Collectively, Joe Diffie, Sammy Kershaw, and Aaron Tippin have placed over one hundred songs on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. So, filling up a concert set list is no problem for the talented trio of country singers. Still, there is a definite strength in numbers, so when the veteran performers combined their talents for the "Roots & Boots" tour last year, the result was a tour package that has become one of the most successful on the road as of late.
Kershaw, whose hits include "Cadillac Style" and "She Don't Know She's Beautiful," tells Billboard the format for the show is very loose. "It's all fun. We rib each other, but it's all in fun. I remember the camaraderie in Country Music between artists like Conway Twitty, George Jones, and Cal Smith. We don't have that anymore."
But, even though the audience gets to see a lighter side of the artists, he knows they come for the music, and nobody leaves unsatisfied. "We get to do some big hit records. All three of us are on stage at the same time. Aaron sings one, then I do, then Joe, and we start over again."
Diffie, who hit the charts for the first time in 1990 with "Home," said "I had done a similar thing with Mark Chesnutt and Tracy Lawrence a few years before called the 'Rockin' Roadhouse Tour.' but allows that it was a little bit different. "That was a full band situation, with us all three on stage at the same time a little here and there. It was nothing like this, where we are all out there together the whole show. I had talked to a couple of people, and said 'This kind of thing works pretty well, when you have three artists that have a substantial amount of hits to choose from."
Diffie said that he thinks the concept works because the fans get to see a side of the artists they might not normally see. "We goof off a lot more and just talk and tell stories. It's a different concept, and I don't think people know what to think at first. I think that as we go along, they really enjoy it. You really get to see our personalities a little bit more than normal."
It also helps, adds Diffie, that the people in the audience are not the only fans there. "I have loved and appreciated their music for so long. Of course, we all came out at the same time. I like them as people as much as anything, and I love their singing. They are stylists, and great entertainers. I feel comfortable with them."
Tippin, who has made a name for himself with blue-collar anthems like "Workin Man's P.H.D." and "You've Got To Stand For Something," says the tour has given him a chance to know Kershaw and Diffie a little better - something that he says is more rare than you think.
"In this business, we all run down the highway, and we occasionally get to see each other, but most of the time, if you're on the same show, you don't get to see each other because of sound check. So, you really don't get to see each other. I thought that would be a good chance to catch up with them. It would be fun to try, and it's blossomed into something gigantic," he says, adding the show has played to sell-outs on a consistent basis.
Every show is unique, with a set list that changes from night to night. Dates are being booked right now into 2013, and the trio of hitmakers are even making plans to collaborate on a new album that will feature each artist doing three songs separately - as well as three songs together, with plans to work the new material as possible singles. "Who knows, maybe radio will give three country singers a shot," allows Kershaw, who added that he thinks the tour is working so well because of the unique vocal styles of the three men on stage.
"I think that's what we all loved about country music. We had stylists. I think Joe Diffie is the greatest country singer in Nashville. When you hear Aaron Tippin on the radio, you know exactly who it is. And, he can deliver those songs like nobody else. I am such a fan of his. He's a great live singer. Some singers have great records, but can't sing live. That's the truth."