I have heard it said that Randy Travis is the artist who “saved” country music when he hit the scene a few decades back. It’s hard to say whether or not that’s true, but he definitely has had a big impact on traditional country music. Travis is a legend in his own time and some consider him as important to country music as George Jones and Merle Haggard. So we decided to take a look at the extraordinary life of Randy Travis.
Travis was raised on a farm in Marshville, North Carolina where he was training horses and working cattle by the age of 6. It was a modest farm where he grew up with five siblings. Randy was influenced heavily by Hank Williams and Lefty Frizell, so at the age of 10, he learned to play the guitar. Unfortunately as he became a teenager, Randy’s interest in country music was matched only by his increasing experimentation with drugs and alcohol. No longer in touch with his family, Randy dropped out of school and continually got in trouble with the law.
Over the next few years, he was arrested several times and always seemed to live on the wrong side of the law. On the verge of being sent to prison at 18 years old, Randy met Elizabeth Hatcher, a manager of a nightclub where he performed in Charlotte, North Carolina. Seeing promise in his music, Hatcher convinced a judge to let her become Randy’s legal guardian. Hatcher spent the next few years grooming Randy, who started to regularly perform at her country clubs.
Elizabeth and Randy moved to Nashville in 1981 and both got jobs at the Nashville Palace. Hatcher became manager and hired Randy as a short-order cook. Randy sang with the band at times and performed as Randy Ray. It took a few years, but in 1985, Randy was signed by Warner Brothers Records and was marketed as Randy Travis. Since that time, he has recorded 20 studio albums and charted more than 50 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, and several of these were number one hits. Travis took the country by storm in the mid-1980s with the release of his album Storms of Life, which sold more than three million copies. The album established him as a major force in the “new traditional country” movement of that time period.
By the late 1990s, Travis saw a decline in his chart success, so he left Warner Brothers Records for DreamWorks Records and changed his musical focus to gospel music. Although the career shift produced only one more number one country hit with “Three Wooden Crosses, Travis went on to earn several Dove awards, including Album of the Year three times. Travis also pursued an acting career, appearing in many films and television series from “The Rainmaker” to seven episodes of the “Touched by an Angel” television series.
Randy Travis may be living a country song from all his youthful run-ins with the law to the legacy he has built but is still considered a pivotal figure in the history of country music. His success is rivaled by very few – with over 25 million records sold, Travis has earned 22 number one hits, six number one albums, six Grammy awards, six CMA awards, nine ACM awards, 10 AMA awards, seven Dove awards, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Randy Travis’ health has declined over the past few years and he has been in all of our prayers recently. We sure hope he has several more number one songs and maybe a few more movies left to make. It’s hard to imagine where country music would be without him, and for all of us die-hard Randy Travis fans, you will be happy to know that he is going “full steam ahead” with his music and acting both. Travis is starring in a new Lifetime movie scheduled for Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. CT titled “Christmas on the Bayou,” and his new album “Influence: Vol. 1: The Man I Am” was released October 2013 and is seeing great success. We would like to dedicate this blog to the extraordinary life and talents of Randy Travis.