“The Tips of My Fingers”
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+.
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