Travis Tritt and Joe Pesci share the same February 9th birthday, and in 1992, when the two teamed up to unbuckle the former’s hit, “Bible Belt,” they briefly shared another common thread: musicianship.
The unlikely duet took place 23 years ago at the 27th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, months after Tritt released a Pesci-free version of the song on his sophomore album, It’s All About to Change. Initially, “Bible Belt” spun the story of an adulterous assistant preacher, but when the Peach State native was asked to rewrite the song’s lyrics for possible placement on the My Cousin Vinny soundtrack, it was to match Pesci’s character, Vinny Gambini, an unseasoned New York City lawyer who heads to Alabama to defend his cousins in a murder trial.
Kicking up his cowboy boots, Tritt ripped into the performance by unleashing the song’s fleeting first verse himself, then introducing “Little Joe.” Together, the Country Class of ’89er and Home Alone‘s Wet Bandit took the ACMs up a notch, trading verses and harmonies before closing out the number in unison.
Tritt, who co–hosted the show with Lorrie Morgan and Clint Black, was at the peak of his career, with a new record, T-R-O-U-B-L-E, climbing its way to multi-platinum status and a recent invitation to become county music’s newest and youngest member of the Grand Ole Opry. Pesci, fresh from his iconic Goodfellas role, was also lugging around a pretty heavy trophy case in those days, including an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of Goodfellas‘ Tommy DeVito.
Aside from proving that the ex–wise guy had more than an acting career riding under his belt, Pesci’s ACMs cameo wasn’t his first time performing in front of a crowd. Before launching a career in the movie business, he paid the bills as a lounge musician, even retiring from acting altogether in 1999 to give music another shot (as a youth, he also played a role in the future success of Franki Valli and the Four Seasons). Meanwhile, Tritt went on to take cameo roles in several films following the Pesci duet, including Rio Diablo, Outlaw Justice and Blues Brothers 2000.