“The Whiskey Ain’t Workin'”
Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart
Written by Ronnie Scaife and Marty Stuart
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
January 31, 1992
A honky-tonk duet gives a Country Music Hall of Famer his only No. 1 hit.
The Road to No. 1
Marty Stuart joined Travis Tritt on their legendary “No Hats” Tour, and they collaborated many times over the years, beginning with “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’.” While Tritt had become a fixture on the top of the charts with his debut major label album, Stuart had been toiling away in the music industry for years, joining Lester Flatt’s road band while he was still a teenager. He played with Flatt until his retirement in 1978, then recorded an independent album before going on the road with Johnny Cash.
Drawing on his bluegrass routes – and connections – he released Busy Bee Cafe on Sugar Hill Records in 1982. Stuart was still active as a side musician throughout the eighties, but also landed a major label deal with Columbia. His first album produced the top twenty debut single “Arlene,” but that was his biggest success with them. His second album, Let There Be Country, wouldn’t be released by the label until after his MCA breakthrough.
When Stuart signed with MCA, he finally broke through to the top ten with “Hillbilly Rock,” which was enough to power the album of the same name to gold status. He followed it with Tempted in 1991, which included three top ten hits. The title track went to No. 5 and ended up his highest charting solo single ever.
The No. 1
Stuart co-wrote “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’,” and it played well off of the well-balanced personalities of Stuart and Tritt, which made them seem like a duo out of a buddy action comedy.
Their high energy approaches came from different perspectives – Tritt’s southern rock and Stuart’s rockabilly – but they melded together perfectly. It isn’t always the case with star pairings, but these two together were more than the sum of their individual strengths, which were already formidable.
For those keeping track at home, this would be the third straight classic single in a row from Tritt, and he was doing so well at the time, he was able to bring his buddy along for the ride to the top.
The Road From No. 1
Tritt still has some more No. 1 singles on the way, but Stuart’s time at radio slowed down pretty quickly. He paired with Tritt on the lead single and title track of This One’s Gonna Hurt You in 1992, and although it went gold, their duet was Stuart’s final top ten appearance.
He continued to record for MCA, ending his run their with the critically acclaimed The Pilgrim, and went on to a successful career on independent labels which netted him multiple industry awards. He also is a renowned country music historian, being a key figure in the well-received PBS Country Music documentary. Tritt is still waiting for the call, but Stuart was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2020.
“The Whiskey Ain’t Workin'” gets an A.