Randy Travis (1959 – )

Written By Jonathan Martin

Born on May 4, 1959, in small hamlet near Charlotte (Marshville, North Carolina), Randy Traywick, the second of Harold and Boddy Traywick’s six children, was raised on a turkey farm.  As early as the age of six, the future country music singer worked on his family’s farm. A young Randy listened to his father’s large country music library. “He had quite a collection of 78s – Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, Lefty, Hank, and the others,” Travis once recalled. These old country stars shaped Travis’s musical style, and he would later lead the movement in bringing traditional country back to Nashville.

By the time Randy had turned ten, he had learned how to play the guitar an had participated in numerous events around Marshville to showcase his talent. Harold Traywick drove his son to perform at events ranging from VFW dinners and fiddler festivals to private parties. Randy’s father bought both Randy and his brother, Ricky, instruments and ensured that the brothers attended music lessons. Throughout their childhood, Randy and Ricky, also known as The Traywick Brothers, were pushed by their parents to be singing stars. This parental pressure contributed in great part to Randy Travis’s rebellious teenage years.

While he was a teenager, Randy turned to drugs and alcohol.  Ricky was arrested for his involvement in a car chase, and when he was sixteen, Randy left school and his family.  He headed to Charlotte and there he worked construction.  Meanwhile, Randy was arrested for several misdemeanor crimes, including breaking and entering and assault. Despite his rebellious side, Randy continued to sing and play at events around Charlotte, and an opportunity to become the lead singer at a nightclub in town soon presented itself.

Randy’s break into the country music scene came when he performed at a talent contest at Country City USA in 1975.  One of the judges, Elizabeth Hatcher, or Lib as she was known in the music industry, noticed the talent that Randy possessed. Hatcher later said, “When Randy started singing that night I dropped the papers I was holding and thought, ‘This is something special’.” However, even after Lib offered Randy the chance to perform at her club in Charlotte, the singer continued to break the law, and he was on the brink of being sentence to prison. The judge who presided over the case allowed Randy an ultimatum.  He could go to prison, or Lib could be his legal guardian and he had to follow her rules. The singer chose the latter option.

Lib eventually divorced her husband, and Randy had to work odd jobs while pursuing his singing dream. In 1981, the manager and singer moved the act to Nashville, Tennessee—the center of the country music scene, the Grand Ole Opry, and other important country music clubs. Hatcher managed the Nashville Palace nightclub.  This allowed Randy the main slot for weekend shows and also a mandatory spot for cooking and dishwashing duty.

While Randy performed at the club in Nashville, he promoted his songs to almost every recording label in town.  However, no one gave seemed to give Randy a shot. In recalling the production of  “Remembering This Time,” Travis said, “We were turned down more than once by every label in town. But I’m kind of one to believe if you work at something long enough and keep believing, sooner or later it will happen.” The hard work eventually paid off and Warner Brothers Records signed Travis in 1985; his first single failed to become a hit, but his second music track, “1982,” made its way into the Top 10. A year later, Travis released his first commercial album, Storms Of Life, and it became a great success throughout the nation. The album remained the number one album for eight weeks, and it eventually went platinum.

Randy Travis quickly became a household country name, and he was the first country artist ever to go multi-platinum. During the late 1980s, Travis successfully transformed country music back to its traditional, twangy roots, and he opened the genre to other up-and-coming artists who brought old country back to Nashville. Entering the Grand Ole Opry in 1986, Travis won numerous awards in country music, and he was recognized as the Country Music Association’s Male Vocalist of the Year Award in 1987. Over the next couple of years, Travis released three additional albums, Old 8 x 10 (1988), No Holdin’ Back (1989), and Heroes and Friends (1990), and his albums sold millions.

In the early 1990s, country music singers such as Clint Black, Garth Brooks, and Travis Tritt followed the path that the “New Traditionalist” Travis had blazed. Eventually these younger artists hurt Travis’s popularity, but the singer later started an acting career.  The North Carolina native starred in Dead Man’s Revenge (1994) and Steel Chariots (1997), and he appeared in several television shows such as Fraiser and Touched By an Angel.  Travis later returned to music, but he concentrated on religious songs. His album, Inspirational Journey (2000), won two Dove awards, and in 2011, in honor of his 25th anniversary in country music, Travis produced his Anniversary Celebration that included duets with the likes of Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw, and Carrie Underword.