A new class of musicians was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame last night, with blind singer and pianist Ronnie Milsap leading the group. Milsap’s career ranged from playing both early R&B and on the Elvis hit “Kentucky Rain” in the 1960s to the heights of solo success in the 70s and 80s. One of his biggest hits was 1980’s “Smoky Mountain Rain.”
“Smoky Mountain Rain” was part of a string of crossover hits for Milsap, as “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me” and “Any Day Now” were followed by 1983’s “Stranger in My House.” All of them had strong showings on the country, pop, and adult contemporary charts.
From Nashville, Blake Farmer of member station WPLN reports:
“Ronnie Milsap says a fellow blind piano player – the great Ray Charles – gave him the boost of confidence to make it as a professional musician. Outside Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame, the 71-year-old Milsap addressed reporters.
“‘It’s a long time coming,’ Milsap said. ‘And I must say it’s a wonderful thing.’
“Also inducted were bluegrass vocalist Mac Wiseman, who started off playing with Bill Monroe. He later started the Country Music Association.
“The late songwriter Hank Cochran rounded out the class. He penned hits for Patsy Cline, Eddy Arnold and George Straight. His widow accepted the hall of fame medallion on his behalf.”
After Cochran’s death in 2010, country singer Jamey Johnson released an album called Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran, featuring some of the wistful classics he wrote for other stars. Track No. 1 was “Make the World Go Away.”