The Steve Wariner SW341SC
It was 1989. Takamine’s revolutionary Palathetic pickup system had been introduced 10 years earlier. Ry Cooder and Glenn Frey were showing up on stage with Taks, and staunch traditionalists like Ricky Scaggs were touting Takamine new electronics as the “one to beat”. Around that same time a young singer, songwriter, guitarist named Steve Wariner was burning up the country charts with a series of MCA albums and top 10 hits (that remain classics). Influenced by Chet Atkins and Glenn Campbell, both of whom he later performed and recorded with (Chet produced his debut 1977 album), Steve’s killer guitar playing was an integral part of his performance. He desperately needed a high-performance acoustic-electric. So and he and then manager TK Kimbrell made their way to Takamine Guitars.
Steve’s first Tak was the all mahogany EF349 (which he still owns and records with). Later he adopted the black dreadnaught EF341 that his signature model SW341SC would be based on. It’s worth noting that around that same time Bruce Springsteen was discovering that same model, which I have been told was slated to be discontinued. Instead, the EF341SC went on to become Takamine’s flagship, best-selling model…thanks to Steve and Bruce.
I came aboard as Takamine’s West Coast artist relations guy in 1988 just as discussions with Steve about a custom model based on the EF341 were beginning. My first ever meeting with Steve in 1989 ended with an after-show discussion of some finishing touches that Steve politely requested for the model. I remember being struck that he was as nice as he was talented. I became an immediate and lifelong fan.
The Steve Wariner Limited Edition, Takamine’s first signature model guitar, was introduced in 1990 and became an immediate success. With solid mahogany back, cedar top, abalone rosette and binding, and a classy, gloss black finish that remains the most beautiful in the industry, it became arguably Taks best looking, best sounding model to date. Also, each label was hand signed and serial numbered which only enhanced the demand to own. The Steve Wariner Limited Edition became a watershed model for the Takamine brand.
Five years later the cutaway version SW341SC was introduced and became known as the Steve Wariner Signature Model. The resulting Jim McGuire photograph featuring Steve and his SW341SC relaxing inside the Ryman Auditorium, made for what I consider one of the coolest and most beautiful ads for Takamine.
The influence of Steve Wariner on the success of Takamine in Nashville cannot be overstated. Virtually all of the countless country artists you’ve seen playing Takamine can be traced directly back to the influence of the great Steve Wariner.