Saturday, 7 April 2012

Ronnie Milsap- Ain't No Soul (Left In These Old Shoes)

The mention of the name Ronnie Milsap would draw a confused expression from even the most learned music fan here in Australia. He seems to be an artist who although he enjoyed enormous success in the country charts in the U.S didn't cultivate a profile that endeared him to the annals of music history. He didn't have a guitar shaped swimming pool and he didn't have his own amusement park, he had a state of the art recording studio in Nashville and had an abiding interest in electronics which he applied to his studio development.

Like many artists Milsap had toiled for nearly a decade before finding commercial success, his initial entry into the music world was through rhythm and blues playing with a local band The Apparitions around Atlanta. Ronnie signed with the New York based Scepter Records and released his first single Total Disaster in 1963. I first heard Ronnie Milsap on Vince Peach's Soul Time show back in the 1990's and he played a version of Ain't No Soul (Left in These Old Shoes) which had first been recorded by Chicago soul singer Major Lance and released on the Okeh record label in 1965. When I heard Ronnie's version I had no idea that the vocalist was white, he has a striking voice with great control. 

The song starts off with a farfisa organ line before the horn section blasts off, all the while that farfisa organ line repeats underneath. As Ronnie reaches the chorus a swirling Booker T style hammond organ lifts the the song to a sanctified crescendo. Even though the song would become a popular number on the northern soul circuit, it was actually recorded down south. Looking at the credits it was produced Huey P Meaux who was a well known figure in the Texas music scene having produced She's About A Mover for the Sir Douglas Quintet as well as some classic early 60's sides for Jimmy Donley. I'm not sure where the record was recorded possibly in Texas but more likely to have been done in Atlanta. It has that classic southern style tight backbeat, the bass is virtually unnoticeable there is no room for busy playing on that song so it forms the base for the rhythm. 

Ronnie cut eight singles for Scepter and then headed to Memphis where he made quite a few recordings at American Studios with Chips Moman producing, he eventually headed to Nashville with the encouragement of Charley Pride who urged him to make the transition to country music.

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