Second Cup Cafe: Phil Vassar

Phil Vassar
Country music legend Phil Vassar is known as the voice and the man behind some of country's biggest hits.

The singer-songwriter started behind the scenes writing songs for artists such as Alan Jackson ("Right On The Money"), Tim McGraw ("For A Little While"), and Jo Dee Messina ("Bye Bye," "I'm Alright"), scoring six No. 1 hits and three more as an artist in his own right.

Known as the "Piano Man of Country Music," Vassar incorporates the instrument in a genre dominated by the guitar.

His song, "Where Have All The Pianos Gone" (accompanied by pianst James Slater), typifies this shift.

"You used to hear piano on the radio all the time and you just don't anymore. Like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles. Now we've got Ben Folds, John Legend, but not a lot of players in country," Vassar says.

"When I got to town nobody wanted to hear about a piano. I literally had record label heads tell me I would have to put on a hat and start playing guitar, but I always stuck to my guns," he says on his official website.

This hit-making, piano playing and singing story-teller is as patriotic as you can get. His classic, "American Child" was released on "NOW That's What I Call The U.S.A. (The Patriotic Country Collection)" last month.

He stopped by The Early Show on Saturday's "Second Cup Cafe" to perform "American Child" as well as "Six Pack Summer" to celebrate the Fourth of July.

The Virginia native and father of two daughters has a strong sense of faith and an appreciation for his roots.

Humbled by his modest and what he calls "poor" upbringing, Vassar encompasses a die-hard work ethic. He grew up in a small town where factory work was the norm, but managed to break away and eventually pursue his career in music.

His running ability led to a track scholarship at James Madison University, which gave him a boost out of his small town, but ultimately, it was his move to Nashville that gave him the real jumpstart he was seeking.

He has won several accolades, including two time ASCAP Songwriter of the Year, Billboard Magazine Top New Country Artist, Billboard Country Songwriter of the Year, Music Row Magazine Breakthrough Artist of the Year and The Academy of Country Music Top New Male Vocalist of the Year.

Vassar's latest album, "Traveling Circus," his fifth studio album, was released on December 15, 2009.