100 Greatest Men: #41. Ronnie Milsap

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

A first class musician with R&B roots, Ronnie Milsap brought contemporary pop sophistication to the country music of his time, and it made him a superstar.

Milsap had a troubled childhood.  He was blind from birth, and the divorce of his parents left him being raised by his father and his grandparents.   While enrolled in a

school for the blind, instructors noticed his remarkable musical talent, and he began to study classical music.  With stunning precision, he learned not only violin, but piano, guitar, and several other instruments.

His attention turned to rock music, and even though he was showing great promise as a pre-law student, he decided to go the music route instead.  He first found success as an R&B singer, scoring a handful of chart hits that also grazed the pop charts.   He mostly made his rent as a session musician, most notably working on sessions with Elvis Presley.

He was so well-known in other fields that Nashville executives were surprised to find him being pitched as a country act, but he was able to integrate his various genre skills into a modern sound that was distinctively country, despite overwhelming pop and R&B overtones.  He hit quickly as a country singer, becoming one of the genre’s top acts almost out of the gate.  As the Nashville sound was going uptown, his sophisticated approach was the perfect fit.   For more than two decades, he dominated at radio and retail, along with the major award shows.

During his first wave of success in the seventies, he became the first artist to win CMA’s Male Vocalist of the Year three times, and managed to pull off the same feat in their Album category as well.  He’d win the latter category an unprecedented fourth time in in 1986, a record that stood until  George Strait won his fifth in 2008.  He also was a huge Grammy favorite, winning six, including five in the competitive Male Vocal race.

Milsap dominated at country radio to the tune of 35 #1 hits, but his blending of sounds made him appealing at pop radio as well.  By the end of the crossover era, he’d scored several pop hits, even reaching the top five with his Grammy-winning classic, “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me.”   While many seventies stars faded into obscurity, Milsap continued to do well at radio through the early nineties.   In recent years, he has continued to record country albums, but has also explored other genres like pop, jazz, soul, and gospel, helping to bring his musical career full circle.

Essential Singles:

  • (I’d Be) A Legend in My Time, 1974
  • Daydreams About Night Things, 1975
  • It was Almost Like a Song, 1977
  • Smoky Mountain Rain, 1980
  • (There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me, 1981
  • I Wouldn’t Have Missed it For the World, 1981
  • Any Day Now, 1982
  • Lost in the Fifties Tonight (In the Still of the Night), 1985
  • A Woman in Love, 1989

Essential Albums:

  • Pure Love, 1974
  • Night Things, 1975
  • 20/20 Vision, 1976
  • Live, 1977
  • There’s No Gettin’ Over Me, 1981
  • Inside, 1982
  • Lost in the Fifties Tonight, 1985

Next: #40. ?

Previous: #42. Porter Wagoner

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List


  1. I can’t argue with any of your choices for essential singles but he had so many other great songs. Some additional favorites of mine include “I’d Be a Legend in My Time”, “Stranger in My House”, “Inside”, “Nobody Likes Sad Songs” and “Houston Solution”. Don Schlitz sang “Houston Solution” at his last Bluebird Cafe show a few weeks ago. He co-wrote it with Paul Overstreet.

    Re the albums, I would add his 2006 cd, “My Life”. It didn’t produce any hit singles but every song was good.

    Why isn’t Ronnie Milsap in the country music hall of fame? Looking at the names of the inductees, I find it hard to believe he still hasn’t been selected. I was lucky enough to see him do a show at Westbury in the late 80’s. He was great. He has a good sense of humor too. His joke about driving the bus may have been predictable but it still got a lot of laughs.

  2. It seems almost every discussion of likely future Hall of Fame inductees includes mention of Ronnie Milsap. He could end up getting in very soon – you never know.

    Some of Milsap’s eighties crossover efforts feel a tad slick for my taste, but I enjoy quite a few of his songs, including “Daydreams About Night Things” and “Smoky Mountain Rain,” plus I’m a bit of a sucker for the sweeping self-pity of “It Was Almost Like a Song.”

  3. I am a bit surprised at Milsap’s low ranking given the scope of his influence and talents, but there ya go …

    Bob, I had nearly forgotten “Houston Solution”. Thanks for bringing it to my attention again. Love that song!

  4. The quintessential Ronnie Milsap song is “Pure Love”. How can you not like a song with a lyric like ‘milk and honey and Cap’n Crunch and you in the morning’

    I was aa big Milsap fan through about 1980; after that, not so much.

  5. I too am surprised by his lower ranking on here, especially given his top three ranking for #1 singles in the genre, the length of his career, and the impact he made on stars of the time and the future. But, I also recognize that this is the men’s list, and country music has also been a men’s game so moving up in this ranking is a bigger feat of notoriety and impact, fair or not.

  6. This is way, way too low for Milsap.

    He is one of my favorite singers and musicians. Such an amazing talent that appealed to many genres of music.

    I’ll add my favorites: Only One Love in My Life, What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life, and Pure Love.

  7. Thirty-five #1 hits on the country charts, several of which crossed over onto the pop charts…plus he sessioned with Elvis. Now if that ain’t impressive, you tell me what is.

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