Ronnie Milsap laughed when asked about reuniting in the studio last year with his longtime pal Dolly Parton, who appears on his latest album, “The Duets.”
“You know Dolly calls me her ‘blind date,’ ” Milsap said by phone from his Nashville home. “Dolly and I have a long history together. When we get together it’s always a lot of fun.”
The blind country icon planned to release a greatest hits album, but he decided to dust off some of his old classics with the help of some old friends instead. Parton lends her powerful pipes to “Smoky Mountain Rain.” Willie Nelson sings along in his distinctive style on “A Woman’s Love.” Milsap’s new pal, country’s rising star Kacey Musgraves, adds a twist to “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me.”
“Kacey blew me away since she came in without an entourage and was just as regular as can be,” Milsap said. “I was going to have her sing something else, but she asked me about “No Gettin’ Over Me.” She said, ‘If you don’t like it, you can just do it with someone else and trash what I did.’ There was no need for that. Kacey may have helped me get another hit.”
Milsap, 76, has more than his share of hits. The Country Music Hall of Famer has a staggering 35 songs that have reached the top of the country chart. Only George Strait and Conway Twitty have topped him.
How can the six-time Grammy winner play all or even most of his hits when he performs Saturday (7/27) in the Riverside Casino Event Center?
“We find a way,” he said of the show, rescheduled from May 17. “We have created medleys of some songs. We play the highlights of all of the hits. We make sure the fans get what they want when they come down to the show.”
Milsap intends to make more albums and continue to challenge himself.
“I have a lot left to accomplish,” he said. “I’m not done yet.”
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However, he has no problem looking back, particularly at the period when he reached superstar status during the late ‘70s.
“It’s nice to be able to look back at that period, because when I was living it, you’re running around all over the place and you can’t enjoy it like you think you can,” Milsap said. “I’m proud of what I accomplished way back when. I was thrilled when I won the CMA Entertainer of the Year Award in 1977. That was a perfect year for me. It was when ‘Almost Like a Song’ became just massive.”
Milsap hit commercial pay dirt by recording seven No. 1 singles in a row from 1976 to 1978, including the Grammy-winning “(I’m a) Stand by My Woman Man” and “What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life.”
“It was just an unreal time for me,” he said. “No matter what I recorded, it just went to the top of the charts. But it wasn’t just the success, it was how it was done. We did things a certain way.”
Milsap still works in that fashion. While many of his peers work with recording artists they don’t encounter, Milsap insists that his guest artists visit him in the studio.
“I’m all for technology, but I like people to come out and record,” he said. “I think that adds something to the recording. I especially felt that during ‘The Duets’ album sessions.”
Will he make another album of duets?
“I would like to,” he said. “I would love to record with Billy, Kacey and Dolly again. If I make another duets album with Dolly, I can tell you what else she calls me.”
WHAT: Ronnie Milsap
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday (7/27)
WHERE: Riverside Casino Event Center, 3184 Highway 22, Riverside
TICKETS: $20 to $55; Casino Gift Shop, (319) 648-1234 or Riversidecasinoandresort.com
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Ronniemilsap.com