Country singer-songwriter Steve Wariner is excited about coming back to Waco to perform and part of it is a reason that a guitar geek could appreciate.
“There’s a segment in my show where I get to show off my new Gretsch guitar,” he said in a phone interview from Franklin, Tennessee. “It’s a tip of the hat to my mentor Chet Atkins . . . and a great excuse to bring out my guitars. Vince (Gill) would say we all have this addiction: We are addicted to guitars and amps.”
To country music fans, the phrase “my mentor Chet Atkins” says a lot and Wariner’s career success underlines it: Atkins, one of country music’s iconic figures, was known for his mastery of the guitar. Wariner, one of those that Atkins took under his wing, has played guitar like a master for much of his career, becoming one of only five guitarists deemed a Chet Atkins Certified Guitar Player.
Wariner, a regular visitor to Waco in the 1980s and 1990s when he was a regular name on the country charts, stops in Waco Saturday night for a show at The Backyard.
The Indiana native’s looking forward to it and not only for the chance to trot out his Steve Wariner Signature Gretsch. The country singer-songwriter always found supportive audiences when he and his band played Texas gigs who were often among the first to sing along to his new songs.
Wariner, 64, got his start as a backing musician in Nashville in the 1970s where he found himself in the orbit of Atkins, then one of Nashville’s top producers and ace guitar players. Atkins nudged him into writing and performing his own work.
The young performer would prove Atkins right, with a string of No. 1 country hits in the 1980s and ’90s that included “Life’s Highway,” “Some Fools Never Learn,” “The Weekend,” “Small Town Girl” and “Lynda.” At the same time, Wariner’s guitar prowess built and continues to build another base of fans.
Some four decades into his career, Wariner continues to expand his playing range over territory outside of country: jazz, blues, Hawaiian, rock and more. “I’ve worked up some new things and I can’t wait for these things to come up. It’s really a challenge for me.”
Wariner and his band will cover some of this new territory — a legacy, he said, of Atkins’ advice to keep learning new things — and his hits, shaped by such mega-producers as Jimmy Bowen and Tim DuBois.
Wariner doesn’t mind revisiting those hits, either. “I’ve not looked back since and we’re still out here doing these songs,” he said.