A longtime and beloved country and pop music legend, Ronnie Milsap, literally sings during a Tuesday media conference call with the Hope Star, and says “I'm ready to go. I'm ready to be in Hope, Arkansas, and it's gonna be an outstanding show because my band is so good. I've got the best band with me ever.”
A longtime and beloved country and pop music legend, Ronnie Milsap, literally sings during a Tuesday media conference call with the Hope Star, almost chanting “I’m ready to go. I’m ready to be in Hope, Arkansas, and it’s gonna be an outstanding show because my band is so good. I’ve got the best band with me ever.”
For Milsap, whose career has now spanned four-plus decades, that is saying a lot, and it also says a lot that he sounds almost jovial, shaking the telephone line as he speaks.
“I feel good; I am having fun. I love doing the job that the good Lord has given me to do, and I’ll keep going until the man upstairs calls me to do something else,” he says almost singing the verbiage on a tune.
Milsap, now 74, will perform at Hempstead Hall on the University of Arkansas at Hope campus on Friday, April 28 with the show starting at 7 p.m. With 40 No. 1 hits and more than 35 million albums sold over a span of 40-plus years, he remains one of recorded music’s most successful crossover artists.
When asked about his age and longevity in the entertainment business, Milsap laughs and says, “Really, has it been that long? Wow, I should taken better care of myself.”
He then speaks of an encounter with a then-aging Sammy Davis, Jr., who Milsap says told him, “It is really cool when the young cats love you.”
“And, he was right,” Milsap continues, “I love it; it is a great feeling to hear 15-year-olds, 20-year-olds who know the songs and sing along at the concerts. I love the people, and I love being around people.”
As he rolls into Hope on his concert tour, Milsap is just as likely to have the crowd tell him what songs to play, and as he said, “Go with the flow. We have a loose setlist, but we are here for them. We’ll play 90 minutes; we’ll play for a couple of hours. I am an open show; the audience always plays a big part of it. I like to leave it open to say to them “Hey, what do you want to hear?’”
Of course, there are certain to be the requisite Milsap classics like his best known singles, “(There's) No Gettin' Over Me,” “Any Day Now,” and “Stranger in My House,” all of which were crossover hits from County to Pop back in the day.
Milsap briefly reflects on “Stranger,” saying “You know, I had turned 40 when that song came out. A producer had asked me what I was going to do next; as everything worked out, that was I like I was just getting started with a whole new career; that was my biggest international hit. Those were good times and a great song.”
Indeed, the crossover successes of the time had exposed Milsap, already an established Country music superstar, to Top 40 radio and new kinds of audiences. At the high point of his 1980s tours, Milsap was regularly playing well-known arena rock venues, including in nearby Monroe, Louisiana, where his on-stage antics proved just as entertaining as his music.
Milsap was observed doing stunts on top of his piano, spinning around on his stool, singing along side his guitar player, and closely engaging near-panicked audiences, who thought Milsap was one step from flying off the stage.
“Or, I could have been thinking about just jumping off that stage and into the crowd,” Milsap says, laughing as he is reminded of his showmanship back in the day.
Then he confesses, “You know, there was toe board right at the edge of those stages; I knew exactly where was I at all times, but it was a lot of fun and the folks got real excited. Although I love the piano, I wasn’t one to just sit there the entire show.”
Milsap said he isn’t quite so rowdy or animated in his performances today, and reflects again, saying “I have my fun up there, but I don’t do all of that anymore. It takes some nerve, some courage, and some confidence to get up on a stage and perform, but I don’t ever think about doing anything else because this is the only thing that really excites me.”