashville, I wanted to be a country singer,” Milsap says during the program. “I mean, it was a dream, and to actually make that come true was way beyond what I could imagine. I just couldn’t believe it. This first record happens—all of a sudden I’m going on shows with Charley Pride. And it was just an amazing career.”
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