As pop accessibility and crossover opportunities reshaped country music in the '90s, old souls Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt bonded over their similar approaches to doing a little thing called the hillbilly rock. That friendship's fruits include "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'," a Stuart co-write the pair sang together for Tritt's 1992 album It's All About to Change.
Stuart and co-writer Ronny Scaife's championing of sobriety came with a music video that follows Stuart and Tritt's misadventures at a local watering hole and their run-in with a small town cop.
It's a great song featuring some of the top studio musicians of the time, such as guitarist Richard Bennett and Nashville Bluegrass Band fiddler Stuart Duncan.
Per Jack Hurst of the Chicago Tribune, it's also a key moment in Stuart and Tritt's ongoing friendship.
''Over the last few weeks, working on the promotion and video of `Whiskey,' Marty and I have gotten to talk a lot, and I really like him and I think he likes me,'' Tritt told Hurst for an Oct. 24, 1991 article. ''We both are a little left of center of the mainstream. I think we maybe have a chance to become the Waylon & Willie of the `90's.''
Regardless of where you might rank them on the Waylon Jennings scale, both artists furthered country music together in the next four years, primarily through Tritt cutting songs written by Stuart. Examples include "A Hundred Years From Now," "Hard Times and Misery," "Draggin' My Heart Around," "Heart Full of Stone" and a second duet, "Double Trouble."
Tritt appeared on a Stuart album in 1992 as well, singing on title track "This One's Gonna Hurt You (For a Long, Long Time)." That song plus "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'" were included on Stuart's 1995 compilation The Marty Party Hit Pack. Stuart and Tritt's top 25 duet "Honky Tonkin's What I Do Best" followed in 1996, and both appeared with a who's who of country artists on the Grammy-winning 1998 recording of Stuart's "Same Old Train."
Before lining up all of those country hits, Stuart, Tritt and award-winning instrumentalist Mark O'Connor joined forces in 1991 and 1992 for the No Hats Tour. The tour's name reflected how its stars differed in appearance and musical style from Garth Brooks, Clint Black and other "hat act" contemporaries.
"I don't think you should wear a hat unless you can ride a horse," Tritt told Entertainment Weekly. "Even if we wanted to, we couldn't find cowboy hats to fit over all this hair."
The No Hats Tour became a hot enough ticket that its Oct. 9, 1992 stop in Knoxville, Tennessee was broadcast as pay-per-view event Return of The No Hats.