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Steve Wariner

Steve Wariner
Steve wariner 2019.jpg
Wariner performing in Hopkinsville, Kentucky in 2019.
Background information
Birth nameSteven Noel Wariner[1]
Born (1954-12-25) December 25, 1954 (age 64)[1]
OriginNoblesville, Indiana, U.S.
  • Singer
  • Songwriter
  • Guitarist
  • Vocals
  • Acoustic guitar
  • Electric guitar
Years active1973–present
Associated acts

Steven Noel Wariner (born December 25, 1954) is an American country music singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Initially a backing musician for Dottie West, Bob Luman, and Chet Atkins, he began recording as a solo artist in the late 1970s. He has released eighteen studio albums for multiple labels, including the Nashville divisions of RCA, MCA, Arista, and Capitol Records, along with his own SelecTone label. He has also charted more than fifty singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, of which ten reached number one: "All Roads Lead to You", "Some Fools Never Learn", "You Can Dream of Me", "Life's Highway", "Small Town Girl", "The Weekend", "Lynda", "Where Did I Go Wrong", "I Got Dreams", and "What If I Said", a duet with Anita Cochran. Three of his studio albums have been certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for shipping 500,000 copies in the United States.

In addition to writing or co-writing most of his own songs, Wariner holds several writing credits for other artists, including singles by Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Bryan White, and Keith Urban. Wariner has also won four Grammy Awards: one for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals, and three for Best Country Instrumental. Wariner's musical style is defined by his lead guitar work, lyrical content, and stylistic diversity.

Early life

Chet Atkins, one of Wariner's major musical influences, helped him sign to RCA Records in 1976.

Steven Noel Wariner was born on December 25, 1954 in Noblesville, Indiana,[1] but grew up in Russell Springs, Kentucky.[2] As a teenager, Wariner taught himself how to play several instruments, including acoustic guitar, bass guitar, drums, banjo, and steel guitar.[3] Wariner performed locally in his father Roy Wariner's band, drawing influence from musical acts his father listened to, such as George Jones and Chet Atkins.[1] When Wariner was 17, country singer Dottie West heard him performing at a nightclub in Indianapolis and recruited him to play bass guitar in her road band. Wariner completed his education through a correspondence course with his local high school, and went on to play with West for three years;[3] he also played on her 1973 single "Country Sunshine".[1] West had also attempted to secure Wariner a record label contract by submitting demos of his work, but was unsuccessful.[3] He then left West's road band to focus on songwriting, which led to him touring with Bob Luman after he recorded some of Wariner's songs.[4][3] While in recording sessions with Luman, Wariner encountered guitarist Paul Yandell, who was also working for Atkins at the time.[3] Yandell submitted some of Wariner's demos to Atkins, who was also vice-president of RCA Records Nashville at the time and was thus able to sign Wariner to a contract in 1976.[2]

Musical career

1978–1984: RCA Records

His first single release for RCA was "I'm Already Taken",[5] a song that Wariner co-wrote. It achieved a peak of number 63 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts. This was followed by five more singles between then and 1980, none of which appeared on an album at the time due to their low chart performance.[6] In order of release, these were covers of The Everly Brothers' "So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)" and Randy Newman's "Marie"; "Beside Me" and its B-side "Forget Me Not"; and "The Easy Part's Over",[7] previously a 1968 single for Charley Pride.[8][9] Record World magazine published a positive review of "The Easy Part's Over" which stated that it was a "slow, sad ballad" in which "Wariner contnues to show a whole lotta vocal talent."[10] Atkins also hired Wariner to be in his road band and initially served as his record producer, but later encouraged him to find a different one.[11] As a result, "The Easy Part's Over" was instead produced by Tom Collins,[10] who at the time was also producing for Ronnie Milsap and Sylvia.[4]

His first major chart hit came in 1980 when "Your Memory" ascended to the number seven position on the country charts.[7][2] Due to the song's success, Atkins fired Wariner from his band.[11] "Your Memory" was the first of six singles from his self-titled debut album,[1] which also produced another top-ten hit in "By Now" and his first number-one single, 1981's "All Roads Lead to You". Both this song and its followup, the number 15-peaking "Kansas City Lights", were written by Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan.[7] The album's last two singles, "Don't It Break Your Heart" and "Don't Plan on Sleeping Tonight", fared less successfully on the charts.[7] Collins also produced this album.[4] Al Campbell of AllMusic stated that Wariner's "sophisticated country-pop sound was already perfected, and it showed by the quality of the material."[12]

RCA released his second studio album Midnight Fire in 1983. Tony Brown and Norro Wilson co-produced the album except for the last two tracks, for which Collins stayed on as producer. Contributing songwriters included Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, Jerry Fuller, and Richard Leigh.[13] The closing track, a cover of Mickey Gilley's "Overnight Sensation" featuring Barbara Mandrell, also appeared on her 1983 album Spun Gold.[13][14] Wariner said that he chose to switch producers as a means of introducing more uptempo material, and both Wilson and Brown were working for RCA at the time.[15] The lead single "Don't Your Memory Ever Sleep at Night" faltered on the country charts, but the title track was more successful, reaching a peak of number five.[7] Following this was a cover of Luman's 1972 hit "Lonely Women Make Good Lovers",[15] which in early 1984 matched the original version's Hot Country Songs peak of number four.[7][16] The album's next two singles, "Why Goodbye" and "Don't You Give Up on Love", were less successful.[7]

1984–1987: MCA Nashville

At the end of Wariner's contract with RCA in 1984, he chose to follow Brown to MCA Nashville.[6] His first album for the label was 1985's One Good Night Deserves Another, which produced three hit singles: "What I Didn't Do", "Heart Trouble", and "Some Fools Never Learn", which in 1985 became his second number-one hit.[7] According to Wariner, Bowen (who produced the album with Brown) gave Wariner more control in the creative process than previous producers, by encouraging Wariner to find songs that he wanted to record and then explain to them why he liked each song that he selected. The song selection process also allowed for a number of songwriters not typically found on albums of the era, including Dave Gibson, Ronnie Rogers, Wood Newton, Paul Overstreet, and Steve Earle.[6] "Some Fools Never Learn" was nominated by the Academy of Country Music for Song of the Year,[17] and Wariner later remarked that he considered it his favorite single.[18] Overlapping with his first two MCA albums, RCA promoted two compilation albums of material he had released for them. The first of these was a Greatest Hits album, issued in 1985.[19] The following year, RCA compiled eight of his previously-unreleased singles into an album titled Down in Tennessee.[17]

His next album, 1985's Life's Highway, accounted for two consecutive number-one singles in "You Can Dream of Me" and the title track, followed by the number 4 "Starting Over Again". In between the latter two singles, he was also a duet vocalist on Nicolette Larson's "That's How You Know When Love's Right", a selection from her 1986 MCA album Rose of My Heart which would also be her only top 40 hit on that chart.[7] The song was nominated for that year's Vocal Event of the Year from the Country Music Association.[20] Wariner co-wrote five songs on the album, including "You Can Dream of Me" which he wrote with John Hall of the band Orleans. As with the previous album, Bowen and Brown requested that he have input on the song selection and production processes. He also chose not to include a string section because such instrumentation would not be achieveable in a live setting.[21] Wariner gained further exposure in this timespan for singing the theme to the television sitcom Who's the Boss?. Wariner's recording was used on the show from 1986 to 1990.[22]

1987's It's a Crazy World was Wariner's first album to be issued on compact disc.[18] The title track was written by Mac McAnally, who originally had a pop hit with it in 1977.[23] It accounted for three number-one singles: "Small Town Girl", "The Weekend", and "Lynda".[7] In between "The Weekend" and "Lynda", Wariner was also a guest vocalist on Glen Campbell's top-ten hit "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle", from Campbell's album Still Within the Sound of My Voice.[7] This song accounted for Wariner's first Grammy Award nomination in 1987, in the then-new category of Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.[20][24] Tom Roland of AllMusic reviewed the album positively, stating that "Wariner's in charge vocally, and seems to glide through the album effortlessly. He's received more responsibility for his own direction, and—with one or two exceptions— has upgraded every aspect of his record, particularly in song selection and musicianship."[25] Wariner supported It's a Crazy World through a headlining tour that also featured Hank Williams Jr.[18]

1988–1991: End of MCA years

I Should Be with You was Wariner's fourth release for MCA. Upon its 1988 release it accounted for the singles "Baby I'm Yours", "I Should Be with You", and "Hold On (A Little Longer)".[7] Wariner noted that the album contained a more country rock influence than its predecessors, particularly in the selection of session musicians such as Leland Sklar and Russ Kunkel, as well as Little Feat cofounder Bill Payne.[26] The album also contained more material co-written by Wariner than the previous ones, with Wariner writing or co-writing six out of ten tracks; he observed that "I Should Be with You" in particular exemplified the emotions that he felt when touring separated him from his family.[27] Wariner also received his first co-production credit on this album, doing so with Bowen.[26] I Should Be with You received a positive review from Cash Box magazine which stated that it was "a tightly crafted package, showcasing both contemporary and traditional country tunes."[28] Wariner supported the album in 1988 by touring with Reba McEntire.[27]

I Got Dreams, also co-produced by Wariner and Bowen, followed in 1989.[26] Wariner wrote nine out of ten songs on the album, with collaborators including Roger Murrah, John Barlow Jarvis, McAnally, and husband-and-wife songwriting duo Bill LaBounty and Beckie Foster.[29] McAnally and Jarvis also contributed on acoustic guitar and piano respectively, while LaBounty contributed on background vocals.[30] At the time of the album's release, he noted that the success and positive fan reception of "I Should Be with You" inspired a continual growth in his songwriting. He also observed that, while he had not received strong record sales or industry awards, strong radio performance of his singles inspired him to "make the best records".[29] I Got Dreams charted three singles on Hot Country Songs in 1989: "Where Did I Go Wrong" and the title track both went to number one, followed by "When I Could Come Home to You" at number five.[7] The Ottawa Citizen writer Susan Beyer reviewed the album with favor, stating that "the more control Wariner gets over his recordings, the better they get...the sounds run the gamut, but elegantly, from acoustic country to rock-edged to adult contemporary."[31]

Wariner released two albums in 1990, the first of which was Laredo. It accounted for three charted singles: "The Domino Theory", "Precious Thing", and "There for Awhile".[7] LaBounty and Foster wrote "The Domino Theory", while Wariner co-wrote "Precious Thing" with McAnally. Production duties on the album were split, with Garth Fundis and Randy Scruggs producing three tracks each, and Tony Brown returning to produce the other four.[32] Marc Rice of the Associated Press called Laredo a "safe, likeable album", praising the clarity of the production along with the "clever" lyrics of "The Domino Theory".[33] Kay Knight of Cash Box magazine stated that "Wariner shows us a very basic and intimate look at his music and his life...this project should definitely bring Wariner into the spotlight of country radio."[34] His second release in 1990, and final for MCA, was the Christmas album Christmas Memories. In the process of recording the album, Wariner said that he wanted it to have a "timeless" feel. It included traditional Christmas songs such as "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!", "Do You Hear What I Hear?", three original songs written by Wariner, and collaborations with The Chieftains on renditions of "Past Three O'Clock" and "I Saw Three Ships".[35] Wariner promoted the album through a radio special titled Steve Wariner's Acoustic Christmas, which also featured Emmylou Harris and Mike Reid.[36] A year later, he performed in a television special on The Nashville Network also titled Christmas Memories which featured selections from the album.[37]

Wariner contributed to two cuts on Mark O'Connor's 1991 album The New Nashville Cats. The first was a cover of Carl Perkins' "Restless", which featured O'Connor on fiddle, with Wariner, Vince Gill, and Ricky Skaggs alternating on lead vocals and guitar. A number 25 entry on Hot Country Songs,[38] it won all four artists that year's Academy of Country Music award for Vocal Event of the Year,[22] along with Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.[24] Wariner also co-wrote, sang, and played guitar on "Now It Belongs to You", another cut from the album which also made the country charts.[38]

1991–1996: Arista Nashville

Wariner left MCA amicably in 1991 and signed with Arista Nashville later that same year.[39] His debut for the label was the 1991 album I Am Ready, which was produced by Tim DuBois and Scott Hendricks.[40] The album's title came from a song that he had selected but ultimately chose not to include on the album because he considered it "left field".[22] This was also the first album of his career to be certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipping 500,000 copies in the United States.[41] Singles from it included "Leave Him Out of This", "The Tips of My Fingers" (a cover of Bill Anderson's 1960 single), "A Woman Loves", "Crash Course in the Blues" (which featured O'Connor on fiddle[42]), and "Like a River to the Sea".[7] Brian Mansfield reviewed the album favorably on AllMusic, stating that "Wariner, a master of the subtle touch, builds this album's impact quietly and methodically", highlighting the vocal and instrumental performances on the singles in particular.[42] Alanna Nash of Entertainment Weekly rated the album "B-", concluding her review with "if Wariner lacks a zippy repertoire, he nearly makes up for it with believable readings and deft vocal shadings".[43] I Am Ready also became Wariner's first album to receive a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), honoring shipments of 500,000 copies in the United States.[44] The corresponding tours for I Am Ready were the most commercially successful of his career to this point.[20] In late 1991, the Takamine guitar corporation issued a limited-edition acoustic guitar model named after Wariner.[37]

His second album for Arista was 1993's Drive. Leading off this album was the top-ten "If I Didn't Love You". After it came the Top 30 hits "Drivin' and Cryin'" and "It Won't Be Over You", although the album's title track stopped at No. 63.[7] Wariner told Cash Box magazine that he intended for the album to be representative of the energy present in his live shows,[45] and that he wanted it to be more upbeat than I Am Ready, which he felt contained too many ballads.[20] He promoted the album throughout 1993 with a tour comprising the United States and Canada, sponsored by General Motors Canada. Also featured on the tour were Toby Keith, Larry Stewart, and Canadian country singer Cassandra Vasik.[45] Despite the success of the lead single, DuBois (who was then the president of Arista Nashville) observed that the album sold poorly due to negative reception of the singles by radio programmers.[44]

Wariner appeared on two tribute albums between 1994 and 1995. The first was Mama's Hungry Eyes: A Tribute to Merle Haggard, on which he joined then-labelmates Diamond Rio and Lee Roy Parnell on a cover of Merle Haggard's "Workin' Man Blues". Credited to "Jed Zeppelin", this rendition was also made into a music video,[46] and charted at number 48 on Hot Country Songs.[47] A year later, he contributed a cover of The Beatles' "Get Back" to the compilation Come Together: America Salutes the Beatles.[48]

An instrumental album, No More Mr. Nice Guy followed in 1996. Wariner told Guitar Player magazine that record labels were uninterested in allowing him to record such a project: he noted that MCA would only allow him to do one instrumental song on an album, while he had to "beg and plead" Arista to allow him a full album.[49] No More Mr. Nice Guy included various country and bluegrass musicians such as Atkins, O'Connor, McAnally, Gill, Sam Bush, Béla Fleck, and Diamond Rio lead guitarist Jimmy Olander; it also included folk guitarist Leo Kottke and Bon Jovi lead guitarist Richie Sambora, and a spoken-word intro by Major League Baseball player Nolan Ryan.[50] The track "Brickyard Boogie", featuring Jeffrey Steele, Bryan White, Bryan Austin, and Derek George, was nominated for Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance in 1997.[51][24] Chuck Hamilton of Country Standard Time noted the variety of musical styles present on the album, concluding that "if you appreciate good guitar playing by some of the best in the business, this one's a good pick."[52] In 1996, Wariner was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.[53]

1997–2001: Capitol Records

Garth Brooks, seen here in 2019, recorded Wariner's composition "Longneck Bottle"; the two collaborated again on "Burnin' the Roadhouse Down" and "Katie Wants a Fast One".

Wariner began writing songs for other artists in the late 1990s per the suggestion of his wife, Caryn, who also ran his publishing company and fan club. She had suggested doing so following the diminishing success of his previous albums.[54] Among the songs he wrote for others were the number-one hits "Longneck Bottle" for Garth Brooks and "Nothin' but the Taillights" for Clint Black, as well as Bryan White's top-20 "One Small Miracle".[1][55] "Longneck Bottle" also featured Wariner on lead guitar and background vocals, per Brooks's request.[54] In addition to these, Wariner sang duet vocals on Anita Cochran's single "What If I Said", from her Warner Bros. Records debut album Back to You. In 1998, the song became not only Wariner's first number-one single on Hot Country Songs since 1989, but also his first entry on the Billboard Hot 100 where it peaked at number 58.[7] Wariner observed that some stations would play these songs consecutively, a move which he felt helped draw attention to him and his work.[55] Based on the success of these songs, Wariner expressed interest in issuing another album, but noted that Arista Nashville was reluctant to do so after the commercial failure of Drive and No More Mr. Nice Guy. In response, Brooks suggested that Wariner terminate his contract with Arista and sign with another label. In January 1998, Wariner underwent negotations with multiple labels, including Giant Records and Asylum Records before choosing Capitol Records Nashville, to which Brooks was also signed at the time.[56]

His first Capitol Nashville album, Burnin' the Roadhouse Down, came out in 1998. Leading off the album was the single "Holes in the Floor of Heaven", which spent two weeks at the number two position on Hot Country Songs, followed by the title track (a duet with Brooks), "Road Trippin'" , and "Every Little Whisper".[7] Wariner produced by himself and wrote or co-wrote every track except for "What If I Said".[57] "Holes in the Floor of Heaven" won both Single of the Year and Song of the Year from the 1998 Country Music Association,[1] in addition to receiving Grammy Award nominations for both Best Country Song and Best Male Vocal Country Performance;[24] The Country Music Association also nominated Wariner and Cochran in the category of Vocal Duet of the Year for "What If I Said".[54] Country Standard Time published a mixed review of the album, praising the lyrics of the songs that Wariner co-wrote while criticizing the title track as "predictably sappy".[58] Thom Owens of AllMusic wrote of the album that "His music may not be as fresh as it was in the early '80s, when he was at the beginning of his career, but he's become a masterful craftsman, and that's why the album shines."[59] By the end of 1998, Burnin' the Roadhouse Down had become Wariner's second gold album.[41]

Wariner's second album for Capitol was Two Teardrops. Released in 1999, it was certified gold as well.[5] It produced only two singles: its title track, which Wariner co-wrote with Bill Anderson, and a re-recording of his debut single "I'm Already Taken". Respectively, these reached numbers two and three on the Hot Country Songs charts that year; they were also successful on the Hot 100, where they respectively reached numbers 30 and 42, the former being his highest peak there.[7] Once again, Wariner produced the album by himself. His brother Terry provided background vocals on "I'm Already Taken", and son Ryan played guitar on "So Much".[60] The album also included a duet with Bryan White on "Talk to Her Heart" and an instrumental called "The Harry Shuffle".[61] Nash rated the album "B", stating that "he continues to shape his persona as the hopeful but dashed romantic, and veers from country lopers to affecting philosophical ruminations. But in serving as his own producer, he fails to get his stronger emotions off the page."[62] Owens said of the album that "It may not be the stunner Burnin' the Roadhouse Down was, but Two Teardrops proves that Wariner can continue to make winners."[63] During the album's release, Wariner also played lead guitar on albums issued by White, Lila McCann, and Collin Raye.[53] Two Teardrops became his third and final gold album.[41] In 1999, Wariner received a second Grammy Award out of three nominations: "Two Teardrops" was nominated for Best Country Song, while both "The Harry Shuffle" and the Asleep at the Wheel collaboration "Bob's Breakdowns" (from their album Ride with Bob) were nominated for Best Country Instrumental Performance, with the latter receiving that award.[24]

His contract with Capitol Nashville ended with 2000's Faith in You, which charted its title track (also co-written by Anderson) and "Katie Wants a Fast One", another duet with Brooks.[7] In addition to these, Wariner co-wrote, played lead guitar, and sang duet vocals on Clint Black's 2000 single "Been There", from his album D'lectrified.[7] Faith in You once again featured Ryan, this time as a lead guitarist on the closing instrumental "Bloodlines", and his other son Ross on "High Time". In addition to his usual guitar work, Wariner also contributed on lap steel guitar, mandolin, and the papoose, a higher-strung guitar manufactured by Tacoma Guitars.[64] "Bloodlines" accounted for another Best Country Instrumental Performance at the 2000 Grammy Awards.[24] William Ruhlmann reviewed the album favorably in AllMusic, stating that it was "another consistent, craftsman-like effort from an artist who has made the most of his second chance in country music."[65] Also in 2001, Keith Urban had a top-five hit with "Where the Blacktop Ends", a song co-written by Wariner and Allen Shamblin.[66] Wariner's contract with Capitol ended when the label's president Pat Quigley exited.[67]

2003–present: SelecTone

Wariner formed his own label in 2003, called SelecTone Records.[5][67] His first album for this label, Steal Another Day, accounted for the charting singles in "I'm Your Man" and "Snowfall on the Sand".[7] Wariner recorded the album at a studio he had built behind his own house. In addition to the two singles, the album featured re-recordings of "Some Fools Never Learn", "You Can Dream of Me", "The Weekend", "Where Did I Go Wrong", and "Small Town Girl", along with "There Will Come a Day", a song that he wrote about his stepdaughter, Holly.[68] Wariner promoted the album with a concert at the 2003 Indiana State Fair; he also made appearances at Walmart stores around Indianapolis to promote the chain's childhood literacy program Words Are Your Wheels.[67]

Wariner won his second Grammy for Best Country Instrumental, and third Grammy overall, as one of several guitarists featured on the track "Cluster Pluck" from Brad Paisley's 2008 album Play: The Guitar Album.[24][69] Wariner also co-wrote and played guitar on the track "More Than Just This Song" from this same album.[70] In 2009 Wariner released My Tribute to Chet Atkins. The album's track "Producer's Medley" won him another Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance.[24] Jeff Tamarkin of AllMusic reviewed the album positively, stating that "Throughout the album, Wariner's guitar work is crisp, sharp and smart–he never attempts to imitate Atkins but he manages to embody him nonetheless."[71] For this album, Wariner referred to himself as "Steve Wariner, c.g.p.", indicating the title "certified guitar player" which Atkins had bestowed to guitarists whom he respected. Other guitarists to receive this title from Atkins include Tommy Emmanuel, John Knowles, Marcel Dadi, and Jerry Reed. Wariner promoted the album through special concerts in Nashville, whose proceeds were donated to the Chet Atkins Music Education Fund.[72]

Another instrumental album, Guitar Laboratory, followed in 2011. Contributors on the album included David Hungate, Aubrey Haynie, and Paul Yandell, along with Wariner's touring drummer Ron Gannaway and son Ross.[73] JP Tausig of Country Standard Time noted the variety of musical styles on the album, particularly a jazz influence on some tracks.[74] 2013's It Ain't All Bad returned Wariner to a vocal album after several instrumental ones. Chuck Yarborough of The Plain Dealer rated the album "A", noting rockabilly and bluegrass music influences on the album's sound, also highlighting the lyrics of "Arrows at Airplanes" and "Bluebonnet Memories".[75] Following in 2016 was All Over the Map, on which Wariner played guitar, drums, upright bass, and steel guitar. The album included a mix of instrumental and vocal tracks, among which was "When I Still Mattered to You", a track that he wrote with Merle Haggard in 1996. It also included a collaboration with Ricky Skaggs on "Down Sawmill Road".[76]

In 2019, Wariner was one of many artists inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.[77]

Musical styles

William Ruhlmann of AllMusic wrote that "in the beginning, the low-tuned guitars and wide range of his singles brought frequent comparisons to the early Glen Campbell hits."[1] Richard Carlin of Country Music: A Biographical Dictionary similarly compared the RCA catalog to that of Glen Campbell, calling such songs "a pop-country backup that really wasn't suited to him". Carlin found the MCA albums more "progressive" and comparable to pop rock.[78] Thomas Goldsmith of The Tennesseean noted that many of Wariner's mid-1980s hit singles were "personal, down-to-earth songs of daily life." He also wrote that by the release of Life's Highway, Wariner had developed a "leaner country style" compared to the "pop-oriented tunes" of his earlier days.[21] In a review of Faith in You also for AllMusic, Ruhlmann described Wariner's style by saying, "his abilities as a guitarist, understated but always apparent in the style of his mentor, Chet Atkins, provide a basic level of enjoyment no matter what else is going on."[65] Brian Wahlert of Country Standard Time stated that "most of the time he releases pleasant music that is neither inoffensive nor exciting."[79] Wariner noted that Atkins was influential in his early days as a recording artist, as Atkins encouraged Wariner to play his own lead guitar parts, and to emphasize the quality of a song over who wrote it.[80] Despite this, Wariner also said that he only chose to include his own guitar solos on songs where he felt that they were necessary.[21] Some of Wariner's songs employ scat singing over his solos, most notably "I Got Dreams".[78]

Wariner's guitar playing style includes fingerstyle guitar and classical guitar, both of which he claims were inspirations from the work of Jerry Reed.[49] In his early days when performing with Atkins, he recalls that Atkins would lend him a Gretsch guitar on which he was allowed to play solos.[49] Nash wrote of Wariner's vocal and lyrical style that "the majority of Wariner’s sweet-sad songs about lost opportunity forego front-page passion for little nuggets of long-term longing" and "his creamy tenor audibly caresses a lyric."[43] An article in The Los Angeles Times noted of Wariner's musical image in the 1990s that, unlike his peers, he did not wear a cowboy hat; the same article described him as "just plain good...Wariner has an angelic voice, some solid songs and a staggering facility on the guitar."[81] Many of his projects have been recorded in only one take, including Burnin' the Roadhouse Down,[20] the track "I Just Do" from Faith in You,[64] and the Atkins tribute album.[49]

Personal life

Wariner fathered his first son, Ryan, with Caryn Severs in 1984, although the two were not married at the time. After marrying in 1987, they had a second son, Ross.[82] He also has one stepdaughter, Holly, who was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.[83] He has one sister, Barbara, and three brothers: Kenny, Dave, and Terry, the last of whom was a longtime member of his road band.[18] His mother Geneva Ilene Wariner died on June 19, 2012,[84] followed by his father, Roy Monroe Wariner, on July 7, 2017.[85]

For much of the 1980s, Wariner developed an interest in stage magic, and would often include magic acts as part of his concerts.[18] He also took up watercolor painting, and named his song "Like a River to the Sea" after one such painting.[45]


Number-one singles (U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs)[7]


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  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Whitburn, Joel (2017). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2017. Record Research, Inc. pp. 384–385. ISBN 978-0-89820-229-8.
  8. ^ Whitburn, pp. 288-289
  9. ^ Ed Morris (July 26, 1980). "One out of 5 songs on singles chart is oldie". Billboard: 31.
  10. ^ a b "Country Single Picks" (PDF). Record World: 64. June 21, 1980.
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  14. ^ "Picks and Pans Review: Spun Gold". People. November 7, 1983. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
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  16. ^ Whitburn, p. 216
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External links