American Top 40 PastBlast, 2/7/81: Ronnie Milsap, “Smoky Mountain Rain”

One of my best friends in high school was Bill. I probably first met him in third grade, after my family had moved to Walton, but we didn’t have the same teacher at W-V Elementary until fifth grade. He and I often wound up next to each other when they sorted students by height for group photos or other events; we were the two tallest boys in our cohort at that point. (Neither of us wound up as the tallest. Eventually I topped out at just a stitch over six feet tall, while Bill made it a couple inches higher, but another guy beat him by another three inches or so.)

Our close friendship started soon after we’d completed our freshman year. Ninth grade had been a transition year for me in terms of my social circle. For various reasons, over the previous year or two I had drifted away from three good friends who had grown up in my neighborhood. I certainly wish now I’d maintained closer ties with each of them. Bill and I had golfed some together since 7th grade (I’d tried to make the school team, but I was terrible; Bill was much better and had gotten to play in matches), and we were both in band, but we’d never really hung out a whole lot.

However, he called me one day in June 79 to ask if I could join him and Tony, another friend, for a campout in his back yard. From that point on, we did a lot of stuff together. His family moved from Walton to Verona during our sophomore year, and I and other friends went over to his new house quite a bit, particularly after we started getting our licenses.

He and I talked quite a bit about girls, but the conversations weren’t symmetric in the least. Bill was much more confident and frequent in his dating, so while he might want to discuss how things were going with his girlfriend at the time, usually I’d be lamenting about my lack of a social life.

Bill was the one who introduced me to Nillson’s Son of Schmillson, which is fairly juvenile yet incredibly funny, at least to some 15-year-olds (he’d learned about it from a couple of senior golfers when he was a 7th grader). He had strong opinions about music. Pop and R&B were generally shunned, but album/hard rock (think Boston, AC/DC) and particularly southern rock (Skynyrd, .38 Special, Molly Hatchet) were very much in favor. He liked a lot of country, too; this cut from Ronnie Milsap (#27, getting to #24) was one I distinctly recall him loving to turn up. I’d say that this, “It Was Almost Like a Song,” and “Any Day Now” were my three favorite Milsap crossover hits.

I’m really appreciative that Bill reached out to me all those years ago. It led to a lot of great memories, through high school and after. We haven’t had much more contact than liking FB posts and exchanging Christmas cards as of late, but he’ll always be a dear friend.

4 thoughts on “American Top 40 PastBlast, 2/7/81: Ronnie Milsap, “Smoky Mountain Rain””

  1. Is it just me or all the coolest dudes named William or Bill or Billy?

    “Smoky Mountain Rain” is a great, great track – my favorite in Milsap’s extensive catalog.

    Do yourself a favor, and check out Ronnie’s disco jam “Get It Up” from his 1979 album Images. The song was on the flip-side of a popular Country single (“In No Time At All”) and it blows my mind that some disco-hating cowboy might have accidentally played it on a jukebox somewhere. It was even released on an extended more than eight-minute version on a twelve inch single.


    1. There were three other guys named Billy in my graduating class besides Bill and me (and there were only 55 or so people total).

      “Get It Up” was unfamiliar to me. It’s certainly unlike anything else I’ve heard from Ronnie!


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