Randy Travis, Dolly Parton and Janie Fricke via People/Luke Myszka
All celebrities are easily available for the incessant yet commonplace "media blitz" – whether it be positive or negative. With the advent of the Internet and social media, the mere wink of an eye is reported as major news and spreads as if it were a raging California wildfire. One subject of such a recent example is one whom is widely considered a king of country music. The man who marked a potent generational shift in the genre in the 1980s, progressing into the 2000s as a bonafide legend. That man is the legendary Randy Travis. A bonafide religious zealot and inspiration to everyone who hears his lyrics and verbal sermon, Randy has represented more than just the "one hit wonder" on the musical scene. He has successfully produced a song that touches every aspect of one's life whether it is a downfall, a celebration, family memories, sickness, praise of The Lord, regret, or uprising success. And after a courageous battle with unforeseen illness, the legend had just celebrated his 55th birthday on May 4, 2014. With the steadfast support of his significant other Mary by his side, Randy continues to rise above opposition as he always has. The naysayers who claimed his voice was too country for mainstream. The selective media who claimed him to be "old hat" before Three Wooden Crosses ripped the country scene to shreds in 2001, seemingly going on an "awards show tour".
After being the foundation of religious country harmony for years, he returned to his traditional country roots for Around The Bend in 2008. I had the honor of writing a series of blogs entitled Digging Up Bones for his official website and MySpace forum when I was personally messaged by his website team after they saw some of my writings elsewhere. These articles led up his inevitable comeback to raw country roots as Around The Bend was being prepped for release. Featured front and center on his web presence, I had the privilege of interviewing the songwriter of his single Turn It Around: the rising star Matt Kennon. Interacting with his wide and beloved fan base was a privilege and a pleasure.
To commemorate the 55th birthday of this living legend who continues to heal and rehabilitate, I decided it would be apropos to do a special feature on RT. With the blessing of Shannon of her widely-appreciated Nashville Gab website, I tried to contemplate the most advantageous way to pay tribute to someone who turned a withering genre onto its ear with a shot of Marshville, NC adrenaline. I figured that simple, informative and retrospective would be the greatest avenue to take. The biographical approach was already finely-executed in A&E's Biography special in 2000. So where do I go from there? Easy concept. Fifty-five gems to represent fifty-five years of excellence. So without further delay, let's dive into the goodness.
1. Cooking In The Kitchen, Beginning A Legacy On Stage
There was a cook at The Nashville Palace who could make ideal Southern cuisine in 1983. That same cook was able to then leap on stage and belt out a self-written surefire hit known as I Told You So. I present Randy Travis, then known as Randy Ray, live from The Nashville Palace on TNN.
2. Forever And Ever Amen Is Beloved Forever And Ever Amen
Known for one of the most celebrated country hits of all time, Randy Travis is known by many immediately due to his token song, Forever And Ever Amen. Countless people to this day insist to use this as their wedding anthem. Years later in 2013 at the well-received Four Corners Banquet, continues to sing this iconic tune, this time belting it out in acoustic greatness.
3. Five Things
The GAC channel recently has had some fun with their "Five Things You Don't Know About Me" online featurette. Vanilla ice cream and hot fudge? His favorite hip hop artist is Run DMV? What? Great stuff from the comedic side of the legend!
After leaving Warner Brothers and enjoying some success at the newfound DreamWorks Nashville label, Randy returned to his home label in the early 2000s with a statement. The award-winning Three Wooden Crosses, which he performed in an energetic performance at the Grand Ole Opry for television viewers nationwide at a 25th Anniversary appreciation telecast in the following video.
5. Black Dogs And Dirty Dancers
Starring in the 1998 film Black Dog, Randy portrayed Earl. A good-hearted accidental criminal who desired to be a country star, his character was written to be a poor singer who aspired to be a superstar. Dirty Dancing star Patrick Swayze is his co-star in the film, and gives him his blessing to be a promising musician in this plot-unfolding scene. The song in the scene is Randy's My Greatest Fear, which plays in full during the credits and is the starring feature on the soundtrack.
6. Bonus Offerings
The deluxe edition of Randy's comeback album Around The Bend featured a DVD with this emotional performance from his CMT Sessions 330 special of You Didn't Have A Good Time. A tune that encouraged every wild man who listened to it to take one extra glance in the mirror.
7. The American Idol
Rising star Carrie Underwood personally requested to have Randy Travis with her on her fantastic return to FOX's enormous hit American Idol. She just recently covered RT's I Told You So, and they belted out a timeless duet on a worldwide stage for millions to see and remember as the original writer/singer smiles in admiration.
8. Hard Rock Country Greatness
One of the catchier riffs in Randy's extensive catalog is housed within his legendary track Hard Rock Bottom Of Your Heart. This rare performance below may be the best method in which this timeless epic can be enjoyed. The lyrics, the words, the energy… off the charts.
9. DreamWorks Nashville Gets A Spark
After leaving Warner, Randy ended up on upstart DreamWorks Nashville in the late 1990s. One of the most renown artists the label recruited, the under-the-radar Out Of My Bones proved the legend still had it and could outdo the best the world had to offer.
10. Energetic Openers
Up until his recent tours, Randy has switched up his setlist order by occasionally opening with this fun lyrical gem that didn't last too long under the mainstream spotlight. This performance is from the It's Just A Matter Of Time 2000 DVD concert show and he uses verbiage which personifies the working man looking to reach a plateau of high-level success.
11. Lead Me Home
Still dabbling in acting, RT starred in the 2007 DVD film The Wager, along with Full House star Candace "DJ Tanner" Cameron-Bure. After a paparazzi onslaught where the intrusive reporter approached his wife coldheartedly, legendary actor Michael Steele reflected at home with his acoustic guitar and hit us with this emotional performance.
12. Saving A Child
The film mentioned above had many other memorable moments, including the one you will see below. Michael Steele (Randy Travis) has a premonition about a boy he is acquainted with being abused by his mother's conniving boyfriend. Steele leaves his red carpet movie premiere to save the day in this physical altercation.
13. Appreciating The Simple Things
In the 1990s, Nickelodeon made their stamp in animation with their Nicktoons brand. Hey Arnold was a particular favorite, and Randy's voice was dubbed over the weasel-voiced Mr. Hyunh's when he embarked on a country music career. The Simple Things was the name of the cut, and it remains a favorite topic at parties in nostalgic conversation even by people who aren't followers of country music. I can vouch for that.
14. It's Never Over
At the aforementioned Randy Travis 25th Anniversary TV special, there were several critically-acclaimed duets that graced the Opry stage. Here's one where RT and Underwood reunite, this time performing the classic hit Is It Still Over for all of the viewers to enjoy quite a bit.
15. Hey This Is Me!
One of the most beloved country ballads told from the perspective of a saddened ex-lover, This Is Me (of the similarly-titled album) received great airplay and was accompanied with an arena full of candlesticks for Randy to walk through on the music video presentation. Powerful and well-written. Simple message presented: Hey, this is ME you're not talking to…
16. Randy Meets The Terminator
In the VHS release Forever and Ever, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Randy Travis were separately interviewed discussing their mutual admiration for each other. Arnold declared himself to be Randy's biggest fan, Travis declared Arnold to be his workout/diet inspiration. It was a rare exchange between two pillars of success.
17. Can't Beat The Real Thing
Along with the help of his writer Don Schlitz, Randy successfully composed a commercial anthem and filmed the actual ad itself for the iconic Coca Cola brand. The commercial received huge positive reception and RT was allowed to discuss the making of the production during a featurette on the aforementioned Forever and Ever VHS release. Enjoy.
18. Awards Night
After lighting a new fire in the country scene during the late 1980s, it was no surprise at the American Music Awards when Randy Travis walked away with the Favorite Country Male 1989 award. Thankful and humble, it was well-deserved and not surprising.
19. Two Awards, One Night
Another award in the same night, Randy accepts appreciation from presenter Bobby Brown for the single I Told You So, while showing appreciation for producer Kyle Lehning and acknowledging the fact that the song was self-written by the singer himself. Classic.
20. The Upper Class Is No Fun
Possibly one of RT's funnest party-themed hits is Better Class Of Losers, which simply follows the concept of the proverbial lower deck of Titanic being more fun than the top deck (in an actual life setting, that is). It takes more than caviar to have a ball.
21. Special Performance For The US Military And President Bush
You know you have made it when your audience for a particular performance is the upper echelon of the US military and the First Family. The patriotic anthem in all its glory was performed for the country's finest for this truly red, white and blue session while everyone waved flags and sang along.
22. An Infomercial That Towered Over Ron Popeil
There were moments in the middle of the night where you'd wake up to see endless kitchen gadgets shilled. They would dissipate, and new ones would replace them. Then you'd have the privilege to have this be your 2 AM wake-up call. Randy Travis promoting a double cassette or CD option for mail-order purchase!
23. The Best Part Of Waking Up Is Folgers In Your Cup
Folgers made a name for themselves in the 90s by having music stars like acapella sensations Rockapella singing their famous jingles in commercials that aired incessantly. One of these selected stars was RT in 1996, who put his own country spin on the most renown coffee anthem.
24. Mothers Are Angels
The theme of mothers being angels to their children has been one that echoed throughout time. This feel good track entitled Angels snuck onto the scene and has been consistently appearing in DJ lists for selection at weddings to be featured in the mother-son dance tradition.
25. Rest In Peace George Jones
What better way to pay tribute to one of your idols by singing a themed-song about the legendary singer after his unfortunate passing? Incorporating the names of many of the late Possum's iconic songs and references into his latest single from Influence, Vol. 1, Randy nailed it with this classic performance recorded to be used as the promotional music video. RIP Possum.
26. Josh Meets Randy
After performing a cover of RT's Digging Up Bones in many of his concerts for years, Josh Turner finally got the chance to perform with his idol during the early years of the CMT Cross Country specials. In this video, Randy joins Josh on his hit single Would You Go With Me? for what many consider to be one of the best versions of the song.
27. Hindsight's 20/20
One of RT's most memorable hits was almost three minutes of the man longing for relationship mistakes he made back in 1982. That very year is the name of this classic cut, featured in an 80s TNN TV special.
28. No Place Like Home
The unreleased video for this incredible song finally surfaced on Randy's music video DVD. Powerful and simple video to accompany the song which is just as powerful.
29. Randy's Turn
During their legendary concert on CMT Cross Country, there was also time to play some gems from Randy's extensive catalog with Josh Turner's style infused. Timeless classic Deeper Than The Holler was one of the richest performances.
30. What'll You Do About Me?
Originally recorded by McGuffey Lane then by Steve Earle in 1984, Randy Travis took this song and immediately made it his own. A different song than many of the rest on the classic album Always and Forever, this gem may hide under the radar but is one you must hear.
31. Reaching For Inspiration
It is no secret that George Jones was a spirited and legendary artist, and one that RT looked up to. He had the privilege of both recording and performing this timeless duet with George known as Few Old Country Boys. Speaks volumes for what traditional country stands for.
32. Heroes And Friends
A standing ovation. Don Schlitz with the pencil. Randy Travis accompanied by a slew of country legends. Not much more to say on this iconic track from the album of the same name. The first incredible duets album Randy released.
33. Remastering Vern Gosdin
Exclusively sold at Cracker Barrel restaurants, this comes from a timeless album featuring country stars covering the trademark classics of other stars. Randy was given Vern Gosdin's Chiseled In Stone, and knocked it out of the park in this cut that floated under the radar due its limited release.
34. A Gift Of Love
Have you ever seen the fun kids movie Baby Geniuses? Remember the poignant ending credits anthem featuring a familiar voice? Also with a cameo in the film, RT was tapped to sing the movie's theme song featured in the movie's soundtrack. As a bonus, songwriter Brian Lambert has pushed and made possible for the full studio version to be obtained at iTunes! – https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/gift-of-love-single/id805328193.
35. Pray For The Fish
This fun cut from Randy's Rise And Shine album didn't get much radio play, but it could be heard occasionally live at his powerful live performances throughout the years. A comedic yet potent twist on the concept of redemption and rebirth.
36. Extreme Makeover
The popular home renovation television show Extreme Makeover received a special guest during one of their second season episodes. A charity concert to celebrate the rebuilding of a family's home featuring Randy and his new song at the time (entitled Four Walls) was shown on TV to ABC's millions of viewers. Emotional rendition.
37. Spirit Of A Boy
The journey of boyhood into manhood is regarded as one of the toughest transitions in a lifetime. Realizing mistakes, building upon them, weathering life's hardships, defeating the odds, resisting temptation – all of these are experienced among this seemingly lonesome road that you can only understand in your own shoes. Mainstream country radio may rarely play this 1998 anthem, but that cannot take away from its truth.
38. The King Of Late Night
You know someone has indeed made it when the legendary Johnny Carson would bring you out to the masses on his iconic Tonight Show. A showcase that became a piece of Americana, Carson's late night show and its viewers welcomed RT to the stage with It's Just A Matter Of Time.
39. Back To Awards Night
Years after being heralded as the champion of awards night, RT made his grand return in 2001 when Dierks Bentley and Sasha Alexander honored Three Wooden Crosses as the Song Of The Year. Deserved accolades for the rise of a legend to his deserved pedestal once again.
40. February Seven
North Carolina has produced many significant artists throughout the years. In 2012, folk music stars The Avett Brothers had asked Randy to participate with them in an episode of CMT Crossroads. Their performance of the Avett hit February Seven infused with RT's baritone voice garnered so much attention that a limited edition vinyl record single of the song was produced for sale shortly thereafter.
41. Reinventing Hal Ketchum
One of the standout tracks from country mainstay Hal Ketchum's 1996 hits album was a gem called Satisfied Mind. It boldly told the story of happiness in life outweighing the never-ending struggle of wealth vs. poverty, and was met with high praise. On his You And You Alone album, RT himself re-recorded this cut and put his signature vocal twist on it. Yet another underrated gem in Randy's seemingly endless catalog of hits.
42. My Daddy Never Was
During his epic string of religion-based releases, many casual fans aren't familiar with the fact that Randy did sing and release a few traditional country tunes sprinkled throughout. My Daddy Never Was is the poignant story of a man who attempted to be the father he never had while battling his own demons. A heartwrenching ballad about a broken family and the patriarch's inner desire to repair what has gone awry, featured on the album Passing Through.
43. Billboard Charts, 22 Hits
With 22 hits on the Billboard chart in history, RT stands in a class of his own. In 2012, Randy had the pleasure of sitting down with Billboard for an insightful interview recollecting on his past 25 years in the business, as well as the release of his 25th commemorative anniversary album. A nice inside look at Randy's views on his legacy and the importance of putting quality into his work.
44. You Can Be A Star
In 1988 on TNN's renown Country Kitchen television show, Randy Travis appeared as a guest as the height of his popularity continued to grow. The host surprised the star by pulling out a rare clip of RT singing a audition gem from his NashvillePalace album entitled You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet, submitted to the You Can Be A Star TV show in 1983. A rare look at the man then-known as Randy Ray.
45. On The Other Hand, By Keith Whitley?
Any longtime fan of country music is familiar with the Randy Travis staple On The Other Hand, and the story on how it took more than one attempt for it to catch fire during RT's beginnings. Unknown to many, the song was also recorded by the legendary late Keith Whitley. As possibly the only item on this list not featuring Randy directly, this recording can be envisioned as a talented tribute to Randy and one of his trademark songs.
46. In The Sweet By And By
Randy's impact on the religious community cannot be denied as he has countless renditions of covers in this genre, as well as original material. This live captivating performance of In The Sweet And By, RT takes it home with his touring band on a live televised performance. Positive Sunday morning wake-up music at its finest.
47. Unused Verse
When constructing his 25th Anniversary Celebration album, Randy came across a third unused verse from the original writing of the iconic Digging Up Bones. He proceeded to use the fun new piece in his duet with John Anderson for the official album, but also performed the entire version in a live acoustic solo performance at the Four Corners Banquet in 2013. A great performance with a modern twist indeed!
48. Come See About Me
Originally thought to be Elvis Presley concealed behind a pseudonym by many, the late Conway Twitty burst upon the music scene in the 50s. After a string of successful hits, Conway entered legendary status and is considered a forefather of the country scene. RT was lucky enough to enlist him for this fantastic duet from his Heroes & Friends album. This track was the definitive blend between past and future, with the traditional country sound threaded throughout.
49. Walking On Water
When asked what song in his catalog he can most identify with, Randy often answers with the classic He Walked On Water. Personally reminding RT of his loving grandparents, he always performs the song live or in-studio with the utmost emotion and power. Including during this fantastic live version from the It's Just A Matter Of Time live DVD from 2000.
50. Mutual Respect
At the American Country Music Awards, Carrie Underwood appeared to sing her version of I Told You So, and did the media walk with her good friend and writer of the classic ballad, Randy Travis. GAC TV was able to catch up with them in a poignant exchange where they credited each other for their talents and discussed the legacy behind the 1988 #1 hit.
51. World Turning For Me
No Holdin' Back was a timeless album for Randy Travis which held several classics within its record sleeve. He hits a level of emotion hardly seen in the music world when he explains the hardship of losing a lost love, while reminiscing on times when love was seemingly unbreakable. Professing the wish of being able to turn back time, RT hits it home with this country staple.
Whether it be family issues, love life issues or fast fun tracks, RT hits the complete spectrum when it comes to his recorded material. In 2002, Randy released a song and a video which demonstrates the hurt of being fatherless and the impact a dedicated stepfather/surrogate father can have on the life of the abandoned child. Truly inspiring with religious undertones, this song Raise Him Up is phenomenal.
53. Randy Travis + Steven Seagal = Epic Movie Theme Song
During his initial foray into acting, Randy Travis had a small role in Fire Down Below starring Steven Seagal. Playing a dastardly federal agent who had turned to the dark side, RT fails to take down the Aikido master but returns in the closing credits with the apropos theme song. It was also featured on the film's original soundtrack album.
54. Randy & The King
B.B. King and Randy Travis are both undoubtedly powerhouses in their genres of music. Endless songs and stories surround these two legends. And these two legends once came together for an epic performance on The Arsenio Hall Show, singing a live cut of Waiting On The Light To Change from the Heroes & Friends album. They follow up on Arsenio's couch doing some funny talk show banter. Rare yet fantastic.
Written by Randy himself and first appearing on his NashvillePalace album, Promises is an emotional ballad where he expresses promise in changing his ways to accommodate a failing relationship. However he knows the broken promises would amount to an insurmountable amount to where she would bid farewell. One of my all time favorites due its simplicity and display of human nature, this is the official Warner Bros. music video release.
Okay, now you may exhale.
Fifty-five moments of triumph, artistry and fun to commemorate the 55th birthday of the living legend Randy Travis. He has made a huge stamp on the legacy of country. After hearing of a successful birthday barbecue at his residential ranch last month, I have a great feeling that we will see Randy rise to prominence sooner than later. Limited photos have been released with him in the public eye once again, attending a Dolly Parton show as well as being seen with country star Neal McCoy. Standing with his trademark smile, RT has a focus and a drive to return to his genre of love — country music.
Continue to send the well-wishes, prayers, and celebrate Mr. Travis' contributions.
A young man named Randy Ray once said — "You ain't seen nothing yet."
Written for NashvilleGab by Anthony Maurizio – @antmaurizio