A native of Robbinsville, North Carolina, Milsap was born with a congenital disorder that left him completely blind. He was sent to a special school in Raleigh, North Carolina where his love for music soared. During his time in Raleigh, he studied classical music and mastered the art of piano, guitar and several other string instruments. It was then that he discovered his passion for rock and roll and R&B music. In 1965, Milsap signed with New York-based Scepter Records, recording eight singles for the label and working briefly with other soul musicians like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and James Brown.
In 1972, a chance meeting with Charley Pride changed Milsap’s musical career. Pride encouraged him to shift his music genre to country. As a result, Milsap was signed to RCA Records in 1973 and later released his first country single, “I Hate You” which peaked at No. 10 on the country charts. In 1974, he toured with Pride as an opening act and had two No. 1 singles, “Pure Love” and “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends” which won Milsap his first Grammy.
From 1976 to 1978, Milsap became one of country music’s biggest stars. He recorded seven No. 1 singles in a row, including the Grammy-winning “(I’m a) Stand By My Woman Man” and “What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life.” Milsap’s do-over to pop and rock n’ roll resulted in crossover success on the Billboard’s Pop Charts beginning in the early 1980s. From 1980 until 1983, he scored a series of eleven No. 1 songs. Milsap’s released a greatest hits album in 1980. It included “Smoky Mountain Rain,” which became a No. 1 hit single on the Billboard’s Country Charts. The single peaked in the Top 40 on the Billboard’s Pop Music Charts and also became the first of two Milsap songs to score No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary Chart.
Milsap has achieved great musical success as a result of his musical talents. In 1976, he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. At the height of his career, Milsap recorded over 40 No. 1 hit singles, sold over 35 million albums, won five Grammies for Best Male Vocal Performance, and several Country Music Association Awards for Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year. In 2002, he was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.
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