Born on May 4, 1959, Randy Bruce Traywick was the second
of six children. His father Harold, raised turkeys, bred horses, and
ran a construction business, and his mother Bobbie, worked in a textile
plant. Randy's father always wanted him to become a country singer,
filling the house with the sounds of Hank Williams and Stonewall Jackson
Harold bought his four sons western outfits and guitars,
and promoted them locally as the Traywick Brothers. By the time Randy
was ten years old, he and his brother, Ricky, had their own duo, playing
throughout the South at fiddler's conventions, private parties, VFW
halls, and anywhere and everywhere they could draw a crowd. Even at his
young age Randy's voice startled people with its resonance. He dropped
out of school in the ninth grade, and after that-fast cars, drinking,
and drugs lead to a series of scrapes with the law.
At age 16, Randy Travis entered a talent show hosted by
Country City USA as a soloist. After winning the competition hands down,
he was invited by the club owner, Lib Hatcher, to play regularly at
the famed night spot. He then relocated to Charlotte. It was a stint
that lasted the better part of five years with Randy first performing
on week-ends and eventually full-time. Hatcher took over management
of the fledgling singer and in the late 70's Randy recorded two singles
for Paula Records, "Dreamin'" and "She's My Woman" with Joe Stampley
producing. He purified his mind, turning his back on substance abuse
and focusing on music. At the time, Nashville was deep in the Urban
Cowboy, pop-country phase of the early 1980s. Travis was intent on bringing
back fiddles, steel guitars, and honky-tonk lyrics. Randy Travis recorded
for a tiny label, Paula Records, and, in classic country fashion, drove
from radio station to radio station throughout the South to promote
Travis and Hatcher married in 1991, and, in 1992, Travis
became the first country artist to release two albums simultaneously.
Both volumes of his Greatest Hits became sales blockbusters. Later that
year, he and Alan Jackson collaborated on Jackson's No. 1 smash "She's
Got the Rhythm (And I Got the Blues)." Randy Travis then scored back-to-back
No. 1 hits of his own, "If I Didn't Have You" and "Look Heart, No Hands."
In 1994, Travis launched his film career with a variety of roles. He
also has been a guest star on several top-rated TV dramas, including
Touched by an Angel and Matlock. "Acting was a way for me to learn something
new," Travis explains. "Learning keeps you young."
In 1981 Randy made the move to Nashville, commuting regularly
to Charlotte to perform at Country City, USA. He spent most of his time
writing songs and getting acquainted with the Nashville scene.
After five years of paying dues in North Carolina, he
and Hatcher (who had become his manager) moved to Music City in 1981
with little more than dreams and determination to sustain them. Back
then, not a single executive on Music Row could hear the possibilities
in Travis' subtly shaded backwoods baritone. He was turned down by every
record label in town.
Eventually Hatcher began management of another club, The
Nashville Palace, where Randy worked cooking catfish and washing dishes,
as well as singing on stage. It wasn't long before he had developed
a following there as well, changing his stage name to Randy Ray. The
exposure lead to appearances on Nashville Now and Nashville After Hours.
His Nashville popularity grew by increasing word-of-mouth as people
touted him as an outstanding newcomer. In 1983 while performing at the
club, Randy Travis recorded his first album independently and called
it, "Randy Ray-Live at the Nashville Palace." The album was mostly sold
at the club between shows and is now a collector's item and out of circulation.
Occasionally, he'd take off his grease-stained apron and
emerge from the kitchen to sing a song, which would invariably make
the hard-core country patrons go wild. While at The Nashville Palace,
Travis recorded an independent album under the name Randy Ray. Randy
Ray Live was enough for Hatcher to secure Travis a deal with Warner
Turned down by nearly every record label in Nashville,
often more than once, Randy was finally signed to Warner Brothers Records
in 1985. Record company executives changed his name to Travis, and Randy's
first recorded effort for his new label was "Prairie Rose," on the soundtrack
to the film, "Rustler's Rhapsody." It was followed by the release of
the album, "Storms of Life" in 1986, and the rest is country music history.
The first single, "On the Other Hand," was a perfect slice of Randy's
authentic country talent. "1982" followed, and with that hit, Randy
established himself as a singer and performer in the grand tradition
of George Jones, Lefty Frizell, Merle Haggard, and a handful of others.
The success of both singles led to wide-spread demand for live shows,
and Randy next set out on an extensive and ongoing tour, taking him
across the United States and Canada before record-setting crowds.
Soon it seemed every award in the music business had Randy's
name on it. A string of country chart-toppers ensued, and by the end
of the decade, Randy's record sales topped 13 million copies. During
a break from touring in 1991, Randy married his longtime manager and
friend, Lib Hatcher in a quiet ceremony on the island of Maui, Hawaii.
In 1985, the label released the single "On the Other Hand,"
which only made it to No. 67 on the Billboard country singles chart.
Randy Travis' second single, "1982," was a Top 10 hit that kicked his
career into high gear. The label then re-released "On the Other Hand"
in 1986, and the song went to No. 1. Travis followed it up with chart topping
hits "Diggin' Up Bones" and "Forever and Ever, Amen," which won the
Country Music Association's single of the year award in 1987. Travis
won the CMA's prestigious Horizon Award in 1986, won album of the year
honors in 1987 for Always and Forever and took home male vocalist of
the year trophies in 1987 and 1988. George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Tammy
Wynette, the Grand Ole Opry cast and the rest of country's classic stylists
voiced their support for the plainspoken young man from North Carolina
-- they had found someone to "carry the torch" into the future.
Travis' major label debut album, Storms of Life, was released
in 1986 and went on to sell more than 4 million copies. Always and Forever,
his second collection, was No. 1 for 10 solid months and won a Grammy
Award. Old 8x10, his third set, also won a Grammy. To be sure, the first
boom in the "new country" movement had sounded. In 1986, Travis was
invited to join the Grand Ole Opry. By the time he turned 30 in 1989,
he'd sold more than 13 million records, paving the way for a new generation
of country stars like Garth Brooks, Clint Black, and Travis Tritt.
In 1997, Travis left Warner Bros. Records and signed with
new label DreamWorks Nashville. His first album for the label, 1998's
You and You Alone, put Travis back in the spotlight with Top 5 singles
"Out of My Bones," and "Spirit of a Boy, Wisdom of a Man," and the Top
10 single "The Hole." Travis managed to record the album while filming
roles in Francis Ford Coppola's big-screen treatment of John Grisham's
The Rainmaker and the Patrick Swayze feature Black Dog.
Along with his full-time music career Randy Travis has
also become an accomplished actor. In addition to guest appearances
on TV's Matlock, Touched By An Angel, and Texas, his film credits include
The Rainmaker (starring Jon Voight, Matt Damon, and Danny DeVito), Frank
and Jessie (Bill Paxton and Rob Lowe), Black Dog (Patrick Swayze), and
Fire Down Below (Steven Seagal). He's also featured with Antonio Banderas,
Ellen Barkin, Lily Tomlin, and Bob Hoskins in the movie White River
Kid. Randy had a starring role in the Miramax/Dimension film Texas Rangers
with James Van Der Beek, Dylan McDermott, and Usher which was released
in 2002. He also worked on Major Reno, a documentary featuring legendary
film actor Charlton Heston, and the independent film, John-John In the
Travis released a second DreamWorks album, A Man Ain't
Made of Stone in 1999. The next year he followed with Inspirational
Journey, a contemporary Gospel album on Warner Bros. Travis released
a second Christian-themed album, Rise and Shine, in 2002. Its first
single, "Three Wooden Crosses," reached No. 1 and won the CMA song of
the year in 2003, and the album won a Grammy in 2004.
No other Randy Travis album cuts this deep and wide --
and that, given the struggles of his past and the odds he has beaten,
makes Passing Through about as strong as any album can be.
The 16th studio album of his career, Passing Through is
a 12-track compilation of outstanding songs that touch the heart, provoke
the mind and keep toes tapping. From "That Was Us," a recollection of
early years filled with reckless adventure, to "My Daddy Never Was,"
which captures a man, broken by his transgressions, at a moment of decision,
the songs on Passing Through offer insight into this artist, with honesty
In the late 1980's, Randy opened the floodgates for the
new traditionalist movement in country music. With 22 number one hits,
6 number one albums, 5 Grammy's, 6 CMA's, 9 ACM's, 10 AMA's, 5 Dove
Awards, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame, Randy is the rare
lucky man who has been able to make all of his dreams come true.
Make no mistake - Randy Travis is not getting back to
his roots with Worship and Faith, his new collection of 20 gospel and
praise songs. For one thing, as one of the most popular, unmistakably
country singers ever, he never left his roots. Besides, Randy Travis
didn't grow up singing songs like "Shall We Gather at the River?" and
"How Great Thou Art," because Randy Travis didn't grow up in church.
"Man, no," says Travis, "I grew up in bars. I grew up
singing Merle Haggard, George Jones, and Hank Williams. I didn't know
anything about singing any kind of church songs."
While Randy has long been known as an artist whose life-affirming
songs celebrate the better angels of human nature, it's in his inspirational
releases, that this underlying theme of contentment finally takes center
These three inspirational albums have garnered several
awards for Randy, and his longtime friend and producer, Kyle Lehning.
In 2001 Randy's Atlantic Records/Warner Bros. album, "Inspirational
Journey," won a Dove Award for "Bluegrass Album of the Year," and also
a Dove Award for "Country Recorded Song of the Year" for the single,
"Baptism". Songs from "Inspirational Journey" also inspired the two-part
season finale of the CBS TV series, "Touched by an Angel," that also
featured Randy playing a significant role as part of an all-star cast.
In 2003 Randy Travis was awarded the Christian Country
Music Association's "Mainstream Country Artist of the Year". That same
year, his Word Records/Curb/Warner Bros. album, "Rise And Shine" was
awarded a Dove Award for "Country Album of the Year," and the single,
"Three Wooden Crosses," won the Christian Country Music Association's
"Song of the Year" award. "Three Wooden Crosses" also won the 2003 CMA
Award for "Song of the Year," and had the distinction of being the only
song from a Christian label to ever make it to the number one position
on the country charts.
In 2004 Randy's "Rise And Shine" album was honored again,
with a Grammy for "Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass, Gospel Album".
His single, "Three Wooden Crosses" won the ACM's "Song of the Year"
award, and a Dove Award, for "Country Recorded Song of the Year". Also
in 2004, Randy's traditional hymns album, "Worship & Faith," won a Dove
Award for "Country Album of the Year".
2005 is already turning out to be a great year for Randy.
He's been awarded a Grammy for "Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass,
Gospel Album" for "Worship & Faith," and the album has also been nominated
for a Dove Award for "Country Album of the Year". Randy's latest Word
Records/Curb/Warner Bros. release, "Passing Through," is a collection
of country and inspirational songs that speaks to listeners from all
walks of life.
"I chose these songs because, for one thing, I felt they
fit me as a singer. I did them because I liked the songs. I listen for
songs that speak to me, that say something I can relate to, or wish
I could relate to. I like songs that hit me in such a way they make
me think, 'Man, everybody should be able to relate to that.'" Because
Travis came to most of these songs as an adult, he brings a freshness
to the most familiar songs on Worship and Faith. These songs are not
ingrained in his mind from years of repetition. His renditions sing
with the personality of the people who wrote them - Fanny J. Crosby,
the prolific, blind songwriter who penned "Blessed Assurance," or circuit-riding
preacher Josiah Alwood, who envisioned Heaven in "The Unclouded Day."
Travis treats the material as songs, not as relics, and their messages
speak clearly to him and through him.
Though Travis learned most of these songs fairly late
in his life, some of them he's known for a long time. Of the Rev. Thomas
A. Dorsey's "Peace in the Valley," he says, "That was about the only
hymn I knew. My grandmother used to request that song." And there's
"Will the Circle Be Unbroken," which Randy Travis has sung from the
stage of the Grand Ole Opry: "You're going to have to do that one at
some point in time if you are a country singer."
And Randy Travis still considers himself a country singer,
even though his most recent albums have given him something of a parallel
Travis added a new dimension to his career in 2000 when
he released his first album of country-gospel songs, Inspirational Journey.
Three years after that, "Three Wooden Crosses," a tale of surprising
redemption from his second inspirational album, Rise and Shine, returned
Travis to the top of the country charts. "Three Wooden Crosses" gave
Travis his first Number One hit in four years, and it was the only single
from a gospel label ever to top the country charts.
"It surprised me," Travis says. "I thought a lot of radio
programmers might try to avoid it because it came from a gospel label,
but the reception was incredible."
While Inspirational Journey and Rise and Shine featured
mostly new material, Worship and Faith is filled with classic hymns
and worship standards. Travis' choices include old American hymns ("Softly
and Tenderly," "Sweet By and By"), country-gospel favorites ("Turn the
Radio On," "I'll Fly Away"), even modern praise songs ("Open the Eyes
of My Heart," "Above All").
Travis and Kyle Lehning, who produced Travis' biggest
hits, matched Travis' unmistakable voice with sparkling country and
bluegrass arrangements, using only acoustic instruments - fiddles, dobro,
harmonica, upright bass, even the occasional dulcimer and autoharp.
Worship and Faith features guest appearances by John Anderson on "Just
a Closer Walk With Thee," Third Day frontman Mac Powell on "Love Lifted
Me" and Joy Lynn White on "I'll Fly Away." Travis and Lehning recorded
most of the album in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the singer has lived
for the past five years.
Since Travis often was familiar with little more than
the titles for these songs, he approached Worship and Faith much as
he would any of his albums. He searched a variety of sources for songs,
from leather-bound songbooks to dusty records. The album-opening "He's
My Rock, My Sword, My Shield," for instance, he learned from an old
recording by Ethel Waters, a famed jazz and Broadway singer of the 1920's
who traveled with the Billy Graham Crusades later in her life.
"The way we did it, it hits you more on the upbeat, happy
side," he says. "Still, there are some wonderful things within the lyrics."
"I'd never heard the term 'music ministry' before, but
it has turned out to be just that," he says. "Good things are coming
from that, and it would be wrong to walk away from it. I'm still doing
country shows, and I want to record more country. But I want to continue
doing gospel music, also."
Travis says he's wanted to record an album like Worship
and Faith for a long time. "For years, people on the road would come
up to us and say, 'When are you going to do a gospel album?'" he says.
"But when we started this project, I didn't have a clue what to do.
After having been in church for a while, obviously, I was far more familiar
with the songs."
No matter when Travis learned these songs, he inhabits
them now. Those songs have now become a part of his life, and in their
timeless, redemptive message Randy Travis discovered roots he never
even realized he had. "Passing Through does hit on a lot of different
subject matters, there's no doubt about that," Travis admits, with typical
understatement. "From your faith to the things that challenge you to
relationships between man and wife, it's about what people go through
Coming on the heels of Rise and Shine, the critically
celebrated gospel CD whose single, "Three Wooden Crosses," topped several
charts and earned both a Grammy and CMA's song of the year award, Passing
Through represents a determination by Travis and his partners at Word
Records/Curb/Warner Bros. to challenge expectations -- the industry's
as well as their own. "'Three Wooden Crosses' was the first time that
Word had gone to country radio and gotten air play," Travis explains.
"So it made sense that Passing Through would be another first for Word
-- to put out an album that's pure country from beginning to end. They
showed a lot of trust and stuck with me from beginning to end. I couldn't
have asked for more support; they have been just wonderful."
The heart of Passing Through, though, lay in the hands
of a team that has stood together during all the years of his ascendance:
Travis, his wife Elizabeth Travis, whom he credits for guiding his career
as well as helping him find salvation, and Kyle Lehning, who produced
almost all of his albums going back to Storms of Life, a four-million
seller since its release in '86. Through time their ties have strengthened,
so that Passing Through testifies to three peoples' beliefs as much
as to one man's gifts.
"We're family," is how Travis puts it. "Kyle and I both
know what kinds of songs will work for me, as far as the melody, the
range, the feel, and the production. When you work together for a while,
one of two things can happen: Either you get stale, which in my opinion
comes from losing interest in what you're doing, or you get to know
each other extremely well. That's the case with in our relationship."
Their commitment to Passing Through began with their resolution
to settle for nothing short of the best material they could find. This
translated into an exhausting search for songs and a filtering out of
everything that fell short of their standard -- even, Travis says, if
he had written it himself. "Kyle has no trouble telling me if he thinks
one of my songs is no good," he laughs. "But that's the only way you
can do it. And that's the kind of relationship we have."
In the end they listened to more than a thousand new songs
in the early stages of Passing Through. "The funny thing is, I really
like that part of the process," Travis says. "I love finding songs,
going through them, tearing them apart, and seeing if I can find anything
wrong with them. That would irritate some people, but I know I'll always
find something; it just takes patience and a lot of looking."
When Randy Travis began sharing music from his first gospel
album, Inspirational Journey, by playing concerts for congregations,
not everyone was convinced that he had the interests of the church at
"We have run into some folks at a couple of different
churches who seemed somewhat skeptical, wondering, 'Why are you doing
this?'" Travis admits. "But in every case, we've left there feeling
like we've made new friends."
If any skepticism remains about the country star's dedication
to gospel music, it should be allayed with the release of Rise And Shine,
his second gospel album in a two-year period. The album does not represent
a shift away from the country genre-Travis began recording a new country
album at the same time he made Rise And Shine, but it does underscore
his belief in Christian music, and its power to change lives.
"You get a certain amount of the audience coming to hear
us who aren't folks who go to church," Travis observes. "They know us
through country music, and so many times we've heard stories about people
coming in, getting saved, getting baptized, and changing their lives,
and some kids that had been doing like I was years ago, and coming in
and gettin' straightened out. It's making a big difference."
"The last note on 'Jerusalem's Cry,' I can't sing that
note every day," he confides. "That's just one of those things that
happenes every now and then. That day I did the vocal, we did it quick,
it was no trouble to do, and at the end, I took a shot at going for
that low note, and I acutally hit it. I won't be doing that live every
night, because it's not always there."
Travis' natural tones provide a masculine setting for
songs of sentiment, humor, and stark human drama. He takes public stances
with his faith in "The Gift" and the topical "Everywhere We Go." Randy
explores the tragedy, and miracle, of death in "If You Only Knew," then
puts a funny spin on baptism in "Pray For The Fish."
In addition, he uses country music's story song tradition
in an exemplary manner, as the challenges of daily existence point the
listener to larger ideals. "Raise Him Up" celebrates paternal selflessness,
"Three Wooden Crosses" places a random disaster in the context of a
higher purpose, and "When Mama Prayed" demonstrates the powerful leadership
that's present in quiet determination.
"I'm amazed with the quality of writing on so many of
these songs that we've been able to find," he says. "When you listen
to something like 'Raise Him Up,' 'Three Wooden Crosses' and 'When Mama
Prayed,' if those three songs don't speak to you, I don't think anything
can get to you."
"This felt so much like doing Storms Of Life, and then
Always & Forever, when you think about it," he observes. "Originally,
I was turned down for a little over 10 years by every label in Nashville.
We already had quite a few songs in mind to record, should we get the
chance, and so there were years to prepare for Storms Of Life. Then,
all at once, you need a second album, and you have months. It felt the
same way here, you know. We had all that time on Inspirational Journey,
and then all at once, we needed to finish this."
This time around, Travis had a larger personal collection
of songs to fall back on, material he had written himself, and songs
that were brought to him in the wake of the Journey album. As a result,
Randy Travis crafted an album that has the cohesiveness and variety
of an experienced man still exploring a part of himself that remains
fairly new to the general public.
The process, he says, has been as rewarding as anything
that's happened in Randy's career. "I really feel like I'm making a
difference in a way I never have before."
Visit Our RANDY TRAVIS Store