Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Steve Wariner, “Small Town Girl”

“Small Town Girl”

Steve Wariner

Written by John Barlow Jarvis and Don Cook


#1 (1 week)

March 28, 1987

At first blush, “Small Town Girl” feels like a contradiction.

The lyric espouses the virtues of a small town girl while the production is city slick, featuring the tinny electric keyboard that was all over every Adult Contemporary hit of the era.

Wariner, however, gives a performance that grounds the record firmly in contemporary country.  The contrast between the vocal and the arrangement reinforces the duality of the lyric.  Wariner navigates the cold, cruel city during the day, but he is kept warm and secure just by thinking of his small town girl that awaits him when he gets home from work.

Historians may want to flag this one as indicative of the suburban sprawl that swept across America during the boomer era, where cookie cutter cul de sacs maintained the illusion of small town life, giving city commuters the best of both worlds.

Wariner keeps getting closer to his nineties level of excellence, and this is only the first of three No. 1 singles that we’ll cover from his It’s a Crazy World LP in 1987.

“‘Small Town Girl” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. Steve Wariner has a handful of genuine country classics on his discography, but I’ve always found the majority of his songs to fall in the “pleasant but empty” lane, and this song epitomizes that. There’s an interesting contrast between the warm images of country living invoked in the lyrics and the glossy adult contemporary soundtrack, but the result is the country music equivalent of elevator music. Whenever I think of a song that embodies the stereotype of 80s country to casual fans, for better or worse, this is the one that pops into my head.

    Grade: B-

  2. I have a soft spot for these gentle songs by Steve Wariner, Michael Johnson, and Dan Seals that could just as easily and fairly be called wimpy and lame.

    As has been pointed out, the wonderful details and colour of the lyrics here are betrayed by the production. Wariner’s tender vocals imbue the single with the required warmth and softness to make the relationship relatable and real.

    Despite the liability of the instrumentation, the song still comfortably settles into my cozy corner of country music.

    I just like it.

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