Randy Travis is most recognized for paving the way for young singers who wanted to return to the original style of country music. When he was 18, Elizabeth Hatcher noticed him and he worked hard to build a reputation for himself.
With the No. 1 country album Storms of Life in 1986, he hit his stride. He went on to win a Grammy Award and sell millions of albums after that. Travis survived a life-threatening health emergency in 2013 that left him unable to walk or speak. He has since made a gradual recovery.
Randy Bruce Traywick, better known as Randy Travis, was born in Marshville, North Carolina on May 4, 1959. Randy Traywick, the second of six children born to Harold and Bobby Traywick, grew up on a small farm, where he began training horses and working cattle at the age of six. He enjoyed the songs of iconic country performers Hank Williams, Lefty Frizell, and Gene Autry as a child. He began playing the guitar when he was ten years old.
Randy’s love in country music as a youngster was equaled only by his increasing experimentation with drugs and alcohol. Randy dropped out of school and temporarily worked as a construction worker after becoming estranged from his family. He was arrested multiple times during the next few years for assault, breaking and entering, and other petty offenses.
Randy met Elizabeth Hatcher, the manager of a nightclub where he performed in Charlotte, North Carolina, on the point of being sent to prison at the age of 18. Hatcher persuaded a judge to let her become Randy’s legal guardian after hearing his music. Hatcher spent the next few years training Randy, who began to perform regularly at her country clubs.
After minor recording success on an independent label in 1981, the pair relocated to Nashville, Tennessee. Hatcher got a job managing the Nashville Palace, a tourist-oriented bar near the Grand Ole Opry, while Randy worked as a short-order cook for a spell.
Randy got signed by Warner Bros. Records in 1985, after several years of trying to build a name for himself. His first single, “On The Other Hand,” now billed as Randy Travis, peaked at No. 67 on the country music charts. Despite the dismal start, Warner Bros. released Travis’ second single, “1982,” which reached the Top 10.
Optimistic about the response to “1982,” the label decided to re-release “On The Other Hand,” which quickly reached No. 1 on the national charts. Both tracks appeared on Travis’ 1986 album Storms Of Life, which spent eight weeks at the top of Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and sold over five million copies.
Travis’ ascent to prominence was rapidly backed by awards and accolades, and he was chosen to join the legendary Grand Ole Opry in 1986. The album Always And Forever garnered Travis a Grammy Award the next year, as well as the Country Music Association’s Male Vocalist of the Year Award. His subsequent three albums, Old 8 X 10 (1988), No Holdin’ Back (1989), and Heroes And Friends (1990), all of which featured duets with George Jones, Tammy Wynette, B.B. King, and Roy Rogers, sold millions of copies.
Travis’ music career flourished with the release of Full Circle (1996), You And You Alone (1998), and A Man Ain’t Made Of Stone (1999).
Travis unwittingly opened the path for many young singers seeking to return to the traditional sound of country music over his career. Travis, dubbed a “New Traditionalist,” is recognized for influencing future country stars such as Garth Brooks, Clint Black, and Travis Tritt.
Travis focused on his acting career in the 1990s. He appeared in the made-for-TV films Dead Man’s Revenge (1994) and Steel Chariots (1997), as well as on some of television’s most popular shows, including Touched By an Angel, Fraiser, and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. He eventually made his way to the big screen, playing minor roles in The Rainmaker (1997), T.N.T. (1998), and The Million Dollar Kid (1999).
Travis, aged 53, was arrested for drunk driving in Texas in August 2012. According to ABC News, police were summoned to the scene after another car noticed Travis shirtless and supposedly napping by the side of the road. According to the article, the country star was involved in a single-car collision, and when police caught him on a DWI charge, he was charged with retaliation and obstruction for threatening to shoot and kill officers at the scene.
According to ABC News, officers transported the musician to the police station naked (the facts of how he became naked are unclear), and he was released the next day after paying a $21,500 bond.
Travis made headlines again less than a year later, in July 2013, when he was hospitalized to a Texas hospital for issues connected to a heart condition. Congestive heart failure was found in the 54-year-old singer. Travis suffered a stroke while receiving treatment for his life-threatening condition, leaving him in serious condition.
Travis underwent surgery to relieve pressure on his brain following his stroke, according to his spokeswoman, Kirt Webster. “His family and friends here at the hospital with him request your prayers and support,” Webster said in a statement. Travis was hospitalized and in rehabilitation for months due to a health issue. Travis had lost his ability to talk and had difficulties walking as a result of the stroke, but in the years afterwards, he has made improvement on both counts, as well as relearning how to play the guitar and sing.
Travis astonished listeners three years after his stroke when he got on stage and sang an impassioned rendition of “Amazing Grace” at the Country Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2016. Travis is still recovering. His speech and mobility are gradually improving. He most recently performed at the 2023 Academy of Country Music Honors, where he presented Kane Brown with an award.
Randy Travis will be honored in a tribute event on October 24, 2023, roughly ten years after he endured life-threatening health conditions that hampered his mobility and speech. The concert, which will take place in Huntsville, Alabama, will feature over two dozen of Travis’ classics performed by musicians such as Dennis Quaid, Aaron Lewis, Ben Haggard, Craig Campbell, Darryl Worley, Taylor Hicks, and others. A portion of the revenues will benefit the Randy Travis Foundation, which promotes awareness of stroke and aphasia as well as music education.
Travis is currently married to Mary Davis, his second wife. Travis’ health issue prompted the couple to become engaged in 2013, and they married in 2015.
He previously married his longtime manager Elizabeth Hatcher in a secret ceremony on the Hawaiian island of Maui. The couple was married until 2010, when they divorced.
The well-known country singer has no children.