Consider 1986 the year Randy Travis' career as a country singer broke. His mainstream debut Storms of Life became an instant classic, and a prior single, "On the Other Hand," got a second chance to claim its rightful spot atop the Billboard charts.
Even with those sudden life changes for Travis, who'd spent previous years cooking catfish at the Nashville Palace while dreaming of playing the Opry House across the street, he gladly jumped at the chance to be a curtain jerker on the Country Explosion package tour with two of his honky-tonk heroes, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn.
During these tour stops, Twitty noticed that Travis wasn't just trying to fill the shoes of Hank Williams, George Jones, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. The "Diggin' Up Bones" singer already filled an invaluable role for fans starving to hear the new voice of traditional country music.
Twitty was so impressed by Travis that he suggested a lineup change to tour manager Jeff Davis.
"Before a show in Tempe, Arizona in November, Conway called Jeff over to his bus," Travis wrote in his autobiography, Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith and Braving the Storms of Life. "'I've been watching what's going on every night,' Conway told Jeff, 'And Randy is coming on strong. I think that tonight Randy should close the show.' Conway suggested that I follow Loretta and him."
Travis initially said no.
"I didn't mean that I wouldn't be honored or that I couldn't do the job, but that I respected Conway and Loretta too much to be their closing act," Travis adds in his book. "But Conway was both a brilliant entertainer and a good businessman. He had an innate sense for what worked, and he never let his ego get in the way of a great show. He insisted that I close the show and so, with a bit of trepidation, I did. From that night on, for the remainder of that tour, I closed the show every night. The two gracious superstars provided me with the opportunity to be a headliner, and I appreciated it."
Twitty knew how to pick a winner, considering Travis went on to best represent a nostalgic approach to country music in a time span that's brought us great music by George Strait, Dwight Yoakam, Ricky Skaggs, Clint Black, Gene Watson and others.
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