A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, Vassar was born on May 28, 1962.He grew up just outside of that small Virginia city, where his father owned a steakhouse.For one thing, he played the piano in addition to singing and writing songs.The piano isn't a common lead instrument in country music; country entertainers have always been an itinerant breed, traveling from barroom to barroom, from fairground to fairground, and a piano isn't easy to transport.The future performer showed his talent mostly at home, where he liked to sing into a microphone improvised from a suitably shaped household utensil such as a hairbrush.
He wrote songs and landed a contract with a publishing company run by Nashville songwriting veteran Linda Hargrove, but album cuts refused to come and hits weren't even on the horizon."I think I was kind of chasing my tail trying to write like everybody else wrote," Vassar told Billboard.
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Phil Vassar had become a full-fledged country music star by the early 2000s, but he didn't follow a typical career path for the country genre.
It would have been hard to spot a future country music star in the young Phil Vassar.
At Lynchburg's Brookville High School he was an athletic standout on both the football and track teams, and he didn't especially favor country music—pop singers James Taylor, Elton John, and Billy Joel were among his favorites, as was alternative rocker Michael Stipe of the group REM.
The struggling songwriter found stability when he turned to a business he knew: he and a partner opened Nathan's Italian Restaurant in 1995, in the Nashville suburb of Hickory Hollow.