Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Travis Tritt, “Help Me Hold On”

“Help Me Hold On”

Travis Tritt

Written by Pat Terry and Travis Tritt

Billboard

#1 (1 week)

May 12, 1990

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

April 20 – April 27, 1990

The Class of 1989’s southern rocker scores his first No. 1 hit.

The Road to No. 1

Travis Tritt got an early start in music, singing in the church choir in his native Georgia.  His mother encouraged him to pursue a career in Christian music, but he was drawn to country and southern rock. As a teenager, he played in a bluegrass band and nearly won a local music tournament with his rendition of “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”

In 1987, he recorded a demo album called Proud of the Country, which led to a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records.  His debut single, “Country Club,” hit the charts in 1989 and went top ten, setting the stage for his second single, which would become his first No. 1 hit.

The No. 1

It’s a bit surprising in retrospect that Tritt broke through with a tender ballad before being successful with one of his southern rock-flavored jams, but radio wouldn’t warm to the latter until his second album.

“Help Me Hold On” is a Tritt ballad in his signature style, which he had down pat from day one.   His voice is well suited for communicating vulnerable lyrics that retain the same grit present in his rave-ups, making him sound like the inner monologue of a tough guy who’s really a big softie at heart.

The lyric holds it back a bit, running out of new ways to say the same thing by the second verse.  But it’s still a warm, inviting record, and the chorus is solid.

The Road From No. 1

It seems like every entry, I’m writing that this is the first of many No. 1 hits to come for a new artist, or the end of a long run of them for a veteran artist.   That’s country music in 1990 and 1991.  Tritt will make many return trips to this feature, with some straight up classics on deck.

“Help Me Hold On” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Lorrie Morgan, “Five Minutes”

Next: Dan Seals, “Love On Arrival”

 

7 Comments

  1. While I do enjoy some of Travis Tritt’s rockers, it’s always been his more tender side that’s drawn me to him, and this has always been one of my all time favorite ballads of his. It still sounds great today! This particular song takes me back to when I was listening to it on one of my tapes on one of our many trips to Pennsylvania in the late 90’s.

    Travis Tritt’s Country Club album was also one of the cd’s I got for Christmas in 2000, along with Clint’s Killin’ Time and Garth’s debut, when I started collecting debut albums from 90’s country artists.

  2. I remember first hearing this song as a sixteen year old while playing basketball in my mom’s driveway while a garage radio was tuned to KEEY K102 FM. Both the singer and song stood out enough for me to hold on to this memory some 30 odd years later.

    The song still captivates me as much today as it did then. It’s a great song that Tritt followed with many others.

  3. This song surprised me, coming on the heels of “Country Club”. I liked both songs and went ahead and purchased the album and hung with him for several years

  4. What Leeann said about the schmaltz. :)

    I actually remember liking most of his singles up to his first Greatest Hits album in 1995. He was hit and miss for me after that.

    His career arc seems pretty short compared to the others who broke out at the same time though. I never really understood why Travis Tritt didn’t didn’t quite make it to that elite A-list level of Garth Brooks, Reba, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, etc. He had the looks, the talent, and even the big Hollywood manager behind him. But he seemed to peter out in less than a decade, only putting out consistently good music for the first half of that decade.

  5. J.R. has the same thoughts about the short run as I do. I especially don’t get song after song delivered to George Strait while TT had to scramble for material. The most underrated country artist of all time IMHO.

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