Travis Tritt makes time for 'Country'

March 06, 1994|By Knight-Ridder News Service

Only a couple of things make Travis Tritt nervous, but being host of VH-1's weekly "Country Countdown" show Saturday afternoons isn't one of them.

"How could you turn down an opportunity to go into people's homes week after week," he says, "people who probably don't ordinarily listen to or watch country music?"

How, indeed, particularly when your prospective boss sweetens the pot by revamping your show. With Mr. Tritt in place, "Country Countdown" will do more than introduce the week's hottest videos. The new "Countdown" plans to include segments from the road when the host is on tour. Viewers will get a look at each city's culture and musical history. Other artists will be joining Mr. Tritt, and each week, he will introduce his own personal Hot Video Pick.

It's amazing he has the time, what with his recent Super Bowl appearance and participation in both an Eagles tribute album and an ambitious joining together of country and rhythm and blues singers in the MCA album "Rhythm Country & Blues." On the latter, he sings with R&B diva Patti LaBelle in a cover of the Sam and Dave classic, "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby."

Then there's an autobiography and album, both titled "Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof," due out in late April or early May.

"I realized when we went into this that with a touring schedule, it was going to be tough," Mr. Tritt says, "but [the show] is great exposure. And I just enjoy this business so much. . . . It's the only thing I know how to do well."

Which isn't to say that the open smile and ready conversation are put-ons. He seems a genuinely nice guy who really does love to talk -- especially about country music.

"I'm still a fan, too," he says. "That still blows my mind when I turn on TNN, and I see George Jones, Garth, Waylon, and then they throw a Travis Tritt video up there. . . .

"I've always carried the torch for country music's being more eclectic," he says when it is suggested that his honky-tonk rock-out style has real crossover appeal. "I think eventually, whatever walls remain will break down. . . .

"You know, the Canadian version of MTV is called 'Much Music,' and they'll play an Aerosmith video, then Patty Smythe, then a George Jones."

Talk of mixing things up ultimately leads to the Eagles and "Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles," which is selling like crazy.

"They called and asked me to be part of this album, and, I mean, I grew up on this music. I learned my first guitar chords from 'Lyin' Eyes.' " The next step was to release Mr. Tritt's track ("Take It Easy") as the first and, we're told, only single from the album.

"Then they said, 'Will you do the video?' and I said, 'Yes, if we can put the Eagles back together.' I don't think there's but one 'video' of them, you know, and it's a concert tape of 'Hotel California.' Well, you should have seen their faces." Mr. Tritt says, laughing out loud. "But then they said maybe it wasn't such a bad idea after all.

"Now, that doesn't mean there'll be some kind of reunion. People keep asking me because we worked together for a few days if I think it'll happen. I don't know, but it gave them an out to test the waters." He pauses. "Maybe."

Oh, and if you want to give Mr. Tritt the jitters, a real case of nerves, just ask him to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" or perform on stage at the Grand Ole Opry. He told TV Guide a month ago, "They send you to Cuba" if you mess up the National Anthem. And as for the Opry, "Once you get out there on that circle where all the legends have performed, it's hard to keep your heart from racing."

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