Travis Tritt

Travis Tritt has made a career bucking country purists, by achieving commercial success with his bluesy, Southern rock–tinged outlaw sound.

James Travis Tritt was born February 9, 1963, in Marietta, Ga. The son of a bus driver/farmer, Tritt was immediately drawn to music. He taught himself the guitar at age 8 and began writing songs in his early teens.

But his musical inclinations were discouraged by his first wife, whom he married when he was 18, and his father. Tritt worked for a heating and air-conditioning equipment company until his 1985 divorce, which is when he began performing his brand of country-rock around Atlanta.

In 1986 a friend of Tritt who was working in Warner Bros. Records' promotion department helped produce a demo for the singer. The label liked the result and signed Tritt, who released Country Club in 1990. The LP went top 5 on Billboard's country chart and spawned four top-40 country singles, including the chart-topping "Help Me Hold On" and the #2 "I'm Gonna Be Somebody" (RealAudio excerpt). Another single from the LP, "Put Some Drive in Your Country," was also a hit, but it turned off many country-radio programmers with its heavy rock influence.

The anti-Nashville elements of his music and his persona (he didn't wear cowboy hats) earned Tritt an outlaw image. But it became difficult for his critics to ignore his increasing chart success.

It's All About to Change (1991) went to #22 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and topped the country chart. The LP included the #2 country hit "Here's a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)" and featured the band Little Feat on "Bible Belt." When T-r-o-u-b-l-e was released, in 1992, it featured Lynyrd Skynyrd's Gary Rossington, who co-wrote "Blue Collar Man."

"Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof" was the title of Tritt's 1994 autobiography and album, which included the country-chart topper "Foolish Pride." Also that year, he contributed a cover of "Take It Easy" to the Eagles tribute LP, Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles.

Restless Kind (1996) was produced by Don Was and featured keyboards by Benmont Tench, of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers. The follow-up, Looking Over My Shoulder (1998), included a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Tougher Than the Rest."

Last year, Tritt severed his ties with Warner Bros.; he recently signed with Sony Nashville. Warner Bros. recently issued Travis Tritt: Super Hits.

Tritt is also an actor: He has appeared in the 1993 TV movie "Rio Diablo"; the feature films "The Cowboy Way" (1994) and "Sgt. Bilko" (1996); HBO's "Tales From the Crypt" and "Arliss"; and CBS-TV's "Touched by an Angel."

The Georgia Music Hall of Fame named Tritt "Performer of the Year" in 1999.

Other birthdays on Wednesday: Barry Mann, 61; Carole King, 60; Joe Ely, 53; Major Harris, 53; Dennis "Dee Tee" Thomas (Kool & the Gang), 49; and Rachel Bolan (Skid Row), 34.