Sawyer Brown is an American country music band founded in 1981 in Apopka, Florida, by five members of country pop singer Don King's road band: Bobby Randall (guitar) and Jim Scholten (bass guitar), both from Midland, Michigan; Joe Smyth (drums), Gregg "Hobie" Hubbard (keyboards), and Mark Miller (lead vocals). After King retired in 1981, the five members decided to form a band, first choosing the name Savanna before switching to Sawyer Brown, also the name of a road near where they practiced.
Originally, Sawyer Brown was known for a primarily country pop sound dominated by novelty tunes; by 1991, however, the band began to express a more serious side to its music by adding ballads to its repertoire. That year, the band also dropped its affiliation with Capitol, and Curb Records assumed 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. Cameron 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 and 5 Vocal Band Of The Year Awards from the TNN Music City News Country Awards.
The group's members were originally part of country pop singer Don King's road band. When King stopped touring in 1981, the group decided to stay together, taking the name "Sawyer Brown" after Sawyer Brown Road, the street where they rehearsed. The band played up to five sets a night, six days a week, until they auditioned for the TV show Star Search in 1983. They auditioned just to get the videotape to promote the band, yet ended up winning the $100,000 grand prize and record contract.
The band signed with Capitol Records (in a joint partnership with Curb Records) and scored a Top 20 hit with their first single, "Leona," in 1984. That success was quickly followed by their first No. 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, 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 No. 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 lifelong 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 No. 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.
Sawyer Brown wrote "The Nebraska Song" in honor of Brook Berringer, a Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback who died in a plane crash on April 18, 1996. (The song was actually written before his death.) The song appears on the group's album Six Days on the Road. Mark Miller also served as a pallbearer at Berringer's funeral.
In the early 2000s, Mark Miller formed Christian music label Beach Street Records. One of the first acts he began producing for the label was Casting Crowns.