The time was the mid-1980’s. The urban cowboy’s rhinestones had lost their twinkle, and it seemed that the greatest aspiration for the country music artist was to make the big crossover to the pop charts. Then along came Randy Travis, and country would never be the same.
Travis grew up Randy Traywick in a small North Carolina town. He picked up the guitar at the age of eight, and was performing with his brother Ricky by the time he was ten. Their teen years were turbulent; Ricky wound up in jail, and Randy ran off to Charlotte at 16. There, he won a talent contest, and the attention of the bar owner, Lib Hatcher. She offered him a job and a regular gig at the bar. Then, when he got in trouble once too often and a judge told him the next time meant prison, she became his guardian. Banking it all on the young man’s talents, Hatcher became his manager, and landed Randy a recording contract with a small label.
The early 80’s found the pair in Nashville, her managing a nightclub and tirelessly promoting him, him singing when he wasn’t cooking. Actually, it turns out he was cooking even when he was singing; in 1985, Warner Brothers records heard a live album he had recorded in the club and signed him with the suggestion that he perform under the name Randy Travis. The rest, as they say, is country music history.
Travis’ style was a return to tradition, a straight-up, straightforward attitude, honest and unadorned. No rhinestones on this cowboy, and no pop pretensions; the music was 100 proof country, and it intoxicated the entire music scene.
His debut album, Storms of Life, sold over three million copies. He became the first country artist to reach multi-platinum status. Country music in the late 80’s was driven by a string of Randy Travis hits: On the Other Hand, Diggin’ Up Bones, No Place Like Home, the list went on forever and ever, amen. Travis became the dominant male voice in country.
His album Always and Forever went quadruple platinum, and won him the Male Vocalist of the Year award from the CMA.
By the early 90’s, the entire genre had “crossed over.” Country music no longer needed glitz to be hip. Unfortunately for Travis, this proved very true for Clint Black, Garth Brooks, and the rest of the so-called “hat acts.” No longer did he rule the roost. No matter, though. His popularity has continued virtually unabated, with one gold record after another. A foray into acting, which landed him a recurring role on the popular television show Touched by an Angel, may have inspired his lateral move into inspirational music, where he has won a number of the GMA’s Dove awards, and recently released his fourth gospel album.