Country music superstar Ronnie Milsap will show his musical range during a rare Hill Country performance on April 25.
The concert is part of the 2014 TEXMO Star Concert Series, a promotions partnership bringing Branson-style entertainment to the Texas Hill Country. They will host regular concerts this year, including Christian recording artist Sandi Patty on December 15. Fans can be the first to hear about and get tickets for upcoming shows by signing up for the VIP eblast at the web site www.texmoentertainment.com, and also by “liking” the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TEXMOEntertainment.
99 and 44/100ths Percent Pure Milsap
by Phil Houseal
The Ronnie Milsap “sound” is a blend of country, blues, R&B, and gospel. But when pressed to choose which style of music he would sing if he had his “druthers,” Milsap did not hesitate.
“I would sing country,” he said. “I seem to have done that over the years.”
That is an understatement. Milsap churned out an incredible 40 Number 1 hits, boasting a top hit for 20 years in a row, an unprecedented run in any genre. The list includes Pure Love, It Was Almost Like a Song, Smoky Mountain Rain, (There's) No Gettin' Over Me, I Wouldn't Have Missed It for the World, Any Day Now, and Stranger in My House.
He also admitted to trying another style–disco. In fact, the first album he recorded in his new studio in Nashville was a collection of disco-fied reworks of such 60s classics as High Heel Sneakers. While it “turned out to be really good,” fans at his April 25 concert at the Cailloux Theater won’t be shaking any booty–the only 80s songs he’ll play will be a medley of his country hits he recorded at the height of his career.
It was a career that almost didn’t happen. When young Milsap was in high school, his counselors predicted he would be “a total failure” if he tried a career in music.
“All my counselors wanted me to do something academic, maybe become a lawyer, or a teacher,” he recalled. “They said, no you can’t do that–you’ll wind up out on the streets without a job.”
About that time Milsap went to a Ray Charles concert. A crew member let him wait in the megastar’s dressing room.
“I’m sitting at Ray’s piano, playing, when Ray comes in,” Milsap recounted. “I told him I’d like to be a professional musician. He said (mimicking Ray’s raspy voice), well, play me something.”
Milsap did. Then Ray Charles gave him the best advice the Atlanta native had ever heard.
“He said, obviously that is where your heart is. Always follow what your heart tells you to do. My advice is to follow the music. So I did that.”
Milsap had a string of counselors who taught in the school of hard knocks, rock, and rhythm and blues. They include Elvis, James Brown, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, JJ Cale, and Charlie Pride.
“Charlie Pride had lot to do with my success,” Milsap said. “I learned more from him than any other artist I worked with–he was a tremendous influence on me.”
His life story is inspiring, and he shares bits of it on stage between songs during this 2014 TEXMO Star Concert Series. Like how he learned Braille at age 6; violin at age 7; piano at age 8; and 12 years studying classical music.
Milsap is still recording. His latest album is called Summer Number Seventeen and it takes him back to the songs he heard as a teenager growing up in Georgia. It also allowed him to pay tribute to Ray Charles by including the song Georgia On My Mind.
“I did that for when they inducted me in the Georgia Hall of Fame. When they asked me to record Georgia, I said, I can’t, because Ray did the definitive version. They said, why don’t you get in the studio and try it? So I did, and that is the outcome.”
Milsap still loves to make records. He considers it a “fun” thing to do now that he has all the right musicians and engineers around him. He is bringing some of those professionals with him for his local concert, including a band and crew that have backed him up for 30 years.
As he has since his heady RCA days, Milsap looks forward to playing back in Texas.
“I love playing in Texas, and always have. The audiences there are so friendly and seem to be tuned in to the kind of country that I like to sing.”
Which means no disco.