Wariner, Steve

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Steve Wariner

Guitarist, singer, songwriter

Premiered with Fathers Band at Barn Dance

Writes for Big Names and Records Solo Hits

A Move to Arista Goes Gold

Comes Full Circle as a Musician

Selected discography


Since his 1981 recording debut, country guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Steve Wariner has shown himself to be a resilient talent. Within country musics inner circle, Wariner is respected, not only as a protege of guitar virtuoso Chet Atkins, but as a consummate guitarist in his own right. The close to 30 top ten hits he has achieved during his career12 of them, including The Tips of My Fingers and Leave Him Out of This, climbing to the number one spotattest to Wariners vocal ability and his popularity with country music listeners. And his skill as a songwriter has been attested to by such stellar country performers as Garth Brooks and the late Conway Twitty, both of whom have successfully recorded Wariner-penned tunes. Wariners mellow tenor vocals have linked him with Glen Campbell and Vince Gill, and his reputation for durable hits on three different record labels has earned him a reputation around Music City as one of Nashvilles nice guys.

Describing his style as a blend of country and pop influences, an interviewer in Country Guitar magazine attributes the reason for Wariners continued success to his overall personality. His personal manner translates into his playing and singingsincerity and affability are the qualities that come through most clearly, the interviewer comments. He manages, with his soothing guitar and voice, to establish a connection to places in the heart and mind. While some critics have noted that Wariners relaxed style has been reflected by recordings that have rarely taken risks, all would agree that it has also resulted in his lucrative career as a recording artist.

Premiered with Fathers Band at Barn Dance

Born in Noblesville, Indiana, on Christmas Day, 1954, Wariner was raised by parents Roy and llene in a musical environmenteach of the five Wariner children would become proficient in at least one music-related activity. Roy Wariner, who worked in a local foundry by day, fronted a small country band; by the time he was nine, young Steve was determined to join his dad on stage. Using recordings by Ray Price, HankThompson, Jim Reeves, and guitarists Atkins and Merle Travis as a musical backdrop, he tackled his fathers Danelectro bass guitar, quickly mastering the instrument. A year later, with Steve now on bass guitar, the new Roy Wariner Band debuted at a barn dance in Russell Springs, Kentucky. They were soon performing on local radio and television shows. While he was a great fan of country stars George the Possum Jones and Merle Haggard, Wariners absolute idol remained six-string guitar whiz Chet Atkins, the gauge against he would

For the Record

Born December 25, 1954, in Noblesville, IN; married, wifes name, Caryn; children: Ryan, Ross.

Began performing with father, Roy Warmer, on local radio and television programs; opened for Dottie West in Indianapolis, IN, 1971; joined Wests road band, 1973-76, then toured with Bob Luman, 1976-78; signed with RCA, 1977; bassist for Chet Atkins, 1978-80; released first top-ten hit Your Memory, 1980; released debut album Steve Warmer, 1982; signed with MCA, 1984; signed with Arista, 1991; released first gold record, I Am Ready, 1991; has appeared on television shows, including Hee Haw, Austin City Limits, Christmas Memories with Steve, and That Nashville Music.

Awards: Country Music Association award for vocal event of the year, 1991, and Grammy award for best country vocal collaboration (with Mark OConnor, Ricky Skaggs, and Vince Gill), 1992, both for single Restless; inducted as 72nd member of Grand Ole Opry, spring 1996; recipient of numerous BMI songwriting awards.

Addresses: Record company Arista Nashville, 7 MusicCircle North, Nashville, TN 37203. Management Clark Beavon, Renaissance Management, P.O. Box 1647, Franklin, TN 37065-1647.

measure all other guitar players. Although the young guitarist did not know it at the time, the two musicians paths were destined to cross.

From bass guitar, the musically inclined teen moved on to electric guitar, and then to drums, continuing to play with country and rock bands composed of various family members. Before he had even graduated from high school, 17-year-old Wariner found himself graduating to a higher level in the country music circuit when he was asked to open a show for the late, great country chanteuse Dottie West at the Nashville Country Club in Indianapolis. West was so impressed with Wariners easy personality and talent as a singer that she offered him the chance to work as a bass player and backup vocalist in her touring band. Wariner was quick to say yes, despite his mothers concern. I had never really been out of a two-state area, Wariner recalled in an Arista press release. [My mom] told Dottie, Take care of my boy. And Dottie put her arm around her and said, Til be his mother when youre not there. She really lived up to her word. She really was like a mother to me.

After three years travelling with West and her band, Wariner moved to similar duties in the road band for the late rockabilly artist Bob Luman. The bass guitarist would work alongside Lumanthe pair formed a publishing company in 1978until fate intercepted Wariner two and a half years later, in the form of none other than Chet Atkins himself. Then still an acting producer for RCA Records, Atkins heard a demo recording of Wariner performing some of his original material and immediately approached the talented musician with the offer of a singles recording contract. Wariner signed with RCAin 1977. In addition to recording several songs with RCA, he would gain the opportunity to work alongside his longtime musical idol, backing up Atkins on tour and soloing with a few of his original songs during Atkinss shows.

Writes for Big Names and Records Solo Hits

Wariners first recording to reach the number one spot on the country charts was All Roads Lead to You, which RCA promoted as a single in 1981. The following year marked the release of the artists self-titled debut album, which placed Wariners name on the charts once again with such hits as Your Memory, Kansas City, and By Now, which crested in the top five. Steve Wariner proved the debut artist to be a talented songwriter as well. His songs have since been recorded by such artists as Garth Brooks, Lou Reed, Clay Walker, Lisa Brokop, and Luman. The first of his original compositions to reach number one was 1985s You Can Dream of Me, which would reach beyond a country audience as the theme song from the long-running ABC-TV hit sitcom Whos the Boss? Other albums followed on the strenth of Wariners debut effort: 1984s Midnight Fire featured several Top Ten hits, and RCA had enough confidence in its new artist to issue Wariners first Greatest Hits album a year later.

Meanwhile, late in 1984 Wariner made the decision to switch recording labels. With One Good Night Deserves Another, he came under the tutelage of MCA producer Tony Brown, who also handled the career of successful country artist Vince Gill. Under Brown, Wariner was able to showcase his talents as an instrumentalistsomething that MCA had, surprisingly, refused to do in favor of promoting him as a vocalist. Wariners fiery guitarwork on such hits as Some Fools Never Learn and You Can Dream of Me would send them blazing up the charts. His MCA debut effort produced several Top Ten hits and built Wariners momentum as a country act. By the time Lifes Highway hit record stores in 1986, Wariner seemed to be on his way: four number one singles and a Grammy award nomination for Thats How You Know Loves Right, a duet with Highway 101 singer Nicolette Larson, were along his path. In 1987 Wariner teamed up with Glen Campbell for the hit duet The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, and the following year found I Should Be with You charting with Number One hits that included the title track, Baby, Im Yours, and Hold On. Another creative recording project with MCA was 1990s Christmas Memories, a holiday recording Wariner made with Nanci Griffith, Chet Atkins, Maura OConnell, and the Chieftans.

A Move to Arista Goes Gold

In 1990, following the release of Laredo and Christmas Memories, Wariner switched labels again, this time signing with Arista Nashville. With the aptly titled I Am Ready, his first Arista release, Wariner finally managed to go gold. Ballads like The Tips of My Fingers, A Woman Loves, and Like a Rivertothe Sea sailed I Am Ready to gold-record status by 1994. Meanwhile, asked to collaborate on a project with fiddler Mark OConnor, Vince Gill, and bluegrasser Ricky Skaggs, Wariner found himself slated with the group for a Grammy award for best country vocal collaboration for 1991s Restless, a single included on Mark OConnor & the New Nashville Cats. The Grammy win would be yet another first for Wariner.

Heading into the 1990s, Wariners name was rarely absent from the country music countdown; his fifteenth album in over a decade, 1993s Drive was carried forward by the momentum of I Am Ready, even though the artist had begun to shift his focus from mellow ballads to more rock-inspired rhythms. I think Im at a point now where I can take chances a little bit more and stretch out, the singer-guitarist explained to Jennifer Fusco-Giacobbein Country Song Roundup. While Geoffrey Himes noted in Country Music that the ten songs on Drive are all tasteful country-pop numbers with pleasant melodies, well sung and well played, but without anything distinctive to remember them by, Wariner sustained his ability to produce hits even while shifting his overall focus. The album produced the top ten hit If I Didnt Love You, and the hit single Drivin and Cryin.

No More Mr. Nice Guy, which Wariner produced and released in 1996, would be an even more dramatic shift for the artist. Composed of instrumental rather than the radio-friendly country vocals that had fueled Wariners career thus far, it showcased such dynamic pickers as guitarists Vince Gill, Bryan Austin, Leo Kottke, and Chet Atkins, fiddler Mark OConnor, mandolinist Sam Bush, and innovative banjoist Bela Fleck, among others. The album was a shift from the kind of country-pop fusion Wariner had been noted forthe rock, swing, blues, semi-classical, and jazz influences in No More Mr. Nice Guy put the album into a broader category than country and Arista was quick to market the album to guitar enthusiasts of all persuasions. However, it was also a gamble for Arista, as instrumentals rarely achieve significant airplay on mainstream country radio. While he had been in demand as a guitarist around Nashville for many yearsTakamine Guitars had, by now, issued their third Steve Wariner signature-edition acoustic guitarfans of Wariners country ballads would now discover a new side to this Nashville nice guy.

Comes Full Circle as a Musician

Regarding No More Mr. Nice Guy, Wariners attitude remained pragmatic. Ive wanted to do a project like this since I was a kid, he admitted to Deborah Evans Price in Billboard, but I was always realistic. I knew my voice and the lyrics were my bread and butter, especially in the commercial world. Yet, after 15 successful albums, he felt able to leave the commercial world behind for a while and devote himself to his first love: playing the guitar. Writing or co-writing every song on the release, Wariners commitment to his music is obvious on every track, according to Edward Morris in Nashville Scene. On Nice Guy, Morris notes, Wariner has created a refreshing departure from conventional country fare. It is inventive, mood provoking, enchantingly varied, and soulfully executed throughout. Country Musics Rich Kienzle agrees in a review of No More Mr. Nice Guy, commenting that the near-extinction of [non-bluegrass instrumental albums] will almost surely result in a revival someday soon. If so, Steve Wariner may well deserve some of the credit.

Despite its innovations, recording No More Mr. Nice Gi/yfound Wariner also retracing his own musical roots. A guitar player is all I wanted to be growing up, he noted in an Arista press release. He fell into singing by chance, because the bands he played for early in his career were in need of vocalists. I received attention for singing, so I did more of it, recalled Wariner. I never took it that seriously because I always thought of myself as a guitarist. Now, after all the hits and everything, this record brings me back to where I started.

Wariner has also contributed his talents to tribute albumsincluding Mamas Hungry Eyes (a tribute to Merle Haggard), Keith Whitley: Tribute Album, and Come Together: America Salutes the Beatles. In addition, he has been an active supporter of the American Heart Association and several other charities that aid children with life-threatening illnesses. Although Wariner has performed as far away as Grindelwald, Switzerland, and Kuamoto, Japan, he and his family spend their time at home in the quiet Nashville suburb of Franklin, Tennessee. As his career continues to mature, Wariner remains confident in his success as a musician. [RJegardless of sales or success, Im going to be making music one way or the other, he once told an interviewer. Thats the way I look at it. I love it too much. Its all Ive ever done since childhood.

Selected discography

Steve Wariner, RCA, 1982.

Midnight Fire, RCA, 1984.

Greatest Hits, RCA, 1985.

One Good Night Deserves Another, MCA, 1985.

Lifes Highway, MCA, 1986.

Down in Tennessee, RCA, 1986.

Its a Crazy World, MCA, 1987.

I Should Be With You, MCA, 1988.

I Got Dreams, MCA, 1989.

Laredo, MCA, 1990.

(With Nanci Griffith, Chet Atkins, Maura OConnell, and the Chieftans) Christmas Memories, MCA, 1990.

I Am Ready (includes A Woman Loves and The Tips of My Fingers), Arista, 1991.

Drive, Arista, 1993.

No More Mr. Nice Guy, Arista, 1996.



Comprehensive Country Music Encyclopedia, Random House, 1994, pp. 408-409.


Billboard, February 3, 1996.

Country Guitar, summer 1993, pp. 21-24.

Country Music, September/October 1993, p. 32; May/June1996, pp. 28-29.

Country Song Roundup, April 1994, pp. 16-18.

Nashville Scene, November 18, 1995.

Additional information for this profile was provided by Arista Records press materials.

Pamela Shelton