100 Greatest Men: The Complete List
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
Next: #66. David Houston
Previous: #68. Mark Chesnutt
Oh, how timely! I’ve been on a Steve Wariner kick myself of late. I’m irked that I can’t find “What I Didn’t Do” to stream on Spotify for some reason.
For my money, his Capitol debut, Burnin’ the Roadhouse Down is one of the great gems of 90s country. It’s a shame that his discography is so scattered and that much of it is out of print. There are decent compilations on the market, but for those wishing to really explore Wariner’s music, it can be a costly and obnoxious road to travel.
Incidentally, for those who may care, here’s what I recently wrote about Burnin’ the Roadhouse Down:
Steve Wariner is another artist I’ve overlooked. I missed his 80’s material but my kids were young then so I missed a lot of 80’s music. I saw Steve open for Suzy Bogguss in ’98 at the Word Trade Center. I do recall that he sang “Holes in the Floor of Heaven”. I’ll have to look into getting one of his greatest hits collections.
I really enjoyed reading Travis McClain’s review of “Burnin’ the Roadhouse Down”. Travis’s posts are always interesting and very well written.
So glad that you have honored this multitalented man! I have been listening to his music since the early 80’s and he continues to amaze me. There are very few singers who can entertain us for a generation and Steve is among the best.
@bob – Thank you for the kind words. :-)
I forgot to mention that I’m going through a rough time: my marriage has collapsed. During my recent Steve Wariner kick, I found I fixated on several songs of his about that situation and I came to the conclusion that for someone known as being a Nice Guy, he’s certainly capable of rubbing salt in a wound! I picture a Mirror Universe Steve Wariner who wears a goatee and is known for being a jerk.