Radio programmers and music historians point to the
advent of this distinctive stylist as a benchmark. His unflinching
honesty, unerring sense of song craftsmanship, rugged good looks and
fierce commitment to country's finest traditions made Randy a
lightning rod for the entire "new country" explosion.
His own life is the stuff of Hollywood screenplays. Randy
Travis (born Randy Traywick) was a teenage North Carolina
hell-raiser, drinking, fighting, doing drugs and committing petty
crimes on a path pointed straight toward prison until music turned his
life around. The rebel ninth-grade dropout "found himself"
in the spotlight of a Charlotte, North Carolina, nightclub. With the
help and direction of the club's owner, Lib Hatcher, Randy Travis
underwent a startling transformation.
He purified his mind, turning his back on substance
abuse and focusing on a pure musical vision. At the time, Nashville
was deep in its "Urban Cowboy," pop-country phase. Randy was
intent on bringing back fiddles, steel guitars and honky-tonk lyrics.
He recorded for a tiny record label and in classic country fashion
drove from radio station to radio station throughout the South.
After five years of paying dues in the North
Carolina club, he and manager Lib Hatcher decided they were ready for
Nashville. With little more than dreams and determination, they moved
to Music City in 1981. At the time, no one on Music Row could hear the
possibilities in his subtly shaded, warm, backwoods baritone Randy
was turned down by every record label in town.
"Nashville was the Big City. It was kinda scary
to me. I didn't know if I belonged there or not. I didn't know that
much about the music business, or that many people in Nashville,
Lib took a job managing a nightclub called The
Nashville Palace. Randy became the joint's dishwasher and short-order
cook. Occasionally, he'd wipe the hamburger grease off on his apron
and emerge from the kitchen to sing on stage. Inevitably, the
hard-core country patrons went wild when he did.
In 1985, after the release of Randy's debut single,
"On The Other Hand," Warner Bros. Records took a chance and
released Randy's second single "1982" to radio during
Christmas time. The response from country radio listeners was
volcanic. George Jones,
Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, the Grand Ole
Opry cast and the rest of country's classic stylists voiced their
support, for they had found a man to "carry the torch" into
When his LP "Storms of Life" appeared in
mid-1986, it became the first debut album by a solo country artist to
achieve Platinum Record status in less than a year. It went on to sell
more than four million copies and become the first of 10 consecutive
multi-platinum albums. "Always and Forever," his second
collection, was No. 1 for 10 solid months and won a Grammy Award.
"Old 8x10," his third album, also won a Grammy.
The first boom in the "new country"
explosion had sounded. In 1986, Randy became the youngest male ever
invited to join the Grand Ole Opry. By the time he turned 30 in 1989,
he'd sold more than 13 million records.
Randy Travis headed into the '90's as
country's top-grossing touring attraction, spreading his plain-spoken
message of purity and simplicity with an extraordinary voice, soft
spoken charm and some terrific songs.
In 1992 he became the first country artist to
release two simultaneous albums both volumes of his "Greatest
Hits" became sales blockbusters. Later that year he and Alan Jackson co-wrote the latter's No. 1 smash "She's Got The Rhythm
(And I Got The Blues)." Then Randy scored back-to-back No. 1 hits
of his own, "If I Didn't Have You" and "Look Heart, No
In 1994 he took a year and a half off the road to
launch his film career with a variety of roles. Some of them include
his appearance with Rob Lowe and Bill Paxton in "Frank and
Jesse"; with Bruce Dern in "Dead Man's Revenge"; with
Ben Johnson and Mickey Rooney in "The Legend of O.B.
Taggart"; and with Steven Seagal in "Fire Down
He has been a guest star on such top-rated TV dramas as
"Matlock" and "Touched By An Angel." He was
featured in Aaron Spelling's mini-series "Texas."
"Acting was a way for me to learn something
new. Learning keeps you young. If you do the same thing over and over
you get burned out. To be honest, everything happened so fast in the
early days, that I didn't have time to enjoy it. Early on, I was
scared to death," says Travis. "I'm happy to still be here
competing. I believe in every single song that I record and I'm still
going for the best."
"This Is Me" and "Before You Kill Us
All" kept him in the top-10 in 1994 and "Whisper My
Name" became his 19th No. 1 hit that same year. In 1995 he
rocketed into the top-10 with "The Box" and co-produced
Daryle Singletary's career launching album. Randy's 1996 collection,
"Full Circle," was hailed as a masterwork.
The calm, measured manner of this consummate
gentleman has been a constant throughout his remarkable career. The
gentle humility, musical integrity and easy-going humor are still a
combination that make Randy Travis one of the most charismatic
stars of his generation.