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Wariner's career really took off when he left RCA for MCA in late 1984. His first single for the new label, "What I Didn't Do," made the country Top Five in early 1985, setting off a string of 18 consecutive Top Ten hits that included the chart-toppers "Some Fools Never Learn," "You Can Dream of Me," "Life's Highway," "Small Town Girl," "The Weekend," "Lynda," "Where Did I Go Wrong," and "I Got Dreams" (the last two Wariner compositions). This run took him into 1990, when he switched to Arista Records. He had considerable initial success on the new label, with his first Arista album, I Am Ready, going platinum (none of his previous albums had even gone gold) and his first three Arista singles making the Top Ten. And he shared a 1991 Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Collaboration with Ricky Skaggs and Vince Gill for "Restless," a track on Mark O'Connor's album The New Nashville Cats.
Wariner scored a country Top Ten hit with "If I Didn't Love You" in the summer of 1993, but his record sales were declining. His 1996 instrumental album No More Mr. Nice Guy, his first release in three years, did not chart, but that year he joined the Grand Ole Opry. In 1997, he sang with Anita Cochran on "What If I Said," and the single topped the country charts in early 1998, just after Garth Brooks' recording of Wariner's composition "Longneck Bottle" had gone to number one. This twin success reinvigorated his career. He signed to Capitol Records, Brooks' label, and released "Holes in the Floor of Heaven," which made the country Top Five, winning the Country Music Association's awards for Song of the Year and Single of the Year. Burnin' the Roadhouse Down, his debut album for Capitol, reached the country Top Ten, went gold, and crossed over to the Top 50 of the pop charts. He followed it with 1999's Two Teardrops, which also went gold; the same year, he shared his second Grammy for Best Country Instrumental for the Asleep at the Wheel track "Bob's Breakdown." His third Capitol album, Faith in You, was released in May 2000. ~ William Ruhlmann & Tom Roland