Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Steve Wariner, “The Tips of My Fingers”

“The Tips of My Fingers”

Steve Wariner

Written by Bill Anderson

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

April 3, 1992

An eighties star finds new success in the nineties with an old country song.

The Road to No. 1

Steve Wariner has one of the most interesting career arcs of his generation.  He started out in his dad’s band, mastering several instruments by his teenage years.  While performing in Indianapolis, Dottie West discovered him and hired him as her bass player.  She mentored Wariner and gave him session work, including on her classic hit, “Country Sunshine.”

He left West’s band to hone his songwriting talent, and eventually secured a deal with RCA, which led to a string of minor hit singles in the late seventies.  He released two studio albums for RCA in the early eighties, and they produced five top ten singles between them.  But it was a label switch to MCA that brought him his greatest success, with seventeen consecutive top ten hits through 1990, including eight No. 1 hits.

However, Wariner never quite broke through to major commercial success on MCA, with his album sales remaining moderate at best.  So Wariner took a chance and switched to the new Nashville division of Arista Records.  I Am Ready launched with the top ten hit, “Leave Him Out of This.”  His next single reached the top five of the Billboard chart, and made it all the way to No. 1 on Radio & Records.

The No. 1

“The Tips of My Fingers” had already been a major hit several times over.  Its songwriter, Bill Anderson, went top ten with it in 1960.  Roy Clark repeated that feat in 1963. Eddy Arnold went top five in 1966 with his version, and then Jean Shepard had a top twenty hit with it in 1975.

Wariner’s version hews closely to the original hit recordings, but he sings it beautifully enough to make his version worth listening to, even if you’re already a fan of the earlier versions.  (I’m personally partial to Roy Clark’s take.) Any recording of “Fingers” comes down to how the artist sings, “I held your love on the tips of my fingers,” and Wariner acquits himself nicely.

He doesn’t give the definitive version of a country classic like Ricky Van Shelton did so many times, but it’s good enough.

The Road From No. 1

I Am Ready produced three more singles, including the top ten hit, “A Woman Loves.”  The album became Wariner’s first gold-selling disc.  Two more releases on Arista followed:  Drive, which produced one top ten hit (“If I Didn’t Love You”) and No More Mr. Nice Guy, an instrumental collection.

Amazingly, Wariner’s biggest success still lay ahead, after a comeback duet and another label switch. We’ll see him three more times on this feature, but you’ll have to wait until 1997 for his return.

“The Tips of My Fingers” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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8 Comments

  1. I personally think Roy Clark’s version is the best but all are good. I still think Bill Anderson is a songwriting genius. He does not get the credit he deserves in my opinion

  2. Great song, and a good rendition here by Wariner. Again, I never realized this went number one on any chart.

    Steve Wariner kind of reminds me of a bit of Don Williams, where I just always found him as a nice, comforting presence on country radio. “Some Fools Never Learn” and “Life’s Highway” are two of my favorite songs from the 80s (Not to invoke the “list” that you are reviewing, but each of these songs would’ve been better choices for inclusion for him than what appeared), and I enjoyed a lot of his ballads from that period as well. His commercial “comeback” in the late part of the decade reminded me a bit of John Anderson’s, which you also covered…and brings you back to a time when this type of thing was allowed to happen more.

  3. Wariner is a poor man’s Vince Gill, no?
    He is a songwriting, multi-instrumentalist with a high-tenor voice, though, I completely get PSU Mike ganging Warner’s music with Don Williams in the cozy corner of country music. I think I previously placed Kathy Mattea there as well. It’s a great place to hang out.

    This associative aspect of his music is what can make Wariner easy to overlook and under-value, or even forget altogether.

    Just consider that a slightly out of time artist like him could score a number one with a classic Bill Anderson song in 1992. It’s crazy and speaks again to the magic and wonder of this era in country music. Everyone was seemingly welcome at the table!

    Oddly, Warner’s “Some Fools Never Learn” is is an all time favourite of mine. I just love that song! If I ranked my favourites, it would be ridiculously high.

  4. It should be noted that Wariner was part of Bob Luman’s band after leaving Dottie West. All of the recorded versions (that I’ve heard) have been good but I think my favorite version was by Canadian country singer Anita Perras

  5. This is actually my favorite version of this song, being it’s the one I grew up with. My mom would agree with Kevin and Top P. though, as she also likes Roy Clark’s version the best. Anyway, I think Steve does a beautiful job with it, and I really love the solid neo-traditional production with some excellent fiddle and steel. It’s another one of my favorite waltzes in the genre, similar to some of the songs Vince Gill had out around this time period, as well. I’m also very pleasantly surprised to see that it actually went number one! It did continue to get airplay for us into early 1993, and I have it on a tape I recorded from that time.

    I also happen to be a Steve Wariner fan in general, and I’ve enjoyed most anything I’ve heard from him ever since I was little. I agree with others who would put him in the “cozy” category along with Don Williams, Kathy Mattea, and others (in a way, George Strait could fit in there, too). Those artists have always had such an appealing easygoing style about them I’ve always really liked.

    Speaking of coziness, Steve Wariner’s I Am Ready album, in general, has sort of a warm and cozy feel to the production, and with every song except for the very last track being a slow or mid tempo ballad, there’s a mellowness to it that makes it an ideal listen for cozying by the fire on a Fall/Winter night. It’s actually my favorite album from Steve, and I consider it to be some of his best work. Love “Leave Him Out Of This” and “A Woman Loves” from that record, as well. I also really like his follow up Arista album, 1993’s Drive, and the singles “If I Didn’t Love You” and “Drivin’ and Cryin’.” Like Tanya Tucker and John Anderson, Steve is another artist from the 80’s I’m glad was able to have another run of successful singles around this time period (though of course, he would make yet another successful run later in the decade).

    I also agree with Peter and Mike on “Some Fools Never Learn.” I also consider that to be one of his best songs. As much as I really like Steve’s 90’s work, I also enjoy much of his 80’s stuff, as well. I especially grew to appreciate a lot of his 80’s work when I picked up a copy of his first MCA Greatest Hits album back in 2000. “Small Town Girl,” “The Weekend,” “You Can Dream of Me,” “What I Didn’t Do,” “I Should Be With You,” “Where Did I Go Wrong,” and “Kansas City Lights” are some of my other favorites.

    Btw, this is another music video from the early 90’s I really enjoy.

  6. Peter: “Some Fools Never Learn” is, and this is the God’s honest truth, my all-time favorite song, from any artist, in any genre of music. Of all his eras I actually prefer the MCA era.

    That first Capitol Records album, 1998’s Burnin’ the Roadhouse Down, was pretty spectacular, though.

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