Ronnie Milsap

It sounds almost preposterous, but Ronnie Milsap and Ray Charles share several similarities, starting with blindness — though while Charles lost his sight in early childhood, North Carolina native Milsap was born blind due to congenital glaucoma — and ending with an innate knowledge of the fluid boundary lines between country, pop and soul. Once upon a time, neither keyboard master was a stranger (in my house) to a hit record, either. Milsap may never have had an Oscar-winning movie made about his life, but he racked up a staggering 37 country No. 1's between 1974's "Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends" and 1989's "A Woman in Love." In turn, many of those ("Smoky Mountain Rain," "(There's) No Gettin' Over Me," "Any Day Now") also scaled the upper reaches of the Top 40 in the early-'80s wake of Urban Cowboy, which makes sense; both Milsap and Mickey Gilley's piano styles are as informed by rock and roll and R&B as honky-tonk (thanks, Brother Ray). Milsap has enough chart-toppers to fill out two or three full sets, but given his surroundings Saturday, he just might find time to squeeze in one that didn't quite make it — 1989's "Houston Solution," which topped out at No. 4.


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