Steve Earle sings the song “Guitar Town”. Released in 1986, it was his debut single and title track from his album of the same name. It became a Top 10 hit on both the Country and Rock charts in early 1986, peaking at No. 7 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart and at No. 8 on its Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
HISTORY OF “GUITAR TOWN” SONG
“Guitar Town,” written by American country-rock singer Steve Earle, was released in March 1986 as the lead single from his debut album of the same name. The song is an autobiographical tune about a small-town guitar player coming to terms with his limitations and trying to make something more out of himself. It reached No. 7 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart and earned Earle a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1987.
The lyrics are vivid and evocative, reflecting life growing up in San Antonio in the 1970s as well as other towns along US Highway 491 between there and Nashville, Tennessee where he would eventually move to pursue his musical career. The opening lines paint a portrait of an unglamorous but familiar world – “I pulled into Guitar Town/On the way back down/Through San Antone” – while the chorus lays out his ambitions – “I’m gonna make it somehow/To my guitar town”. The sentiment speaks to any individual who has ever longed to be something else than what they’re born into or surrounded by.
The music follows suit, featuring traditional country instruments like fiddle and steel guitars alongside rock elements such as synthesizers and electric basses, which gives it a unique feel that balances tradition with modernity. This combination makes “Guitar Town” one of Earle’s most enduring songs among both country fans and music critics alike for its timeless quality that blends classic styles with contemporary production values.
THE ARTIST BEHIND “GUITAR TOWN”
“Guitar Town” is a classic 1986 country-rock song written by Steve Earle and released as the title track for his debut album. Many people are familiar with the hit single, but few know the name of its creator.
Steve Earle was born in Virginia in 1955 and spent much of his childhood between there and Texas. His career began when he moved to Nashville in 1974, where he played as a sideman for artists like Guy Clark and Johnny Lee before releasing his own solo album eight years later. The record featured songs co-written by fellow singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris, who was one of Earle’s earliest supporters. It included “Guitar Town”, which reached number 7 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart and earned him several award nominations.
Earle has continued making music since then, blending elements of rock, country, bluegrass, blues, folk, Americana and Celtic into an eclectic mix that still turns heads today. He’s won Grammys for Albums Of The Year in both 2000 and 2011 – clearly showing that he hasn’t stopped crafting catchy tunes after all these decades.
BACKGROUND OF THE MUSICIAN
Steve Earle is the mastermind behind the musical masterpiece, “Guitar Town”. The song was released in 1986 and has since become a country music classic. The musician from San Antonio, Texas has had an incredible career that spans five decades.
Earle began playing guitar at age 11 after receiving one for his birthday and he formed his first band by the time he was 13 years old. His professional music career kicked off when he moved to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue a career in country music writing in 1975. He gained recognition quickly as one of the most promising young writers of the time, with his tunes recorded by artists such as Johnny Lee, Vince Gill and Emmylou Harris.
In 1986, Steve Earle released his debut solo album “Guitar Town”, which featured several hits such as “Good Ol’ Boy (Gettin’ Tough)” and “My Old Friend The Blues”. It became a commercial success both critically and commercially, being certified gold and earning him numerous awards including an MTV Music Video Award for Best Country Video for the title track “Guitar Town” – solidifying him as an important figure in contemporary country music.
COLLABORATORS ON THE TRACK
Although Steve Earle is the artist behind the 1986 single “Guitar Town,” he didn’t create it alone. A slew of talented contributors helped make this hit what it is today.
The first and most important collaborator was Don Smith, who produced the track. Smith’s work in Nashville as a producer had earned him numerous awards over the years, including a Grammy for Best Country Album in 1992. He worked with some of the biggest names in country music, such as George Strait and Patty Loveless. In addition to producing Earle’s debut album, Smith also co-wrote several of its songs.
Another contributor to “Guitar Town” was musician Emory Gordy Jr. Who played bass on the song. Gordy has since gone on to record and perform with artists like John Fogerty and Alan Jackson, among many others. His signature sound provided an extra layer of depth to “Guitar Town” that can still be heard today more than three decades later.
“Guitar Town” wouldn’t have been complete without legendary pedal steel guitarist Paul Franklin playing his part in making the track shine even brighter than it already did. Franklin has performed alongside Randy Travis and Kenny Rogers throughout his career and has won two Grammys for Best Country Instrumental Performance during his time as a session musician for MCA Records Nashville label head Tony Brown’s studio band Southern Tracks.
SUCCESS OF “GUITAR TOWN”
When it was first released, “Guitar Town” from singer-songwriter Steve Earle seemed destined for success. His upbeat fusion of country and rock ‘n’ roll combined with catchy lyrics were tailor-made for the radio waves. It didn’t take long before disc jockeys all over the world began playing it and within months it had reached number one on the Billboard Country chart and went to number two on the Hot 100 chart.
The music video also helped catapult “Guitar Town” into pop culture. The visuals included shots of rural America, both beautiful landscapes and decaying barns, providing an interesting juxtaposition that resonated with viewers across different generations and backgrounds. The video was nominated at several award shows including a CMA Video Award nomination in 1987 as well as an MTV Video Music Award in 1988.
The song has endured decades after its initial release; becoming an anthem not just for country fans but those who can relate to Earle’s themes of hope and resilience regardless of where they live or come from. To this day it remains one of Earle’s most beloved songs with many artists covering it through the years including Emmylou Harris, John Mayer, Martina McBride, Dwight Yoakam, Alan Jackson, Jewel and so many more.
IMPACT AND LEGACY OF THE SONG
“Guitar Town” has been a lasting success since its release in 1986, with it becoming one of the most iconic country rock songs ever. The track is often credited with putting Steve Earle on the map and taking him from being an unknown musician to a household name. Since then, “Guitar Town” has become an essential part of any country music fan’s playlist, providing an insight into life in small-town America.
The song itself highlights many issues that are present within rural communities – such as poverty, crime and unemployment – making it both timely and relevant today. This has made it the perfect choice for movies set in this type of environment, which have included Die Hard 2 and Liar Liar among others. It also continues to be covered by numerous artists from various genres including Bruce Springsteen, Dwight Yoakam and Keb’ Mo’.
More importantly though, “Guitar Town” remains one of the most beloved songs in Earle’s repertoire even three decades after its original release. Not only does it stand out as a classic piece of Americana but its simple yet heartfelt lyrics have connected with listeners everywhere over generations. Its enduring legacy continues to make an impact on country music fans around the world today.
COVERS AND OTHER VERSIONS OF “GUITAR TOWN”
The rousing twang of country music is no stranger to the airwaves and many have sought to put their own spin on the classic tune “Guitar Town” by Steve Earle. This toe-tapping song has seen a wide variety of covers over the years, as musicians from all genres have embraced its jaunty beat and catchy lyrics. From rockers to crooners, there is something for everyone who loves this timeless track.
Country star Dwight Yoakam was one of the first artists to cover “Guitar Town” in 1986, transforming it into a powerful duet with legendary singer/songwriter Emmylou Harris. Since then, it has been featured on countless albums including releases by John Anderson, Brooks & Dunn and Rhonda Vincent. Even punk rock bands like Bad Religion and Social Distortion have tried their hand at putting their stamp on this song.
Each rendition offers an original twist while maintaining the same essential vibe that has made “Guitar Town” so beloved throughout the decades – highlighting the fact that great music stands out regardless of genre or era. Fans can enjoy new takes such as Lucinda Williams’ 2017 version or take a step back in time with renditions such as Johnny Cash’s 1988 interpretation – both are sure to delight any audience that hears them.