Fain Earle was born on 17 January 1955 in Ft. Monroe, Virginia, where his
father was stationed as an air traffic controller. When Steve's due
date approached, a family member was selected and sent to Virginia with
a small Prince Albert tobacco tin of Lone Star dirt from the family farm.
Grandmama said the dirt was spread in a flat pan and the little fellow
was held up and his feet imprinted in the Texas dirt. While the family
had to accept that his birth certificate said Virginia, Steve's granddaddy
and uncles were satisfied that the first soil his feet ever touched was
Steve's birth was followed by the births
of two brothers and two sisters.
the eldest child of Jack and Barbara Thomas Earle, grew up in Schertz,
Texas, which is 17 miles north of San Antonio, with younger siblings Mark,
Kelly, Stacey, and Pat.
got his first guitar at age 11, and in two years had mastered the instrument
to the point where he was able to place third in the Schertz school district's
annual talent show.
14, Steve left home for Houston to join his uncle Nick Fain, who was only
19 himself at the time. Nick encouraged Steve's guitar playing and
soon after, Steve met Townes Van Zandt, who inspired him to make music
his career. (Steve later commented on TVZ... "He was a real good
teacher and a real bad role model.") At 19, Steve made his way to
he left Texas, Steve attended O. G. Weiderstein elementary school, O. Henry
Junior High School, made a short appearance at Holmes High School, and
had his second theatrical debut in The World Of Carl Sandburg. Steve
didn't leave high school before making friends with some others who were
caught somewhere between the "kicker" (who wore western clothes, boots,
were squeaky clean, did rodeo [or pretended to]) and "surfer" (the kids
who wore 'cool clothes' like pegged down hip huggers, crop tops, and love
beads... the guys wore bell bottomed pants, t-shirts and wore their hair
as long as the school establishment would allow) factions. Bubba,
a recurring character in Steve's songs, is apparently a composite of these
struggling in the music industry, Steve paid the bills by taking on odd
jobs. "I've never had a job longer than three months in my life.
I've always led a bohemian lifestyle. I have framed houses, worked
on oil rigs, worked on shrimp boats and in restaurants, but it was different
for me because I knew I was always going to get out". Steve worked
offshore for a month. "I came back with the most money I'd ever had
in my life and I got in the most trouble I'd ever gotten into my life",
In Nashville, Steve played in various bands
to support himself. Steve's first known professional recording was
with Guy Clark on Guy's 1975 album Old No. 1. Steve sang back-up
vocals (along with Rodney Crowell, Sammy Smith, and Emmylou Harris ["The
first time I met Emmylou, she came in to sing on Guy Clark's first album.
She gave me half of her cheeseburger. I wasn't the same for weeks."]) on
the song Desperados Waiting For A Train.
Steve toured with Guy from early '75 until late '76. Steve also may
have appeared in Robert Altman's 1975 film, Nashville (he was part
of a large crowd scene in Centennial Park, but it's not clear whether he
actually shows up in the film).
Steve eventually wrote songs that were
recorded by some major musical players at the time. After landing his first
publishing deal with Sunbury Dunbar (a division of RCA) in November '75
(he was with them until '78), he received $75 per week draw as a staff
Steve almost had a song, Mustang
Wine, recorded by Elvis Presley in 1975... but Elvis never showed
up for the session. The song was recorded by Carl Perkins the next
year, and Johnny Lee had a Top 10 hit in 1982 with When
You Fall In Love, a song that Steve co-wrote with John Scott Sherrill.
From 1982-1985, Steve recorded some rockabilly
tracks for Epic, but Epic did a poor job promoting him and the singles
had little success. The songs from a 7" vinyl EP released in 1982,
& Black, later showed up in the post-Guitar
Town (1986) frenzy as Early Tracks
(1987). Epic wasn't totally stupid better late than never. The
songs, in the rockabilly genre, reinforced Steve's reputation as an accomplished
garnered glowing reviews and commercial success and brought Steve his first
two Grammy nominations: 1987's Best Country Male Vocalist (for the
album) and Best Country Song (Guitar
Town). Steve was also named 1986's Country Artist Of The
Year in Rolling Stone Magazine's Critics Poll. The album went Gold
in the US in 1999.
In 1987, the critically acclaimed Exit
0 was released. I Ain't Ever
Satisfied gained some rock air play, but that made the country
radio stations skittish and the single released to that market, Nowhere
Road, wasn't given much of a chance. The album resulted in
Steve's third and fourth Grammy nominations: 1988's Best Country
Male Vocalist (for the album) and Best Country Song (Nowhere
followed in 1988 and represented a sharper turn towards rock. The
album's only commercial U.S. single was Copperhead
Road, which was targeted exclusively to rock radio. Other
promotional-only singles (Nothing
But A Child,
I'm Blue, and Back To The
Wall) were released in the U.S., but never marketed with any real
conviction. A better effort was made in the U.K., which released
commercial singles of Copperhead
Road, Back To The Wall,
and a rare 3" CD single of Johnny
An equally hard-sounding The
Hard Way was released in 1990 and had one UK single released, Justice
in Ontario. The live recording Shut
Up and Die Like an Aviator followed in 1991 and was the last album
of Steve's contract with MCA. The label chose not to renew his contract
when it expired due to the escalating severity of his long-standing drug
problem. What followed was a four year creative drought and Steve
virtually disappeared from the music scene.
Steve was arrested and sent to prison for
possession of narcotics, which, ironically, may have ultimately saved his
life. He successfully completed a rehab program and was paroled in
During Steve's break from recording, which
he calls his "vacation in the ghetto", Barbara Behler (of Warner-Chappell),
John Dotson (Steve's manager at the time), and Mark Brown (also with Warner-Chappell)
compiled the promotional CD Uncut Gems and
shopped it around to other recording artists in Nashville. The CD was an
excellent compilation of some otherwise unknown and unrecorded Steve Earle
songs and resulted in artists like Travis Tritt and Stacy Dean Campbell
recording Sometimes She Forgets
and Robert Earl Keen, Jr. recording Tom
Train A Comin'
came out in early 1995 and is a collection of Steve's own most/lyrics/ly-older
acoustic compositions plus some favorite covers. "This is exactly
the record I needed to make right now... no major label would let me make
this record, especially coming back after four years. I always wanted
to do it. It was a low pressure record, at a point in my life when
I needed a low pressure record." The album was nominated for a 1996
Grammy in the Contemporary Folk album category (Steve's fifth Grammy nomination).
I Feel Alright
followed in March 1996 on Steve's own label (co-owned with Jack Emerson),
and is a mix of country, rock, and rockabilly.
was released late 1997 on E-Squared and was nominated for a 1999 Grammy
in the Contemporary Folk Album category (Steve's sixth Grammy nomination).
a bluegrass album recorded with the Del McCoury Band and was released on
E-Squared in February 1999 and was nominated for a 2000 Grammy in the Best
Bluegrass Album category (Steve's seventh Grammy nomination). Two
singles were released in the UK: Dixieland
(distributed to radio only) and The
Mountain (a commercial release).
Blues, an album with a mix of rock, bluegrass, and Irish music
was released on E-Squared/Artemis in June 2000 and was nominated for a
2001 Grammy in the Contemporary Folk album category (Steve's eighth Grammy
nomination). Three singles were released to radio (no commercial
Blues, I Can
Wait, and Everyone's
In Love With You in the US. A remixed version of The
Galway Girl, recorded with Sharon Shannon, was commercially released
in the UK as a single. The album (as of September 2002) has sold
170,000 in the US and 150,000 in the rest of the world.
Roses, a collection of 11 short stories, was published in June
2001 in the US and July 2001 in the UK.
of unreleased songs, rarities, and soundtrack contributions was released
in April 2002. Some Dreams
was released as a promotional single and was also included on the soundtrack
to The Rookie .
a mainly "political" album,
was released in September 2002.
has been married six times – to Sandra (Sandy) Henderson, Cynthia Dunn,
Carol Hunter, Lou-Anne Gill, Maria Teresa Ensenat, and again to Lou-Anne.
Steve has three children – two sons (Justin [mom is Carol] and Ian [mom
is Lou]), and his step-daughter Amy [the daughter of Lou].
mom and dad are now living in Nashville. Steve's brother, Mark, is
living in Lubbock, Texas. The youngest Earle, Patrick, is living
near Nashville and tours with Steve as part of his crew. Steve's
sister, Kelly, lives near Boston. Steve's youngest sister, Stacey,
lives in Ashland City, Tennessee with her husband, Mark Stuart [Stacey
and Mark are both former members of the Dukes] and Stacey and Mark both
have their own recording careers in Nashville.