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Ronnie Milsap was born in Robbinsville, N.C., and was raised by his father and grandparents following his parents' divorce. He was born blind from congenital glaucoma, and when he was 5, he began attending the Governor Moorhead School for the Blind. At 7, his instructors noticed his extraordinary musical talents, and he began to study classical music formally. A single year after he began learning the violin, he was declared a virtuoso. He also mastered piano, guitar and a variety of other stringed instruments, as well as various woodwinds. Eventually, he became interested in rock 'n' roll and while still in school formed his first rock band, the Apparitions. He briefly attended college in Atlanta where he studied pre-law. Though he was awarded a comprehensive scholarship, he decided to become a full-time musician instead. His first professional gig was as a member of J.J. Cale's band in the early '60s.
In 1965, Milsap started his own band. Four years later, after having an R&B hit with "Never Had It So Good," he moved to Memphis to become a session musician. There he frequently worked for Chips Moman and can be heard playing keyboards on Elvis Presley's "Kentucky Rain" and singing harmony on "Don't Cry Daddy." When not doing session work, Milsap and his backing group were the house band at T.J.'s Club.
In 1970, he had a pop hit with "Loving You Is a Natural Thing." Following its success, he released a self-titled debut album for Warner Bros. in 1971. Two years later, he moved to Nashville to jump-start his flagging career and became a client of Charley Pride's manager, Jack D. Johnson. Within a year, he signed to RCA Victor, where he remained for the bulk of his career.
"I Hate You," his first single for RCA, reached the country Top 10 in 1973. The next year, he had three No. 1 hits in a row -- "Pure Love," the Grammy-winning "Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends" and "(I'd Be) A Legend in My Time," a cover of Don Gibson's classic. He won his first CMA award in 1974 for male vocalist. A year later, his album A Legend in My Time won the CMA award for album of the year.
Milsap had a handful of Top 10 hits in 1975, but in late 1976, he became a genuine star, starting with a string of six No. 1 hits. In 1976, he joined the Grand Ole Opry and won another CMA male vocalist trophy. A year later, he won a Grammy for "(I'm a) Stand by My Woman Man" and captured CMA trophies for entertainer, male vocalist and album of the year (for Ronnie Milsap Live).
He also had a number of pop crossover hits, beginning with 1977's "It Was Almost Like a Song." (The album of the same name won a CMA award.) Between 1980 and 1982, Milsap had 10 more consecutive No. 1 hits, including "Smoky Mountain Rain," the Grammy-winning "(There's) No Gettin' Over Me" and "Any Day Now."
Borrowing from the Five Satins' "In the Still of the Night," Milsap's "Lost in the Fifties Tonight" single won Grammys in 1985 and 1986, and the album earned the CMA's album of the year. Another Grammy arrived in 1987 for his duet with Kenny Rogers, "Make No Mistake, She's Mine." He had his last No. 1 hit in 1989 with "A Woman in Love." In total, he had 35 No. 1 singles in Billboard, and each of his releases between 1976 and 1991 reached the Top 10. His last single for RCA was issued in 1992.
Milsap then signed to Liberty, where he recorded True Believer but only stayed on the roster briefly. Later in the decade, he opened a theater in Myrtle Beach, S.C., as well as a restaurant in Gatlinburg, Tenn. (Both have since closed.) In 2000, he received a double-disc career overview with 40 No. 1 Hits. His 2004 album of standards, Just for a Thrill, received a Grammy nod for best traditional pop recording. In June 2005, Milsap announced he had signed a recording contract with RCA.
Ronnie Milsap Song List
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