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Ronnie Milsap talks about recording with Elvis Presley

By: For Elvis Fans Only
Source: ElvisPresley.com.au
August 20, 2009 - 2:14:46 PM
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Upon setting up shop in Memphis in the late 1960s, Ronnie Milsap joined forces with super-producer Chips Moman, and by decade's end, was tickling the ivories for none other than Elvis Presley.

It doesn't take a trained musical ear to distinguish how the pounding piano chords in The King's Elvis Presley Lyrics Kentucky Rain sound curiously similar to those in Milsap's smash Smoky Mountain Rain.

'Oh, I was given total (artistic) freedom (on Kentucky Rain)', Milsap recalled.

'The only suggestion I got from Elvis was that he wanted to hear thunder roll on the piano. He made that comment, and beyond that, he didn't say anything. He basically said, 'Play what you feel'.

I thought, 'It worked on Elvis' record. . . . It will work on mine the same way, and it certainly did'.

Besides receiving royal treatment, Milsap remembers his brush with Elvis as a rich lesson in studio discipline and creativity. 'He was fun to be around and very experienced about recording', Milsap said. 'I mean, he had recorded so long, he knew the songs he wanted to record and he knew how he wanted them. He'd try them in one key, and if that didn't work, he'd try them in another. If he didn't like them slow, he'd try them fast'.

'He'd experiment with a song until he found something that he felt really was him'.

It's this attention to detail and thirst for musical perfection that Milsap contends is Elvis' true legacy.

'He was the voice of my generation . . . the voice in my radio speakers', Milsap said.

About: Ronnie Milsap

Early Life & Rise to Fame (1963-1971)

Ronnie Milsap was born with a congenital defect, leaving him almost completely blind.

Soon after his very first birthday, he was cast off and given to his grandmother to raise. At the age of six, he was sent to the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he received a quality education and skills that would be beneficial to him for the rest of his life. Throughout the span of his childhood, he lost what vision he was born with. A rumor surfaced that he lost his sight because he had been punched in the face by the school's headmaster. Afterwards, his 'good eye' (along with the other) were both removed due to a developing blood clot. Throughout it all, he took refuge in music- particularly the late night broadcasts of country music, gospel, and rhythm and blues. He has often said that he was inspired by the likes of Ray Charles, Little Richard, and Patsy Cline as great influences.

When he was just seven, his instructors began to notice his musical talents; shortly afterwards, he began studying classical music formally. Within the next few years, he also grew a fond affection for rock and roll music and formed his very own rock band called 'The Apparitions'. Milsap was awarded a full college scholarship and attended college briefly in Atlanta, Georgia, until he decided to become a full-time musician. In the early 1960s, he got his first professional gig, as a member of J. J. Cale's band.

He released his first single, 'Total Disaster', in 1963. This was followed up by several Ashford & Simpson compositions, including 'Let's Go Get Stoned', which unfortunately for Milsap, was relegated to a B-side. A few months later, however, it became a million-selling single for the more popular Ray Charles. Around this same time, Milsap met and fell in love with a woman, Joyce, and the two were married in 1965.

Ronnie Missap with the legendary, Ray Charles
Ronnie Missap with the legendary, Ray Charles

A few years later, after moving to Memphis, Tennessee, he frequently worked for Chips Moman. During this time period, he worked on numerous projects; including two songs with Elvis Presley. The first, 'Don't Cry Daddy', in 1969; and the second 'Kentucky Rain' [Released] in 1970. That same year, he enjoyed brief pop success with 'Loving You Is a Natural Thing'. He released his debut album, Ronnie Milsap, in 1971.

Breakthrough Success (1973-1975)

In 1973, Milsap moved to Nashville to pursue his dream of country music stardom. He later began working with Charley Pride's producer, Jack D. Johnson and was signed onto RCA Records that year. He released his first single from RCA that year called 'I Hate You', which became his first Country hit and also just breaking the Country Top 10. The next year, 1974, he had two #1 hits. His first was 'Pure Love' and then 'Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends'. In 1975, he revived the Don Gibson hit '(I'd Be) A Legend In My Time'.

That year, he scored another #1 hit with 'Daydreams About Night Things'. Milsap soon had a handful of Top tens, along with four #1 hits, that made him a star overnight.

It Was Almost Like a Song (1976-1978)

From 1976 to 1978, Ronnie Milsap scored seven #1 songs in a row. These included '(I'm a) Stand By My Woman Man' and 'What a Difference You've Made in My Life'. Yet the most significant in this string was 'It Was Almost Like a Song' of 1977, Milsap's first crossover hit. In addition to topping the Billboard country charts, the song was Milsap's first entry on the pop charts ever since 'Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends' peaked at #95; 'It Was Almost Like a Song', however, made it all the way to #16. It was also his first song to reach the Adult Contemporary Charts, stopping at #2. Despite its huge success, the song was Milsap's only crossover hit of the 1970s. However, he returned to the pop charts just four years later with great success. Meanwhile, Milsap would continue to achieve top hits on the country charts for the remainder of the 1970s.

Ronnie Missap with country superstar, Waylon Jennings
Ronnie Missap with country superstar, Waylon Jennings

Crossover Success (1979-1992)

In 1979, Ronnie Milsap had a #1 hit, Top 5 hit and a Top 10 hit. Then in 1980, things would change a lot for him. From this point on and up until 1983, he scored a streak of eleven #1 hits in a row. His fourth and final one of that year was 'Smoky Mountain Rain', which helped cement his name in country music history as one of its most successful artists of all time. The following year this single peaked in the Top 40 on the pop charts. It also became the first of two Milsap songs to top the Adult Contemporary charts. Other crossover hits included the Top 5 pop hit '(There's) No Gettin' Over Me' and the Top 20 hits 'I Wouldn't Have Missed It For the World' and 'Any Day Now'. He also had some success with 'He Got You'.

Although the string of #1's came to an ebrupt end in 1983, the song which ended the streak- 'Stranger in My House'- was still very successful on all three charts; it peaked at #5 on the country charts, #23 on the pop charts, and #8 on the Adult Contemporary. Just a few months later, 'Don't You Know How Much I Love You' was released. It was this song that would be Milsap's last significant entry on the pop charts, stopping at #58.

However, it along with some other songs still became major hits on the Adult Contemporary charts.

Of these hit singles include 'Show Her', 'Still Losing You', and finally, 'Lost in the Fifties Tonight' in 1985.

Between 1985 and 1987, Milsap enjoyed a string of uninterrupted country #1 hits.

He enjoying his biggest success at this time.

The big #1 hits were 'She Keeps the Home Fires Burning', 'In Love', 'Snap Your Fingers', and 'Where Do the Nights Go', as other Country Pop singers were beginning to fade away from the Country Music charts.

In 1989, Milsap had his last #1 hit with 'A Woman in Love'. Although he had his last #1 hit, he still remained successful on the charts. Other Top Tens between 1989 and 1990 include 'Turn The Radio On' and 'Houston Solution'. In 1992, he had his last major hit, 'All Is Fair In Love and War'. The song just missed making the Top Ten, peaking at #11. By 1992, Milsap's chart success faded away, but he didn't stop touring the country. He has remained as one of Country Music's most popular concert attractions.

 



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