Born c. 1964, in Marietta, GA; son of a farmer; married, c. 1982 (divorced, 1984); second marriage ended in divorce; married Theresa; children: Tarian (son), Tyler (daughter), Tristan (son). Addresses: Record company--Warner Bros. Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91510. Website--Travis Tritt Official Website: http://www.travistritt.com.
As one of his songs says, Travis Tritt has put some "drive" into country music. Tritt's hard-rocking, rowdy style has had observers labeling him as the latest addition to the "outlaw" tradition---the arm of country music that has a rock-and-roll flare. Bearded and clad in blue jeans, the talented performer appears to have stepped on the stage fresh from a day with a construction crew; his music proudly extols the joys, sorrows, and values of the blue-collar lifestyle.
Since signing with Warner Brothers Records and securing management from the legendary Ken Kragen, Tritt has left the bar and dancehall scene behind and is performing at major venues throughout the United States. His particular brand of country music, while exhibiting similarities to the style of country greats Merle Haggard and George Jones, definitely ignites rock-and-roll sparks. "There have been times when I have turned on the radio and have heard one slow, draggy ballad after another," Tritt commented in the Gary Post-Tribune. "I get inspired by certain things that are a little bit up-tempo and have a little bit of drive to them."
Though he had not yet reached the age of 30 when he attained country fame, Tritt's dedication to music stretched back almost a decade. He was born and raised near Marietta, Georgia, and was the son of a farmer who supplemented the family income by working variously as a bread truck driver, automobile mechanic, and school bus driver. The Tritt family's life was not easy, and Travis harbored few high expectations for his own future.
Emulated the "Outlaws"
At the age of eight Tritt got his first guitar and taught himself to play. His idols included the Southern rock bands Lynrd Skynrd, the Allman Brothers, and the Charlie Daniels Band, as well as the "outlaws," which included Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson. Tritt, who went on to become an opening act for Daniels, once said that the older rocker had taught him many valuable lessons.
Tritt married at the age of 18 and seemed destined to stay in Marietta. His wife discouraged him from following a career in music, so he took a post-high-school job with a company that distributed heating and air conditioning equipment. Both the job and the marriage were short-lived, however, and Tritt found himself drawn back to music when a friend of his---another small-time Georgia musician---sold a song in Nashville. Tritt accompanied his friend to Tennessee to see the song recorded, and quit his day job shortly thereafter.
Many lean years followed. Tritt played for minimal wages in American Legion halls and at small county fairs, nearly starving between jobs. The singer recalled to an Associated Press (AP) wire reporter that he "would go to the grocery store once a week and buy canned Vienna sausage, a head of lettuce, a jar of mayonnaise, a loaf of bread and two or three cans of soup. This was breakfast, lunch and dinner for the entire week." In the country music business, Tritt added, "you almost have to have as much patience as you do talent."
Music Deals With Everyday Life
Tritt's patience and talent eventually caught the attention of the executives at Warner Brothers, which recorded and released his first single, "Country Club." The song was a hit, and Warner signed Tritt to cut an album. The label also suggested that Tritt hire a new manager, one with more influence in the business. Tritt chose Ken Kragen, the former manager of such musical superstars as Lionel Richie, the Smothers Brothers, and Olivia Newton-John. Kragen had narrowed his client list to one star---singer Kenny Rogers---and was rumored to be in semi-retirement. Nevertheless Tritt approached him and, to everyone's surprise, Kragen agreed to manage the young country rocker.
Kragen worked wonders for his new client, securing a line of credit for Tritt and personally calling large radio stations to urge them to play "Country Club." Kragen also featured Tritt in a Kenny Rogers television special, giving the newcomer a national network television audience for the first time. As "Country Club" climbed the charts, Tritt embarked on several national tours and was soon performing nearly 280 shows a year.
Tritt's success continued into the 1990s, when his debut album, Country Club, went gold and yielded the top ten hit "Put Some Drive in Your Country." Premiering at the Grand Ole Opry in 1991, he was named Best New Male Country Artist of the Year by Billboard magazine, and a growing legion of fans began comparing him to mega-star Hank Williams Jr. According to the AP, Tritt is extremely gratified that he has become a top-draw entertainer who can perform the kind of music he prefers: hard-core country rock. "I think we've struck a nerve with a part of middle America that really is looking for honesty in music. ... The music deals with real situations, real people, everyday, ordinary life. You don't have to be a poetry major or literature student to understand country music."
Avoided the "Sophomore Jinx"
Tritt's success with Country Club led to another hit album, It's All About to Change, in 1991. "People have told me about the importance of a second album and of avoiding the sophomore jinx," the singer remarked, according to a Warner Brothers press release. "When we finished this album, we felt it was even stronger than the first one. So if that second album is about solidifying your career, it gives another meaning to the phrase, 'it's all about to change.'" In the opinion of Country Music contributor Bob Allen, who thought that Tritt's single "Country Club" was a "hokey and artless ... novelty item," It's All About to Change was an "exciting, gutsy, irreverent" record. The critic continued, "it's great to see a young, unreconstructed, long-haired rebel like Travis Tritt coming on strong." Allen's assessment proved valid, and the album went multi-platinum. On his early albums Tritt celebrated the blue-collar South without embarrassment or apology, and as the son of working class parents, he did not forget the hard times he had endured on his way to the top. Even though he prefers up-tempo tunes, his gravelly baritone was particularly effective on such ballads as the moving "Drift off to Dream," which became a hit in 1991.
In 1992 he had a gold album, titled T-R-O-U-B-L-E, a number one single, "Can I Trust You with My Heart;" and a second platinum album, called Ten Feet Tall & Bulletproof, in 1994. Among the two number one country single tracks from the Bulletproof album, "Foolish Pride," crossed over and rose to number 20 on the pop charts. Tritt released a Greatest Hits anthology in 1995, and six months later that record too achieved platinum sales.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, Tritt's musical presence waned. He returned in 2000 with a debut album for Columbia Records called Down the Road I Go, which went gold within six months of release and featured two top ten singles. With two Grammys on his mantel and worldwide sales topping 18 million units by mid-2001, Tritt further boasted 12 number one singles and 15 number one Country Music Television (CMT) hit videos. His video biography premiered on CMT on February 14, 2001. Soon afterward he embarked on a tour, and repeatedly performed to sold-out venues.
In 2002 Tritt released Strong Enough, an album that followed No More Looking Over My Shoulder by downplaying his trademark honky-tonk style in favor of a more straightforward country sound. Tritt also produced the album and promoted it by touring. "The two hours I get to spend onstage," he told T.D. Mobley-Martinez in Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, "that's the most important thing. All the travel and the time away from home, to be honest with you, that's a drag." Time at home became even more important for Tritt the following year when his wife, Theresa, gave birth to their third child, Tarian. In 2003 Tritt traveled to Fort Riley, Kansas, where he spoke to 500 soldiers about the war between the United States and Iraq. "I just want to let you know, as a country, we back you 100 percent," he was quoted as saying, by Tim Potter in Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.
In 2004 he recorded My Honky Tonk History, an album that emphasized a heavier roots and blues style. "Lots of Nashville guys sing about honky-tonks," wrote Ralph Novak in People, "but Tritt sounds as if he has actually been to one or two." Other reviewers noted that Tritt, 15 years into his recording career, still retained his edge. "My Honky Tonk History," wrote Thom Jurek in All Music Guide, "is a solid, sure-voiced outing from an enduring and committed artist." In 2005 Tritt performed at a fundraiser at Lithia Springs High School in Douglasville, Georgia, to help the daughter of a police officer slain in the line of duty.
Tritt summed up his philosophy in the Gary Post-Tribune: "My music is geared toward the working man and I write from my personal experiences. If I haven't lived it, I can't write it. And even if I do fail, at least I'll always know that I gave it my best shot." The musician concluded, "I've always looked at life as paying off the best when you take the largest risks."
by Anne Janette Johnson and Ronald D. Lankford, Jr
Travis Tritt's Career
Country singer, songwriter, and guitarist, 1986--; worked in a heating and air conditioning firm in Marietta, GA, 1982-86; signed with Warner Bros. Records, 1989; released first single, "Country Club," 1989, and first album, Country Club, 1990; premiered on Grand Ole Opry, performed at Charlie Daniels's Volunteer Jam, and participated in a benefit for the Options House, Hollywood, CA, all 1991; signed with Columbia Records, 2000; transferred management to Duke Cooper of Quantum Management, 2004.
Travis Tritt's Awards
Billboard magazine, Best New Male Country Artist, 1990; Grammy Awards, (with Marty Stuart) Best Country Vocal Collaboration, for "The Whiskey Ain't Workin," 1992; (with others) Best Country Vocal Collaboration, for "Same Old Train," 1998.
- Selected discography
- Country Club Warner Bros., 1990.
- It's All About to Change Warner Bros., 1991.
- A Travis Tritt Christmas---Loving Time of the Year Warner, 1992.
- T-r-o-u-b-l-e Warner, 1992.
- Ten Feet Tall & Bulletproof Warner, 1994.
- Restless Kind Warner, 1996.
- No More Looking over My Shoulder Warner, 1998.
- Down the Road I Go Columbia, 2000.
- Strong Enough Columbia, 2002.
- My Honky Tonk History Sony, 2004.
- Akron Beacon Journal, January 21, 1990.
- Associated Press (wire report), June 29, 1990.
- Country Music, July/August 1990; September/October 1990; September/October 1991.
- Gary Post-Tribune, April 5, 1991.
- Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, November 13, 2002; March 28, 2003.
- People, August 30, 2004.
- PR Newswire, April 23, 2001.
- Stereo Review, August 1990.
- "Travis Tritt," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (March, 10, 2005).
- Additional information for this profile was obtained from a Warner Bros. press release, May 1991.