Sawyer Brown first gained national attention in 1983 when they participated on Star Search, a former television talent show on which they won the grand prize of $100,000 and a recording contract with Capitol Records (in association with Curb Records). Their first album, also titled Sawyer Brown, was issued in 1985. It included their first Number One single on the Billboard country music charts, titled "Step That Step". The band continued to chart regularly throughout the 1980s, although many of their late-1980s singles failed to enter Top 40.
Originally, Sawyer Brown was known for a primarily country pop sound dominated by novelty tunes; by 1992, however, the band began to show a more serious side to its music, adding ballads to its repertoire. That year, the band also dropped its affiliation with Capitol, and Curb Records took over promotion and distribution of all subsequent albums and singles (except for 2003, when Sawyer Brown temporarily switched to Lyric Street Records). Bobby Randall also left the band in 1991, and was replaced by Duncan Cameron. Duncan subsequently departed in 2004, with Shayne Hill assuming the role of lead guitarist.
To date, Sawyer Brown has released twenty studio albums, of which three have been certified gold in the United States for sales of 500,000 copies. More than fifty of their singles have entered the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, including three Number One singles. Sawyer Brown also received a Horizon Award from the Country Music Association in 1985, as well as a Vocal Group of the Year award in 1997 from the Academy of Country Music.
The band signed with Capitol Records and scored a Top 20 hit with their first single, "Leona," in 1984. That success was quickly followed by their first #1 hit, "Step That Step". The band had their ups and downs on the charts throughout the 1980s, landing only sporadic Top 10 hits, however, they had accumulated enough hits for a Greatest Hits package by 1990, and were very successful on the touring circuit.
In 1991, after the release of their album Buick, guitarist Bobby Randall left the group to remain close to his family and host a short-lived TV talent show, You Can Be A Star. Duncan Cameron, formerly of The Amazing Rhythm Aces, was chosen as his replacement just as Sawyer Brown was about to become country music's "it" band. The band then switched labels, moving to Curb Records and releasing the albums The Dirt Road, Café On The Corner, and Outskirts Of Town, which saw hit after hit for the band in the early to mid-'90s.
Part of the band's new-found success was due to singer-songwriter Mac McAnally, who had written several songs for the group. The McAnally-penned songs, mostly ballads, helped to re-define Sawyer Brown, who up until this point had been reviled by many critics for being a flamboyant "bubble gum" pop act that emphasized style over substance. "The Walk", the final single off the Buick album, is said to be the turning point for the group.
Following "The Walk", the band scored a number of Top 5 and Top 10 hits --- including 2 more Billboard #1s with 1992's "Some Girls Do", and 1993's "Thank God for You", which Mark Miller co-wrote with Mac McAnally. By 1995 Sawyer Brown had enough hits for a second Greatest Hits package. The album, titled "Greatest Hits 1990 to 1995", included two new singles, "This Time" and "I Don't Believe in Goodbye", which themselves became Top 5 hits.
In the latter half of the 1990s, the group seemed to gradually fall out of favor with country radio, despite a crossover hit in 1999 with "Drive Me Wild". They parted ways with Curb in 2003 and signed with Lyric Street Records. One single was released on Lyric Street before Sawyer Brown left that label as well. 2004 saw the group returning to Curb Records, just as Duncan Cameron decided to leave the group to pursue a life-long dream of flying for Southwest Airlines. Guitarist Shayne Hill replaced Duncan's post as guitarist, although both Cameron and Hill are in the credits on Mission Temple Fireworks Stand. The album's title track, featuring Robert Randolph, peaked at #55. The second single off that album, "They Don't Understand", was a minor Top 40 hit on the country charts, and Top 20 on the Christian single charts.
Academy of Country Music Awards
TNN/Music City News Country Music Awards
CMT Country Music Awards