The Story Behind the Song: “Why Don’t You Spend the Night” by Ronnie Milsap

The Story Behind the Song: “Why Don’t You Spend the Night” by Ronnie Milsap
Photo: Frederick Breedon IV/WireImage

Ronnie Milsap fondly recalled his upbringing in the late 1950s, when rock, R&B, and country seamlessly coexisted on the radio waves. Growing up in North Carolina, he reminisced about how stations would effortlessly transition from Little Richard to Ray Price, or from Jim Reeves to Fats Domino or Pat Boone, even Elvis. Back then, there was no pressure to confine oneself to a single genre; it was perfectly acceptable to appreciate them all.

However, by 1979, Milsap found himself breaking away from his established path with “Get It Up,” a unique blend of semi-disco and semi-blues. Initially featured as the B-side of his country hit “In No Time at All,” “Get It Up” managed to make waves on pop radio, reaching number 43 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Acknowledging the surprise of many fans, Milsap explained to Billboard Magazine’s Kip Kirby that he felt constrained by the predictable mold set by his previous slow ballads like “Only One Love in My Life” and “It Was Almost Like a Song.” The pressure to maintain a certain style after achieving success with hit records was palpable.


Finding a balance between experimentation and his signature ballads, Milsap struck gold with Bob McDill’s “Why Don’t You Spend the Night.” This track, featured on his album “Milsap Magic,” marked a departure from his usual producer, Tom Collins, as Ronnie collaborated with Rob Galbraith, known for his work with pop singer Harry Chapin.

Despite Galbraith’s innovative production, “Why Don’t You Spend the Night” faced some controversy. WSUN-AM, a Billboard reporting station in Tampa/St. Petersburg, deemed the song “too suggestive” and refused to play it. In response, Milsap questioned the station’s decision, citing Conway Twitty’s “I’d Love to Lay You Down,” which was climbing the charts simultaneously. Although WSUN-AM held its ground, the song still soared to number one on the Billboard charts on March 22, 1980, marking Ronnie’s 13th chart-topper out of 35.

Intriguingly, Conway Twitty’s “I’d Love to Lay You Down” claimed the number one spot the following week, highlighting the diverse musical landscape of the time.

>>READ ALSO: The Story Behind Ronnie Milsap’s Soulful Tale “Smoky Mountain Rain”


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