Randy Travis has one of those voices, where once he starts singing, you know it’s him. There isn’t another country singer with a voice quite like his. His discography contains many classics, and is definitely one of the best ever. To think, one more wrong move in his adolescence and he may have been in jail instead of bringing him music to the masses…
Randy Bruce Traywick way born on May 4th, 1959 in Marshville North Carolina. Randy’s father, Harold who was a fan of Hank Willilams, George Jones, and Lefty Frizzel, wanted him and his brother Ricky to pursue their musical talents. By the age of eight, Randy was singing and playing guitar at church, and by age ten was performing at local clubs and talent contests with his brother, calling themselves the Traywick Brothers. It looked like Randy was well on his way to a great career, but the constant fighting with his father, steered him into dropping out of high school. Soon after he was arrested for various offences, including auto theft, and burglary. He did continue to perform though. In 1975, Randy won a talent contest at the nightclub Country City, USA, in Charlotte North Carolina. Elizabeth Hatcher, the manager of the nightclub saw promise in his music. Hatcher hired Randy as a cook, and gave him regular gigs singing. After another encounter with the law, Randy saw himself staring at jail time, but Hatcher convinced the judge to appoint her Randy’s legal guardian, and spent the next few years grooming Randy and focused on his career full time. In 1978, Travis recorded a self-titled album, “Randy Traywick”, for Paula Records, and Two unsuccessful singles the following year. Hatcher’s commitment to Travis lead to him moving into Hatcher’s home. Her marriage was already on thin ice, and in 1982 she left her husband and she moved to Nashville with Travis. The two would be married in a private ceremony in 1991.
The early 1980’s were just as unkind as the late 1970’s were to Travis musically. He was rejected by every major label in Nashville, and his early demos were panned by critics for being “too country”, which I didn’t know could be an issue. To support Travis and herself, Hatcher took a job as a manager of a nightclub, The Nashville Palace, and hired Travis on as a cook and singer. In 1982, Travis recorded “Live at the Nashville Palace”, and Hatcher used the album to land a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records. As part of the contract, Travis and Hatcher had to keep their relationship a secret, and Travis had to change his stage name from Randy Ray to Randy Travis. In 1985 Travis had his first major label album ready for release, and the first single “On the Other Hand”, peaked at number 67. His second single, “1982”, fared a lot better, becoming a Top 10 hit. After the success of “1982”, Warner Bros. re-released “On the Other Hand”, and it became Travis’ first number one hit. Travis’ debut album, “Storms of Life” has sold more than four million copies.
The late 80’s were much kinder to Travis. He had a string of hits including “No Place Like Home”, and “Diggin Up Bones”. His second album, “Always and Forever” was home for his hit “Forever and Ever Amen”, which is sighted for helping launch the neo-traditionalist era of country music. Neotraditional country is a style that emphasizes having an instrumental background, and a “traditional” country vocal style. The late 80’s also saw Travis receive the Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance (“Always and Forever” in 1988 and “Old 8×10” in 1989), and the ACM Award for Best Country Newcomer in 1986. “Always and Forever” stayed at the top spot on the Top Country Albums chart for 43 weeks. Let’s put that in perspective. If the album first reached number one on January 1st, it would stay in the top spot until October 28th. That is a VERY long time.
In 1991, Travis joined the likes of Garth Brooks, Kenny Rogers, and Kathy Mattea on “Voices That Care, a one-off single that aimed to raise money for the allied troops in the Gulf War. Travis also recorded “Point of Light”, a patriotic song in response to the Thousand Points of Light program initiated by President George H.W. Bush. The program focused on encouraging volunteer work, and Travis’ song praises social workers and teachers. The song peaked at number three, but held a higher purpose in the aid of the Thousand Points of Light program, and the praise of valuable individuals. The song wasn’t without controversy though. Lina Accurso, a freelance writer from New York, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission. She claimed that the single qualified as political advertising, because Bush’s media consultant, Roger Ailes Produced the song’s video and White House publicist, Sig Rogich was credited as co-writer. The FEC ruled that the song and video “neither expressly advocate the election of nor solicit contributions on behalf of, Mr. Bush.”
After that fiasco, Travis decided to take a break from music and focused his efforts on acting. He landed roles in several projects including two episodes of Matlock, Wind in the Wire, and At Risk, just to name a few.
After his short break from music, he returned to the studio in time to release “This Is Me” in 1994. The album saw the success of the single “Whisper My Name”. The album reached number ten on the Country Albums chart, and number 59 on the Top 200 chart, while “Whisper My Name” hit number one.
In 1996, Travis Released his ninth studio album, “Full Circle”. The album contained a cover of Roger Miller’s famous hit, “King of the Road”. Travis’ version didn’t hit the big time quite as much as Miller’s did, only reaching number 51. “Full Circle” would be his last album Travis would record with Warner Brothers. He signed with DreamworksNashvile in 1997.
His first album with Dreamworks Nashville, “You and You Alone”, reached number seven on the Country Albums chart, and contained “Out of My Bones”, and “Spirit of a Boy” which both peaked at number two, as well as “The Hole”, which peaked at number nine, and “Stranger in my Mirror”, which peaked at number 16.
1999 would see Travis release his final country album, “A Man Ain’t Made of Stone”, before turning his skills toward gospel. “A Man Ain’t Made of Stone” was Travis’ eleventh studio album, and reached number fifteen on the Country Albums chart. Travis used two songs that were previously cut by other artists on the album. “A Little Bitty Crack in Her Heart” was previously recorded by Sammy Kershaw on his 1996 album, “Politics, Religion and Her”, and “I’ll Be Right Here Loving You” was recorded by Rhett Akins on his 1998 album, “What Livin’s All About”.
In 2000, Travis shifted his focus to gospel. He released five albums in six years, “Inspirational Journey” in 2000, “Rise and Shine” in 2002, “Worship and Faith” in 2003, “Passing Through” in 2004, and “Glory Train: Songs of Faith, Worship, and Praise” in 2005. “Rise and Shine” was home to one of my favorite songs in Travis’ discography, “Three Wooden Crosses”. The song tells the story of a traffic accident leaving three out of four passengers dead, and how the accident changed the life of the fourth. The simplicity of the song mixed with the powerful story being told creates an incredible tune. The CMA agreed with me, and named it Song of the Year, and it also reached number one on the Hot Country Songs chart. In 2003, Travis was also ranked number 13 on CMT’s 40 Greatest Men of Country Music.
During that stretch he also continued to act. He was in several episodes of “Touched by an Angel”, including the series finale, as well as the children’s show, “Blues Clues”. On the silver screen he made a cameo on 2007’s “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” as himself, playing at the President’s birthday party.
After his 2007 Christmas album, “Songs of the Season”, Travis released his single “Faith in You” as a free download on his website. The single was a precursor to his 2008 album “Around the Bend”, which saw the end of his gospel stint.
Travis saw his song “I Told You So” be released as a single by Carrie Underwood, who recorded it for her 2007 album “Carnival Ride”. Radio stations were sent a duet version of the song with Underwood, and Travis on vocals. The duet peaked at number two on the Country charts, and number nine on the Hot 100 chart.
Sadly, Travis and Hatcher got divorced in 2001 after a 19 year marriage. The divorce wasn’t the end of his personal struggles either. In February 2012, Travis was arrested when he was parked outside a church with an open bottle of wine and smelled of alcohol. In August of the same year, Texas state troopers in Grayson, responded to a call that a naked man was laying in the road. Troopers reported the arrived to find Travis naked, and smelling of alcohol.The Texas Highway Patrol said that Travis crashed his car in a construction zone, and that when they attempted to apprehend him, Travis threatened the lives of the troopers. Travis was then arrested for driving while intoxicated and terroristic threat against a public servant. Earlier in the same evening, just prior to the DUI arrest, Travis allegedly walked into a Tiger Mart convenience store naked, demanding cigarettes from the cashier. According to the store clerk, Travis left the store upon realizing he did not have any money to pay for the cigarettes. In January 2013, Travis pleaded guilty to his August 7 incident and received two years’ probation, a $2,000 fine and a 180-day suspended jail sentence.
On July 7, 2013, Travis was admitted to a Dallas area hospital for viral cardiomyopathy after a viral upper respiratory infection. Three days later, Travis suffered a massive stroke and had surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. On July 15, 2013, it was reported that Travis was awake and alert after undergoing brain surgery, that his heart was pumping without the assistance of machines, and that he was on the road to recovery. On February 3rd 2016, he took the stage for the first time since the stroke. He performed “Amazing Grace” at the funeral of business owner and friend Pierre de Wet in Bullard, Texas. Randy sang as part of a group that included de Wet’s employees and their family members.
There is no doubt that Randy Travis has had a life filled with ups and downs, but I believe he has a lot more to give to country music. I hope to see him fully recover, and create more wonderful music for the world.
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(courtesy of Ryan B)