Charles, Tritt Have CMT Crossroads on Their Minds

Two of Georgia’s most accomplished musicians, Ray Charles and Travis Tritt , share their enthusiasm for country music on the latest episode of CMT Crossroads, which debuts Friday (Dec. 6) at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Tritt especially seems electrified to share the stage with one of the great musical legends, even declaring at one point that Charles deserves to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The charge isn’t unsubstantiated. At a time when racial tensions hovered over the South, Charles released 1962’s Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. With that classic album, Charles reworked a number of country classics, bringing in new fans to country music. He also charted a No. 1 country hit in 1985 with Willie Nelson , “Seven Spanish Angels.”

Proving his versatility, one of Charles’ signature songs, “Georgia on My Mind,” reached No. 1 on the pop charts in 1960, only a year after releasing a version of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On.” (Both songs are included on this Crossroads episode.) In fact, Charles is better known as a pop performer who charted 76 pop hits from 1957 to 1990. In 1986, Charles was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A year later, the Grammys honored him with a Lifetime Achievement award.

While Tritt handles most of the vocal duties, Charles ably accompanies him on keyboards and occasionally sings a verse. When the episode cuts to rehearsal footage, Charles is especially lively, jumping off his bench when the ace band strikes exactly the right chord. Killer background vocalists highlight all the right places, too.

During backstage interviews with host Greg Martin, the 72-year-old Charles also talks about his childhood fascination with the Grand Ole Opry and the pioneering business decisions that made Tritt want to work with him in the first place. Tritt, 39, also recalls the first time he just about met Charles, one of his longtime musical heroes.

A native of Marietta, Ga., Tritt joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1992, hot on the heels of hits like “Help Me Hold On,” “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)” and “Anymore.” Following more than a decade at Warner Bros. Records, where Tritt scored 16 Top 10 country hits, the outspoken Nashville outsider moved to the Columbia label and revitalized his career with “Best of Intentions” and “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive.”

The soulful Charles/Tritt episode caps CMT Crossroads week. Other pairings in the acclaimed series include the Dixie Chicks and James Taylor , Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow , Elton John and Ryan Adams , Brooks & Dunn and ZZ Top , Hank Williams Jr. and Kid Rock , and Elvis Costello and Lucinda Williams .

Craig Shelburne has been writing for since 2002. He is also a producer for CMT Edge, Concrete Country and Live @ CMT.