Although he was born in Virginia where his father was stationed, the family returned to Texas before Earle's second birthday. They moved several times but Earle grew up primarily in the San Antonio area. Steve Earle began learning the guitar at the age of 11 and placed in a talent contest at his school at age 13. He is reported to have run away from home at age 14 to follow his idol, singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt around Texas. Earle was "rebellious" as a youngster and dropped out of school at the age of 16. In 1974 at the age of 19 Earle moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and began working blue-collar jobs during the day and playing music at night. During this period Earle wrote songs and played bass guitar in Guy Clark's band and on Clark's 1975 album Old No. 1. In 1985 Steve Earle met producer Tony Brown and signed a seven record deal with MCA Records. Steve Earle released his first full length album, Guitar Town, on MCA Records in 1986. The title track became a Top Ten single in 1986 and his song "Goodbye's All We've Got Left" reached the Top Ten in 1987.