Ronnie Milsap: WSM Listener Appreciation Show
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Those formative teenage years set a tone for an entire lifetime. Personal battles, career goals, ideas about love – figuring out how all of that will play out during adulthood is one of the big chores of those high-school years. Setting the backdrop for much of that inner struggle is the music – it’s the soundtrack of one’s identity, the bond that glues generations.
That idea is at the heart of Ronnie Milsap’s Summer #17, an album that explores the influences on a musician who built a Hall of Fame-caliber career, who became one of the most influential voices in country music’s storied history.
Much has been made about how such new country acts as Eric Church, The Band Perry and Luke Bryan have fused elements of pop music’s past with the country core to create a new wave of sound. But Milsap set the standard for thinking outside of country’s proverbial box.
Milsap emulated James Taylor in his vocal approach to “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me,” a #1 record in country and pop; hooked into the instructions he got playing piano on Elvis Presley sessions to build the sound of “Smoky Mountain Rain,” another major crossover hit; and recorded an entire album of songs made famous by late Country Music Hall of Famer Jim Reeves.
Milsap used pop, rock and R&B elements to test country’s borders, and did so in a way that connected fiercely with the music-buying public. He compiled 40 #1 country hits. Milsap’s sales accrued eight gold albums; his Greatest Hits made him one of the first acts in any genre to obtain double-platinum status after the RIAA introduced the multi-platinum honor in 1984.
The industry responded as positively as the public. Milsap won six Grammys; eight Country Music Association awards, including Entertainer of the Year; and four more Academy of Country Music trophies, including the lifetime honor, the Pioneer Award.
Milsap helped establish the boundaries for what country could be – then pushed them further, most notably in his rockin’ 1983 single “Stranger In My House.” Milsap had guitarist Bruce Dees infuse bits of Grand Funk’s classic-rock landmark “We’re An American Band” into the solo section, a risky, envelope-busting decision that had many radio stations of the time balking.
Time would prove Milsap’s artistic judgment to be correct. Even resistant stations eventually added it; “Stranger” won a Best Country Song Grammy for songwriter Mike Reid, and music fans – most of whom care little about creative boxes – responded enthusiastically.
Source: Ronnie Milsap
116 Fifth Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37219
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