John Hiatt, Indianapolis-Born Singer-Songwriter

Indianapolis-born John Hiatt is a musician in the genres of blues, rock, new wave and country. Nominated no less than eleven times for Grammies, his name occupies a solid footing on the roster of famous people from Indianapolis.

Born in 1952, Hiatt was raised  in Indy and started learning how to play the guitar at the age of eleven. He began his professional career as a teenager, playing rock in a number of local clubs. By the time he was sixteen, he took himself and his guitar to Nashville, Tennessee to be in the hub of the music industry, and got a job with Tree Music Publishers as a songwriter. He made $25 per week in those days, the late 1960s.

Hiatt cranked out 250 songs for Tree Music, and during that period, wrote a song, “Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here,” which was picked up by the mega-star group, Three Dog Night. The song made it to number Sixteen on the Top Twenty list, and Hiatt moved up to a contract with a company called Epic Records. After Epic Records came contracts with MCA, Geffen, A&M, Capitol, Vanguard and the latest, New West Records. The legacy of this prolific musician includes such albums as Master of Disaster, The Open Road, Crossing Muddy Waters, Bring the Family, Walk On and Stolen Moments.

When Hiatt was only nine, his brother Michael, then 21, committed suicide. His father died when he was eleven, two years later. For surcease, young John Hiatt turned to the music of the times, as represented by Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley, and also immersed himself in Formula One racing, a product of his environment and the heady ethers of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hear John Hiatt’s song “Perfectly Good Guitar” in this classic rock music video.


After he moved to Nashville, he became a member of a band called White Duck for a time, doing vocals and writing songs. He recorded an album with them called In Season, and worked many of the clubs in Nashville with the group and also playing solo.

By 1973, Hiatt released his first single record, “We Make Spirit.” He released his debut album, called Hangin’ Around the Observatory, in 1975. As was to be the case with most of John Hiatt’s early musical work, the album garnered much critical acclaim but negligible commercial success.

Video of Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt performing “Thing Called Love” from his 1987 album, Bring the Family


His career was, in fact, a study in persistence until he finally hit it big with his 1987 album, Bring the Family. One of the songs, “Have a Little Faith in Me,” was eventually picked up by a number of big-name singers, including Bon Jovi and Joe Cocker. Two years later, Bonnie Raitt brought another Hiatt composition, “Thing Called Love” to eleventh place on the charts.

That was all she wrote. After Bring the Family, John Hiatt hit the Billboard 200 with nine albums in a row. Slow Turning, which he released in 1988, featured the title song, which made it to #8 on the charts, and when his piece called “Angel Eyes” was covered by the Jeff Ealey Band in 1989, it soared to the top five.

The talented musician, born to a humble background in Indiana, continues to work and play in top venues within the international world of music, and makes frequent tour appearances across the United States.

Indianapolis Music Venues

8 Seconds Saloon | Big Car Gallery | Birdy’s Bar & Grill | Chatterbox Jazz Club | Emerson Theater | Jazz Kitchen | Old National Centre | Radio Radio | The Vogue | More Indianapolis Music Venues

Indianapolis Bands

Amanda Overmyer | Cathy Morris | Flynnville Train | Gwen Stacy | The Elms | Haste the Day | Jennie DeVoe | Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s | Mudkids | Murder by Death | Sloppy Seconds | Straight No Chaser | More Indianapolis Bands

Indianapolis Musical Organizations

Arts Council of Indianapolis | Capital City Chorus | Ensemble Music Society | Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis | Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra | More Indianapolis Musical Organizations

Indianapolis Musicians

Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds | Freddy Hubbard | Wes Montgomery | Cole Porter | James Spaulding | More Indianapolis Musicians

Indiana Music by City

Avon Music | Brownsburg Music | Carmel Music | Danville Music | Fishers Music | Greenfield Music | Greenwood Music | Martinsville Music | Mooresville Music | Noblesville Music | Plainfield Music | Westfield Music | Zionsville Music | More Indiana Music