Steve Wariner returning to Savannah for show at GSU

For five decades singer, songwriter, and musician Steve Wariner has had a long and successful career in the country music business. His combination of talent and drive has landed him four Grammy Awards, over 50 charted Billboard singles, and 14 number one songs. But before he established himself as a major label recording artist and an award-winning songwriter, he learned the ropes from a few Grand Ole Opry icons. 

Growing up in a musical household, Wariner’s passion for performing showed up at an early age. 

“My dad played in a band as a side gig growing up and they practiced at our house,” Wariner said. “He was also one of 11 children and most of his siblings were musically inclined. I actually grew up thinking that everybody’s households had guitars lying around.”

Inspired by his dad’s band, Wariner started dabbling with the bass guitar at age nine.

“My dad would show me a few chords and teach me a little bit here and there, he was a really patient guy,” he said chuckling. “One night, he got stuck without one of his band members and I said ‘I know all the stuff, just give me a chance. I can fill in and do this.’ And so, he let me do it and I never looked back.”

At the young age of 10, Wariner was performing periodically with his dad’s band and continued to do so throughout his early teens in addition to performing with bands in his hometown, Noblesville Indiana. At age 15, he branched out and traveled to Indianapolis to begin playing with different musicians. It was there later that he met a legendary country music vocalist who took him under her wing.

“A few years after I started playing in Indianapolis I was playing in a club the same night that Dottie West was booked to perform,” he said. “I ended up meeting her and she heard me playing and offered me a job. She wanted me to drop everything and go on tour with her right then and there.”

At the time, Wariner was 17 and a senior in high school. Choosing to take his chances, he took extra credits to graduate early and took off to Nashville to join West on tour.

“I lived with Dottie for a couple of months before I got my own place,” he said. “I went to what I like to call ‘the Dottie West school of music.’ I worked with her in the studio and sang a couple of songs on the album that she was working on at the time. I also got to meet some very talented songwriters and musicians. I learned more working with her than I think I ever could have learned at any music school.”

After playing with West for three years, Wariner decided to switch gears and focus more on songwriting. He joined Grand Ole Opry star Bob Luman’s band and began collaborating with Luman on an album. According to Wariner, he recorded the first song he ever wrote in the studio for Luman’s neighbor and producer, Johnny Cash.

“I actually performed my first cut on Johnny Cash’s guitar for Johnny Cash,” he said. “I came into the studio and Bob asked me to sing my demo for Johnny. So I grabbed Johnny’s guitar and did it. He absolutely loved it and cut four of my songs and those were the first cuts I ever had on an album. So that was my ‘now I’m a songwriter’ moment.” 

That wasn’t the only mind-blowing moment Wariner had that day.

“Paul Yandell, who was a fantastic session guitar player and a good friend of guitarist Chet Atkins, happened to be at the studio and asked me for a reel of some of my songs to play for Chet. Chet listened to them, met with me, and signed me to RCA Records shortly thereafter.” 

Following his time with RCA Records, Wariner worked with several other big name record companies and has continued to follow his songwriting passion. He’s written songs for Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, Clint Black, Alabama, Conway Twitty, and even Peter Tork from the Monkees. His newest Christmas album “Feels like Christmas Time” was released on vinyl on Oct. 15 and is a mixture of original content and Christmas classics. 

Wariner, who hasn’t performed in Savannah since the 90s will be returning for a performance presented by Georgia Southern’s College of Arts and Humanities and the Fred and Dinah Gretsch School of Music. 

“I have a special connection with the Gretsch folks,” he said. “I also haven’t been to Savannah in 20 years so this performance is a double whammy for me. I have my own signature model of Gretsch guitar and I plan on bringing that with me as well.”

Steve Wariner will perform live on Fri., Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Auditorium at Savannah’s Armstrong Campus of Georgia Southern University. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased by visiting georgiasouthern.edu/armstrongtickets


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