When it comes to iconic voices in country music, it’s hard to argue that Randy Travis shouldn’t at least be in the conversation.
The living legend turns 64 years old today, and though he suffered a massive stroke in 2013 that left him with permanent damage, including limited mobility and speech, his incredible career is already one for the country music history books.
A native of Marshville, NC, Randy was originally rejected by Nashville record labels for being “too country.”
So instead of starting as a country singer, Randy got his start as a cook at the Nashville Palace, where he would also use the opportunity to get up on stage and show off his talent.
While working at the Palace, Randy recorded an independent album, Live at the Nashville Palace, which helped him to land a record deal with Warner Bros. Records.
His first single with Warner, “On the Other Hand,” was a minor success. But when his next single “1982” was a top ten smash, the label decided to re-release “On the Other Hand,” and this time it reached the top of the charts and set off a decade-long run of #1 hits that would cement Randy Travis as one of the top country singers of his time.
In fact, Randy would go on to have eleven #1 songs between 1986-1989 with his instantly-recognizable baritone voice on songs like “Diggin’ Up Bones,” “I Told You So,” “Deeper Than the Holler” and of course what would become his biggest hit, “Forever and Ever, Amen.” This massive string of success is credited with turning country music back towards a more traditional sound from the smooth, pop-influenced style that was dominating the late ’70s and early ’80s.
And this success would not only set the stage for a resurgence of traditional country artists, guys like Clint Black, Alan Jackson and Travis Tritt, but it would propel Randy Travis into the ’90s as one of the biggest names in country music as he continued his streak of hits like “If I Didn’t Have You,” “Hard Rock Bottom Of Your Heart,” and “Look Heart, No Hands.”
In 2000, Randy made a switch to country Christian music, and he would have a massive hit – and his last #1 – with 2002’s “Three Wooden Crosses.”
Unfortunately in 2013 Randy suffered a stroke which caused him to fight for his life and sidelined him from music. But in the years since, he’s made several appearances onstage, and in 2016 he brought the audience to tears when he sang “Amazing Grace” during his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
He’s managed to stay in the public eye despite his health struggles, and he’s become an ambassador for traditional country music despite the fact that he may not be able to sing like he once could.
It’s hard to describe the impact that Randy Travis has had on country music and its sound for nearly two decades. He’s managed to stay in the public eye despite his health struggles, and he’s become an ambassador for traditional country music despite the fact that he may not be able to sing like he once could.
We’re lucky to still have Randy around to honor and celebrate. And hopefully we continue to see him more and more – because he deserves to know how many fans he still has out there today, and how much we all owe him as country music fans.
Happy birthday Randy – you’re an absolute legend – forever and ever.