During his career, he was one of the most popular singers in Finland for decades; having sold over 830,000 certified records (during his career and posthumously), he is the best-selling soloist in the country. Tapio was born in Suonenjoki, Finland. In the 1960s Tapio performed in his home town Pieksämäki with the local bands ER-Quartet and Jami & The Noisemakers. In 1966 he took singing lessons from Ture Ara.
After Tapio's first single "Tuuli kääntyköön"/"Niskavuoren nuorimmainen" in 1972, he performed in Ilkka "Danny" Lipsanen's show. In the beginning his role was to take care of the snake that was used in the show. Before music became a job for Tapio, he worked as a typesetter in a printing house.
In 1976 Tapio finally broke through with his single Laula kanssain (literally "Sing with Me", a Finnish cover of Jackpot's Sing My Love Song), which was followed by Viisitoista kesää ("Fifteen Summers," a cover of Living Next Door to Alice) and Kaipuu ("Longing", a cover of Mort Shuman's Sorrow). In later years Olen suomalainen ("I Am a Finn", a cover of Toto Cutugno's L'Italiano), Myrskyn jälkeen ("After the Storm"), En pyydä paljon ("I Don't Ask for Much", a cover of Paulina Rubio's Te Quise Tanto) and Paalupaikka ("Pole Position"), among others, were among his most popular songs. In 2003 the Iskelmä-Finlandia award was given to him.
Many of Tapio's songs have influences from country music. He sang many Finnish versions of the songs of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristoffersson.
Tapio was one of the candidates to represent Finland in the Eurovision Song Contest 2008 with the song Valaise yö. In the finals, he placed second; and Teräsbetoni was chosen to represent Finland.
Tapio died of a heart attack in Espoo, Finland.