A country music hall of famer is coming to Salina. The legendary Ronnie Milsap is coming to the Stiefel Theatre.
Born blind (his family thought it was retribution for sin), Ronnie Milsap’s grandparents gave the boy over to the North Carolina State School for the Blind hoping for a better chance. There, Milsap discovered music – deviating from the school’s classical curriculum to explore the nascent realms of race music, rock & roll and jazz.
Being the brilliant kid he was, it wasn’t long until he’d found his way into the local clubs and the tiny indie labels.
Suddenly, he was sharing bills with Ray Charles (who took the Ashford & Simpson-penned B-side to Milsap’s Scepter single “Never Had It So Good” and scored his own hit with “Let’s Go Get Stoned”), and James Brown on a circuit that included the Howard Theater, the Royal Peacock, and more.
It was Ray Charles who told the young pianist when he was offered a scholarship to Young Harris College’s law program, “Son, I can hear the music inside you…”
It settled Milsap’s fate. Living in Atlanta, playing clubs and doing sessions the future Country Music Hall of Famer caught wind that JJ Cale was looking for a keyboard player. Cale hired him. Ronnie went on to work at the Whiskey for a good while.
From Atlanta, Ronnie moved to Memphis where he was doing sessions with Chips Moman, where Elvis famously commanded, “More thunder on the keys, Milsap,” during the recording of “Kentucky Rain.” It was there he was asked to play the Whiskey on the famed Sunset Strip in LA. While staying at the notorious Hyatt House, Charley Pride, a famous man in country music, saw the white kid playing rock & soul and suggested giving Nashville a try.
Milsap has forty number hits over five decades of charted singles. He has six Grammys, a CMA Entertainer of the Year Award, and four Album of the Year Awards.
He is credited for creating a new way of recording (being blind his hyper-attuned hearing led him to create/build what is now known as Ronnie’s Place, where the new album, the Duets, was captured). He broke genre rules and became one of the biggest pop/AC and even R&B artists of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
Ronnie Milsap will perform at the Stiefel Theatre in Salina on Saturday, August 10th. Tickets start at $38 and go on sale this Friday.