Underwood paid homage to Travis on her hit 2007 album Carnival Ride by covering his 1988 #1 classic "I Told You So." Travis returned the favor in March last year when he snuck up onstage as she was performing the song at the Grand Ole Opry and invited her to join the venerable country organization. She was inducted two months later by Garth Brooks and, at 26, is the Opry's youngest member.
Underwood, who recorded a cover of Mötley Crüe's "Home Sweet Home" to be the farewell song on this season of "Idol," will return to the show's stage Wednesday night (March 18) to debut the official version of her "I Told You So" duet with Travis, three months after a plucky country radio DJ in Cincinnati created a bootleg mash-up of the two versions.
The unofficial duet was created by 26-year-old country radio jock Jesse Tack in January, after his boss at Cincinnati's WUBE-FM (B105.1) suggested he try to marry the two versions together. Since its debut on UBE in January, the song has spread to more than 200 stations nationwide and spawned a YouTube video that has been seen more than 100,000 times, according to Tack.
"I'll be watching it while I'm on the air," said Tack, who works the 7 p.m.-to-midnight shift but will have a TV near him when the song is performed on Wednesday night's show. "There will be a part of me thinking, 'C'mon, they wouldn't have done this because of some little station in Cincinnati doing a version.' But then I'll think back to the hundreds and hundreds of e-mails I've gotten, and I have to think that some of those stations playing it have to have talked to the labels and asked about an official remix or duet."
And sure enough, following the first live performance of the recently recorded duet, it will be available for download after the show, and it will officially hit country radio next week.
"I am so excited that two of my musical passions, 'American Idol' and the Grand Ole Opry, are joining together to create a really special week of music," Underwood said in a statement announcing her appearance on the show. "I am always thrilled to return to the 'Idol' stage and am so proud to this time be bringing with me one of my heroes, Randy Travis. I knew the Opry first, but 'Idol' gave me my start and helped lead me to the Opry stage. It's a great feeling to be able to help bring these two worlds together."
"It will be unbelievable," Tack said of seeing the official spawn of his outlaw creation. "I'm sure they'll do a great job, and I can't wait to see it, and I can't wait to see those two onstage."