Randy Travis has had one heck of a career. From ushering in a new wave of country music to conquering Hollywood, there’s not much Travis hasn’t done. But there’s plenty about the singer that casual country fans don’t know, too. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Randy Travis.
10. He changed his name to honor his favorite artist
Randy Travis’ real name is Randy Traywick. He used his real name for a while, even recording an album under it, before adopting the stage name “Randy Ray.” Eventually he changed his stage name to Randy Travis in honor of Merle Travis, one of his musical heroes. Merle Travis passed away in 1983, two years before Randy achieved success with the new moniker.
9. He never finished school past 9th grade
Perpetually fighting with his father, Travis dropped out of school in the 9th grade and never looked back. He left behind the duo he had formed with his brother and instead turned to a life of mischief. While he never finished his book learnin’, he obviously learned a lot of things that helped him write incredible songs.
8. He spent most of his youth in trouble with the law
Randy Travis spent most of his teenage years getting arrested for breaking and entering, drinking, drugs, auto theft and a litany of other crimes. His older brother even landed in jail after a high-speed car chase. He finally straightened up when the judge, who was a family friend, told him he couldn’t save him anymore and he was facing years in prison. Elizabeth Hatcher, a club owner who saw promise in Travis’ budding singing career, took him under her guardianship to save him from prison.
7. He was a cook at his first regular music venue
When Travis moved to Nashville, Hatcher also began managing a club called The Nashville Palace. She gave Travis a job cooking and washing dishes as well as regularly performing on the stage. It was crucial for his development and following in town.
6. His first marriage was to his manager
Though Travis’ relationship with Hatcher started in a guardianship, it eventually evolved into a romance. Hatcher divorced her husband and she and Travis began seeing each other. They didn’t marry until 1991, however, and were often required to keep their relationship quiet at the behest of the industry. They divorced in 2010.
5. He was rejected by every label in town — twice
After releasing a relatively unsuccessful album as Randy Traywick for Paula Records, Travis was rejected by every label in town — “twice,” as he recalled in a 1989 article. They said he was “too country.” So, he released an independent record under the name Randy Ray, recorded live at The Nashville Palace. He played a steady stream of shows in town, and as artists like George Strait came along, he got another shot at a deal. He signed with Warner Bros. Records in 1985.
4. His first album influenced a whole wave of “neotraditional” country
Randy Travis’ debut record is far more influential than many realize. Storms of Life produced two No. 1’s, a No. 2 and a No. 6. A recent Billboard article shared the significance of the debut. KRTY radio programmer Julie Stevens said, “I wouldn’t just say Storms of Life changed country music: I’d say it saved country music.” The vice president of music programming for CBS Radio Detroit Tim Roberts called it “one of the most -important and impactful country albums of all time.” The neotraditional movement skyrocketed after Travis’ success and helped ease the urban cowboy movement started years prior.
3. He has more Grammy’s for gospel albums than country
Randy Travis has a boatload of hardware for his successes. In 2000, he shifted his focus from traditional country to gospel. Surprisingly, he’s since received more Grammy awards for his gospel albums than country. He won the Best Gospel Album grammy three times. He also has two for Best Male Country Performance and one for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. He’s also won 8 Dove awards (for Christian music), 6 CMAs, 9 ACMs, and 10 AMAs.
2. He remarried his longtime fiancé in 2015 after his health issues
After suffering a terrible stroke in 2013, Randy Travis began fighting an uphill battle to save not just his career, but his life. Along the way, his long-time fiancé Mary Davis stuck by his side. Travis and Davis wed in Denton, Texas in 2015. Davis has been a big part of Travis’ recovery, whose physical therapy sessions with her by his side have proved nearly miraculous.
1. He became more known for his acting than his singing in the 2000s
Travis began acting in the early 90s, but he really dove headfirst around 1997. He largely left commercial country music in 1999 in favor of gospel music. That meant that most people were more likely to see Travis on the silver screen or TV screen than hear him on the radio. His starring alongside big names like Patrick Swayze, Ashton Kutcher and Matt Damon turned him into a bona fide movie star. He recently played a dying country star in the film, The Price.