Kris Kristofferson had written “Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends” in a single evening, about a relationship he knew would never last. If you notice, several more of his classic compositions were created along this same line of thought, including “For The Good Times” and “Help Me Make It Through The Night”. The first artist to have a hit with “Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends” was Bobby Bare, who took it to #8 in 1971. Bare had previously reached the Top Ten with another Kristofferson tune “Come Sundown.”
Another artist, Ronnie Milsap had recorded “Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends” with Warner Bros. Records. They had to retain a five-year “hold” on the song before he could re-record the song under RCA. Since they can’t wait that long for the remake, RCA was required to obtain a release from Warner.
Milsap had an association with Elvis Presley having worked with “The King’s” producer. Milsap played piano on Elvis’s rendition of “Gentle On My Mind,” and also sang backup on “Kentucky Rain.” Due to his association with “The King,” it was appropriate that Ronnie cut his first two #1 hits (“Pure Love” and “Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends”) on Presley’s 39th birthday, January 8, 1974 in RCA Studio B in Nashville, the same site where Elvis had recorded “It’s Now Or Never,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “Good Luck Charm” and dozens more.
Ronnie surprised his new producer at RCA, Tom Collins, by improvising a small but effective falsetto lick on “Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends,” which Collins believes made the recording stand out. Milsap was just breaking through as a nationally known performer, so the improvisation was a gutsy thing for him to do, especially not talking it over with his producer first. Ronnie recorded the song live with the band, but there was one minor glitch regarding the session that was, thankfully resolved through dubbing.
After debuting at a very modest #84 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart on July 20, 1974, “Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends” soared to #1 in its eighth week, reaching the summit on September 7, 1974. In addition to materializing into Ronnie’s all-important second #1 hit, the record netted Milsap’s first Grammy award for “Best Country Vocal Performance by a Male” on March 1, 1975. He finished his amazing hit-generating career with his final chart-topper in 1989: “A Woman In Love,” making a total of 35 number ones, fourth on the all-time list behind George Strait’s 44, Conway Twitty’s 40 and Merle Haggard’s 38.
Well done, Ronnie Milsap! That is indeed, commendable and impressive. Worry not, it’s not how your story ends.
kris kristofferson, ronnie milsap
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