Personalities | Randy Travis | New Country & The Neo-Traditionalists

Born Randy Bruce Traywick on 4 May 1959 in North Carolina, Randy Travis won a talent show at the age of 16, but found his music career progressed painfully slow. Hankering after a more exciting lifestyle, he dropped out of high school in the ninth grade. Music eventually came to his aid, but not without a great deal of hard work.

Travis doubled playing music in clubs and bars with cooking and washing dishes at the Nashville Palace. Club manager Lib Hatcher, whom he later married, became his manager and it wasn’t until he had suffered rejection by most of Nashville’s major labels that a deal was struck with Warner Bros. in 1985.

Storms Of Life

Prior to his breakthrough, Paula Records had released two Randy Traywick singles produced by Joe Stampley in the late 1970s, while an independently released Randy Ray – Live At The Nashville Palace album (sold at gigs) had created quite a stir without anything resulting. But tenacity paid off. The new-traditionalist era was bringing previously undiscovered talent to the fore, as though Nashville was opening its doors to a new dawn. Curiously, the first Travis recording for Warner was ‘Prairie Rose’, on the soundtrack album of the film Rustler’s Rhapsody. It was perhaps fitting that he started this way, as he was a keen western buff and later appeared in such movies as The Rainmaker (starring Jon Voight, Matt Damon and Danny DeVito), Black Dog (Patrick Swayze), and Frank And Jesse (Bill Paxton and Rob Lowe), as well as a starring role in the film Texas Rangers.

However, it won’t be as an actor that Randy Travis will be best remembered when the curtain falls on a career that has spanned country, western and country gospel, for this quiet and reserved stage performer. It will be for his head-turning recordings, especially those of the 1980s, when his 1986 debut Warner bros. album Storms Of Life was certified triple platinum. It was arguably the finest country album of its time, boasting No. 1 country singles ‘On The Other Hand’ (his first chart-topper) and ‘Diggin’ Up Bones’. This started a run that yielded three more No. 1s from his 1987 album, Always And Forever, which held the top slot in the country charts for an incredible 38 weeks, and it was no surprise when it was voted CMA Album Of The Year, while its first and biggest single, ‘Forever And Ever, Amen’, was voted CMA Single Of The Year. With his career very much on a roll, he also scored maximum chart success with a revival of Brook Benton’s 1959 million-seller, ‘It’s Just A Matter Of Time’.

Heroes And Friends

More nostalgia surfaced on 1990’s Heroes And Friends album, on which not only country acts George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton duetted with Travis, but also his western idol Roy Rogers. Wind In The Wire (1993) was a western album that saw a change in...

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Music, consultant editor Bob Allen


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