Randy Travis Bio - ChristianMusic.com
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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 albums.

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 his work.

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 Bros. Records.

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 Sky.

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 and eloquence.

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 stage.

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 career.

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 each day."

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 heart.

"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."

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