On May 4, 1959 as the second-born of six children in Marshville, North Carolina, Randy Bruce Traywick was encouraged at a young age to pursue his musical talent. He and his brother, Ricky, had a father who was a fan of Lefty Frizzel, George Jones, and Hank Williams. At the age of eight years old, Randy began to play guitar and sang at his church choir. Two years later, he and his brother began to perform at local clubs and talent contests as the Traywick Brothers. Even though his father encouraged he and his brother to pursue music, Randy did not get along well with his father, which played a contributing factor to him dropping out of school. He later ran into trouble, becoming a juvenile delinquent and got himself arrested.
Randy Travis has come a long way since then, including a win at a talent contest in 1975 at a North Carolina nightclub. The owner, Elizabeth Hatcher, took an interest in the singer, hired him as a cook and gave him regular singing gigs at the club. Later, Randy Travis got in trouble with the law one more time that ultimately saw him relesed into the guardianship of the same nightclub owner who hired him as cook and singer. She later became his manager and the two chose to pour focus on his pursuit of a music career full-time. For the two, what started out as a business arrangement eventually became something more.
Although Randy Travis made a couple recordings through Paula Records in 1978, he did a full album with them. In 1982, Randy Travis and Elizabeth Hatcher moved as a couple to Nashville, Tennessee. For the next nine years, as the career of Randy Travis blossomed, so did the relationship he had with his manager. In 1991, the two finally came public about their relationship and married in a private ceremony. Upon moving to Nashville, Randy Travis was rejected by every major record label as they felt he was too country for their liking. In the meantime, Hatcher took a job as a manager for a nightclub, The Nashville Palace. She hired Travis to cook and sing for her again, now as Randy Ray.
In 1982, Randy Travis recorded an independent album, Live at the Nashville Palace, which was used to secure a deal with Warner Bros. Records. This would be at the timing when Randy would be billed as Randy Travis. Both he and Elizabeth were told by the executives to keep their personal relationship under wraps, at least for now. Through this label, Randy Travis finally earned a taste of country music success as it became a certified triple-platinum hit with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). As of December 1986, Randy Travis officially became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Ups and Downs
In 2010, after nineteen years of marriage, Randy Travis and Elizabeth Hatcher divorced and their business relationship also came to an end. In 2015, he married again, but between 2010 to 2015, he ran into legal issues again, first in 2012 for drunk and disorderly conduct, then in 2013 a driving under the influence (DUI). Also in 2013, Randy Travis suffered a stroke that required brain surgery. During his long road to recovery, Travis worked his way back to recovery and released what became his twenty-second studio album, Precious Memories (Worship & Faith) in 2020.
From 1982 until 1999, Randy Travis was among the most prolific country music stars to feature hit after hit through his eleven studio album releases. The first nine were with Warner Bros. while the other two were through Dreamworks Nashville. Starting in the year 2000, Randy Travis focused on Christian country music, dominating the charts from the collection of ten additional studio albums he has recorded and released. He also has two Christmas albums to his credit, along with seventeen compilation albums.
His first six albums were each certified at least RIAA platinum with the second, Always & Forever, achieving the greatest height of success after its 1987 release. It became five time platinum with the RIAA as well as Music Canada. It also won the most amount of music industry awards for Randy Travis, including Album of the Year with the Country Music Association Awards, Male Vocalist of the Year for 1987 and 1988, as well as Single of the Year for “Forever and Ever, Amen.” Always & Forever, along with Old 8×10, each earned a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance, first in 1988 then in 1989.
When Randy Travis focused on Christian country music, his award winning streak began again. Starting in 2001 with the Gospel Music Association (GMA) Dove Awards, with Country Song of the Year with “Baptism” and Bluegrass Album of the Year with Inspirational Journey. In 2003, he won Country Album of the Year with Rise and Shine.
In 2004, he won two more Dove Awards, one for Song of the Year with “Three Wooden Crosses” and one for Country Album of the Year. He won Country Album of the Year again in 2005 for Passing Through (Randy Travis Album), then again in 2006 for Glory Train: Songs of Faith, Worship, and Praise, and yet again in 2009 with Around the Bend. With the Grammy Awards, he won Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album for Rise and Shine, in 2003, then again in 2005 for Worship & Faith, and yet again in 2007 for Glory Train: Songs of Faith, Worship, and Praise. In 2009, his collaboration with Carrie Underwood’s “I Told You So” earned him a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. His most recent award was in 2016 with the Academy of Country Music Award for his role in Video of the Year for the multi-star performance of “Forever Country.”
Top 10 Randy Travis Songs
#10 – It’s Just a Matter of Time
The 1959 original, “It’s Just a Matter of Time,” was recorded by Brook Benton. In 1989, Randy Travis recorded the song for a multi-artist tribute album, Rock, Rhythm & Blues. It served as the lead single to that album and peaked at number one on the Hot Country Songs chart. This served as the second occasion Benton’s classic managed to top the country charts. In 1970, Sonny James recorded and released his cover version to “It’s Just a Matter of Time.”
Glen Campbell also covered this single, which peaked at number seven on same US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. As for the version covered by Randy Travis, his bluesy style to this classic hit put a romantic twist in a song that suggested sooner or later the love who jilted him will realize she made a mistake.
#9 – I Told You So
In 1988, “I Told You So” topped the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart. It was first recorded on his 1983 album, Live at the Nashville Palace, when he went with the stage name at the time as Randy Ray. At that time, it became a big local hit and was among the most requested songs by him when he performed at the club.
The popularity proved itself again, this time nationwide, and served as one of the leading contributors to his 1987 album, Always & Forever, to become an award winning success story that was also one of his best-selling albums of his career. Inspired, Carrie Underwood had her own version of this single recorded in 2007 for her album, Carnival Ride. In 2009, it was re-recorded again as a duet between herself and Travis. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, this song made an appearance again, this time peaking at number two. In “I Told You So,” the narrator posed a hypothetical situation with his love interest how she’d feel if he wanted to come back home.
#8 – Baptism
Also known as down with the “Old Man (Up with the New),” “Baptism” was a performance by Randy Travis that stemmed from his album, Inspirational Journey, which peaked at number seventy-five on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. With the GMA Awards, “Baptism” earned Randy Travis his first win with the gospel music industry, namely for Country Song of the Year. According to the Holy Bible, a proper baptism takes place when a person agrees to submerge under water as a means to clean off the old version of themselves to make way for the new version.
In the New Testament, this is how Jesus Christ demonstrated the born again, spirit filled feeling genuine believers undergo as a means to kick old habits to the side and make way for new ones as a follower of an individual who has staked the claim he is the bridge between sinners and saints as they follow him in their journey to become closer to God. “Baptism” was the chart hitting single that came from the award winning album, Raised on Faith. The original recording of “Baptism” had Randy Travis and Kenny Chesney perform as a duo, which its version is featured on Chesney’s album, Everywhere We Go. There is also another version of this song recorded by Susie Lushinger for her 1999 contemporary Christian album, Raised on Faith.
#7 – Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart
In 1990, “Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart” became the longest-lasting number one single to sit at the top of the US Billboard Country Songs chart, which sat there for four weeks. From the album, No Holdin’ Back, this was the second of his three hit singles that contributed to it becoming another certified success story with the RIAA and Music Canada, this time as double platinum among both. In the song, the narrator pleaded to his love interest to forgive him for the mistakes he made that put the relationship in jeopardy.
#6 – I Won’t Need You Anymore (Always and Forever)
In 1987, “I Won’t Need You Anymore (Always & Forever)” won Randy Travis his first Grammy Award, namely for Best Male Country Vocal Performance. It was also instrumental in Randy Travis winning Top Male Vocalist for the second year in a row with the Academy of Country Music Awards. With the American Music Awards, Randy Travis won Favorite Country Male Artist three years in a row from 1988 until 1990. This ballad saw Travis bridge perfectly with another hit single, namely “Forever and Ever, Amen”, that was also featured on the same album, Always & Forever.
#5 – On the Other Hand
In 1985, “On the Other Hand” was the first number one single for Randy Travis, which came from his major-label debut album, Storms of Life. When it was released the first time, this love ballad only charted as high as number sixty-seven on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, as well as on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart. When it was released again in 1986, it peaked at number one.
In 1986, “On the Other Hand” won Single of the Year with the Academy of Country Music Awards and it has also become an RIAA-certified gold seller. The album, Storms of Life, also won its Album of the Year, and served as a contributing factor to Randy Travis winning Top Male Vocalist, just a year after winning its Top New Male Vocalist. In the song, the narrator informed his love interest that while one hand wants nothing more than to stay with her, the other hand served as a reminder he’s married to another.
#4 – Diggin’ Up Bones
From the 1985 album, Storms of Life, “Diggin’ Up Bones” became the second number one hit for Randy Travis on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart. With the American Music Awards, it won Favorite Country Single, marking the first win for Travis with that awards ceremony. “Diggin’ Up Bones” became an RIAA-certified gold mid-tempo ballad. The tale of a former husband still having to contend with the loss of his wife as he goes through the belongings she has left behind saw Randy Travis deliver a melodic masterpiece that continues to serve as a favorite country classic.
#3 – Deeper Than the Holler
On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart, “Deeper Than the Hollar” peaked at number one in 1988. The description of his affection for his love interest as a mid-tempo ballad, also saw “Deeper Than the Holler” earn Randy Travis an American Music Awards for Favorite Country Single in 1990, as well as playing its role for the album, Old 8×10, Favorite Country Album. It also became an RIAA-certified platinum success story as one of his best-selling singles.
#2 – Three Wooden Crosses (featuring Douglas Johnson and Kim Williams)
“Three Wooden Crosses” was a lyrical tale about three victims of a fatal crash that claimed their lives. During the 2003 Academy of Country Music Awards, “Three Wooden Crosses” earned Randy Travis, Douglas Johnson, and Kim Williams the wins for Single of the Year and Song of the Year. Although there were a total of four passengers and a driver on the bus that collided with an eighteen-wheeler truck, there were only three crosses mentioned.
By the end of the heartfelt story, it is learned the narrator was an unborn son of one of the survivors, a hooker, who turned to Jesus when one of her fellow passengers on that bus, a preacher, handed the bible to her before he died. The third passenger on the bus that perished was a farmer. “Three Wooden Crosses” brought into light the circle of life, serving as a reminder no moment should be taken for granted, nor the soul-saving grace that comes from the Almighty himself. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, this single peaked at number one and was a number thirty-one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100.
#1 – Forever and Ever, Amen
“Forever and Ever, Amen” earned Randy Travis Single of the Year and Song of the Year with the Academy of Country Music Awards. With the American Music Awards, “Forever and Ever, Amen” won Favorite Country Single and Favorite Country Video. In addition to the awards this classic love song has earned, “Forever and Ever, Amen” also became certified platinum twice over by the RIAA.
It also topped the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks. On the UK Singles Chart, it charted as high as number fifty-five. Although Randy Travis has a flurry of hits to his name, “Forever and Ever, Amen” has become one of those signature songs that not only have fans identify with him best, but mostly seem to be in agreement this was his best hit he ever produced.
Top 10 Randy Travis Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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