Many stars shone brighter before they quickly faded away. Steve Wariner stayed humble and relied on his talent, and he managed to outlast all of them.
He was born and raised in Indianapolis, and started out as a member of his dad’s backing band. Though he enjoyed singing, his guitar meant just as much to him, and the dual talents caught the attention of Dottie West. At age seventeen, he was hired to join her band. Unlike most guitar players on the road, his prodigious talent was considered worthy enough to take into the studio, and he backed West on several records, including her smash hit “Country Sunshine.”
By 1976, he’d gained the attention of RCA, which would be the first of four major label deals over the next quarter century. His first album didn’t make much of an impact, and RCA released several singles before one finally hit. In 1980, he had his first top ten hit, “Your Memory.” His second album was released in 1981, and the self-titled set received high critical acclaim. It featured his first #1 single, “All Roads Lead to You.”
After one more album with RCA, Wariner switched to MCA, where he would have his greatest success at radio. Over the course of six albums and six years, Wariner racked up seventeen consecutive top ten hits, including eight #1 hits. Wariner chose to leave MCA for upstart Arista in 1991, and the change was creatively reinvigorating.
Hie first set for his new label, I am Ready, hit stores in 1991, and it produced three top ten hits. It quickly became the top-selling album of his career, and his first to be certified gold. During his years at Arista, Wariner would release an instrumental album and win a Grammy for a collaboration with Mark O’Connor. In 1997, he teamed with Anita Cochran on her debut album, and their collaboration “What If I Said” became his first #1 hit since the eighties.
Wariner guested on a Garth Brooks single, who coaxed Wariner into joining his label Capitol. Wariner would have his greatest commercial success at this label, with two straight gold-selling albums. His first single for Capitol, ‘Holes in the Floor of Heaven”, became his signature song. When he won the CMA awards for Single and Song in 1998, he was greeted with standing ovations, as the genial performer finally received industry honors for his solo work.
He scored the last of his thirty-one top ten hits in 2000, reaching #5 with “Been There”, a duet with Clint Black. Since then, he has gone on to release several independent albums to continued critical acclaim. Wariner still tours, but keeps a higher profile in Nashville, particularly at the Grand Ole Opry, where he’s been a member since 1996.
- All Roads Lead to You, 1981
- Some Fools Never Learn, 1985
- Life’s Highway, 1986
- The Tips of My Fingers, 1991
- What if I Said (with Anita Cochran), 1997
- Holes in the Floor of Heaven, 1998
- Steve Wariner, 1982
- It’s a Crazy World, 1987
- I am Ready, 1991
- Burnin’ the Roadhouse Down, 1998
- Steal Another Day, 2003
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