Ronnie Milsap‘s First No. 1 Hit “Pure Love” Paved The Way to More Hits
When Ronnie Milsap landed his first No. 1 hit – “Pure Love” – on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in the late spring of 1973, it marked the end of his lengthy search.
Milsap was one of the most popular country artists during the 1970s and 1980s and has 40 No. 1 country hits throughout his career. He’s often been credited as “one of country music’s most influential performers.”
Across his wildly successful career, Milsap became an award-winning musician with six Grammy Awards under his belt, five Academy of Country Music Awards, and eight Country Music Association Awards. Milsap has also been inducted into several halls of fame.
And the song “Pure Love” paved the way for such achievements.
Before moving to Nashville, Milsap was trying to make it in both Atlanta and Memphis, experimenting with various styles of music. In fact, Milsap’s first tracks were recorded as rhythm and blues singles. He spent the middle of the 1960s performing at a nightclub in Memphis called T. J.’s. Luck.
He moved to Music City in 1972 and started playing piano at Roger Miller’s King Of The Road Motel. Luck came to the North Carolina native when Charley Pride saw him perform and was impressed with his singing. Pride encouraged Milsap to change course and instead focus more on country music.
Pride and his manager Jack Johnson then offered Milsap a management contract that changed everything for the aspiring singer. He released his first single for RCA in 1974, “I Hate You,” which became his first successful country song, reaching No. 10 on the country chart.
But it was really “Pure Love” that is mostly credited as his career-breaking hit, making him one of country music’s biggest stars.
The Story Behind Milsap’s First No. 1 Hit
Eddie Rabbitt wrote “Pure Love” with his future wife, Janine. Rabbitt compared pure love to things like milk, honey, and the Captain Krunch breakfast cereal before he pointed out that the love shared between the man in the song and his object of affection is “ninety-nine and forty-four one hundreds percent pure” – borrowing the old advertising slogan of Ivory soap. Rabbitt recorded “Pure Love” in 1975 as the B-side to his single “Forgive and Forget.”
It was actually Charley Pride who suggested that Milsap record his own version of the song. With musician Joe Zinkan playing an upright bass rather than an electric one and Lloyd Green playing steel guitar, Milsap cut the entire song in less than half an hour.
“Pure love. Baby, it’s pure love. Milk and honey and Captain Krunch, and you in the morning. Pure love. You’re the picture of pure love. Ninety-nine and forty-four one hundreds percent pure love,” the song goes.
You can listen to “Pure Love” in the video below.