Behind the Song: Travis Tritt, “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)”

Travis Tritt couldn’t have imagined in 1991 that, only a decade later, telephone booths would be making their way to recycling centers in favor of cell phones. But when he wrote “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares),” the song title’s meaning was easily understood by a population that was still putting quarters into pay phones to make phone calls.

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From his album It’s All About to Change, “Here’s a Quarter” reached number two on the charts in both the U.S. and Canada. Tritt was part of a new breed of singer in Nashville, not necessarily a “new traditionalist” like Dwight Yoakam or Clint Black, but a guy who wanted to rock out while acknowledging his southern country roots. In his book with Michael Bane titled after his album of the same name, 10 Feet Tall and Bulletproof, Tritt detailed how the song was written during some hard times following his second divorce.

“I wrote ‘Here’s a Quarter’ the night I got my divorce papers. … and she called me. ‘You know,’ she said, ‘maybe this is a mistake. Maybe we ought to try to get back together.’ Far too much water had gone under the bridge for that. ‘You made this decision,’ I said. ‘You’ve taken it this far. You filed for the divorce. You moved out. It’s done. There’s no turning back.’ [There were] lots of tears from both ends of the telephone.”

“So I did what I always do – go get the guitar as an ‘adult pacifier.’ I started playing some chords and adding lines, just to make me feel better before I signed those papers. Pretty soon I started writing seriously. The whole song took less than 15 minutes. When I got done, I just cracked up laughing. All, the venom, all the anger, had been translated into ‘Here’s a Quarter,’ and I felt better than I had in months. The song was going to be my personal talisman, something to cheer me up whenever I got down. I never intended to play it for anyone else. It took me years to be able to play that song in front of an audience.”

“There are always going to be certain songs that are referred to as ‘career songs,’ songs that push your career to a whole new level. For me, the song was ‘Here’s a Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares.’ … I played ‘Quarter’ on stage every night for a year and half before I recorded it, and every night it was phenomenal. I knew that song had to be on the next album. I had executives in Nashville explain to me that it was a ‘novelty’ song, and everybody in Nashville knew that novelty songs never went anywhere.”

Those executives were obviously wrong as they sometimes are, as the song became a classic of sorts, and ended up indeed being Tritt’s “career song,” though he has recorded other singles that are nearly as classic. Any downside of the song’s popularity has come in the form of actual quarters thrown by audience members that have injured the singer, causing him to have to stop at least one show. But he still sings the song live, most recently in his acoustic tours, and probably later this year, where his website lists some full-band shows coming up if the coronavirus cooperates.

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