American country singer Randy Travis opened the door to young artists who sought to return to the traditional sound of country music. His 1986 album, Storms of Life, landed at No. 1 on the U.S. albums chart.
Born in North Carolina in 1959, Randy Travis is best known for opening the door to young artists who sought to return to the traditional sound of country music. He was discovered by Elizabeth Hatcher when he was 18 and fought hard to make a name for himself. He found his stride in 1986 with a No. 1 album, Storms of Life. He went on to win a Grammy Award and sell millions of copies of subsequent albums. In 2013, Travis survived a life-threatening health scare that left him unable to walk or talk. He has since continued to slowly recover.
Randy Traywick, best known as Randy Travis, was born on May 4, 1959, in Marshville, North Carolina. The second of six children born to Harold and Bobby Traywick, Randy was raised on a modest farm, where he was training horses and working cattle by the age of 6. As a child, he admired the music of the legendary country artists Hank Williams, Lefty Frizell, and Gene Autry; at the age of 10, he learned to play the guitar.
As a teenager, Randy's interest in country music was matched only by his increasing experimentation with drugs and alcohol. Estranged from his family, Randy dropped out of school and briefly held a job as a construction worker. Over the next few years, he was arrested several times for assault, breaking and entering, as well as other misdemeanor charges.
On the verge of being sent to prison at 18 years old, Randy met Elizabeth Hatcher, a manager of a nightclub where he performed in Charlotte, North Carolina. Seeing promise in his music, Hatcher convinced a judge to let her become Randy's legal guardian. Hatcher spent the next few years grooming Randy, who started to regularly perform at her country clubs.
In 1981, after minor recording success on an independent label, the pair moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Hatcher secured a job managing the Nashville Palace, a tourist-oriented club near the Grand Ole Opry, while Randy (who for a time performed as Randy Ray) worked as a short-order cook.
After several years of trying to make a name for himself, Randy was signed by Warner Bros. Records in 1985. Now billed as Randy Travis, his first single, "On The Other Hand," reached a disappointing No. 67 on the country music charts. Despite the lackluster debut, Warner Bros. released Travis's second track, "1982," which secured a place in the Top 10.
Optimistic over the response to "1982," the label decided to re-release "On The Other Hand," which immediately skyrocketed to No. 1 on the country charts. In 1986, both songs appeared on Travis's album Storms Of Life, which secured a place at No. 1 for eight weeks and sold over five million copies.
Awards and accolades quickly accompanied Travis's rise to fame and he was invited to become a member of the prestigious Grand Ole Opry in 1986. The following year, the LP Always And Forever earned Travis a Grammy Award, as well as the Country Music Association's Male Vocalist of the Year Award. His next three albums—Old 8 X 10 (1988), No Holdin' Back (1989) and Heroes And Friends (1990), which included duets with George Jones, Tammy Wynette, B.B. King and Roy Rogers—also sold millions of copies.
In the 1990s, Travis concentrated on an acting career. He won roles in the made-for-TV movies Dead Man's Revenge (1994) and Steel Chariots (1997); and made appearances on some of TV's most popular series, including Touched By an Angel, Fraiser and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Most recently, Travis landed supporting roles in the feature films The Rainmaker (1997), T.N.T. (1998) and The Million Dollar Kid (1999). In addition to his acting efforts, Travis's music career continued to thrive with the release of Full Circle (1996), You And You Alone (1998) and A Man Ain't Made Out Of Stone (1999).
During his career, Travis unintentionally opened the door for many young artists who sought to return to the traditional sound of country music. Known as a "New Traditionalist," Travis was credited with influencing the future country stars Garth Brooks, Clint Black, and Travis Tritt.
In 1991, Travis married his long-time manager Elizabeth Hatcher in a private ceremony on the island of Maui. The couple would remain together until 2010 when they divorced.
In August 2012, a 53-year-old Travis was arrested for drunk driving in Texas. According to a report by ABC News, police were called to the scene by another driver, who witnessed Travis, who was shirtless, and was allegedly taking a nap on the side of the road. The country star had been involved in a single-car accident, according to the report, and when police arrested him on a DWI charge, he received a separate charge of retaliation and obstruction for threatening to shoot and kill officers at the scene.
The singer was taken by officers to the police station, naked (the details of how he became naked are unclear), and was released the following day, after posting a $21,500 bond, according to ABC News.
In July 2013, a 54-year-old Travis made headlines when he was admitted to a Texas hospital after reportedly suffering from complications related to a heart condition. The singer was diagnosed with having congestive heart failure. While undergoing treatment for his life-threatening condition, Travis suffered a stroke that left him in critical condition.
According to his publicist, Kirt Webster, Travis underwent surgery to relieve pressure on his brain following his stroke. "His family and friends here with him at the hospital request your prayers and support," Webster said in a statement. The health scare kept Travis in the hospital and rehabilitation for months. As a result of the stroke, Travis had lost his ability speak and had difficulty walking, but in the years since, has been making progress on both counts as well as relearning how to play the guitar and sing.
Earlier in 2013, Travis became engaged to Mary Davis. The couple married in 2015.
Three years after his stroke, Travis wowed fans when he stood on stage and sang an emotional rendition of “Amazing Grace” at the 2016 induction ceremony at The Country Music Hall and Fame. Travis continues to recover. His speech and mobility continue to slowly improve.