Ten Favorite Randy Travis Songs

North Carolina Native Turns 59 May 4

Apart from George Strait, who seemed to create his own category, Randy Travis stood tallest among the “New Traditionalists” who brought so much excitement to country music during the 1980s.

This tribe of young males also included such back-to-basic figures as Ricky Skaggs, Dwight Yoakam, John Anderson and Ricky Van Shelton.

Ebet Roberts/Redferns

He was born Randy Traywick May 4, 1959 in Marshville, N.C. into a family that loved country music. He became something of a hellion in his teenage years and was facing jail time for a series of minor offenses until an understanding judge released him into the custody of Elizabeth “Lib” Hatcher in whose Charlotte nightclub he had been performing.

Impressed by his rich, resonant singing voice and skill as a songwriter, Hatcher moved with him to Nashville in 1981, where he took a job as a dishwasher at the Nashville Palace club near what was then the Opryland theme park. There, between bouts in the kitchen, he would go out on stage and sing under the name Randy Ray.

Beth Gwinn/Redferns

Finally, he was signed by a talent scout for Warner Bros. Records, where he debuted as Randy Travis. His first single for the label, “On the Other Hand,” went No. 1 in 1985. From there on it was bright lights all the way.

During his recording career, Travis charted 50 singles, 16 of which went No. 1. Among the chart-toppers were “Forever and Ever Amen,” “I Told You So,” “Too Gone Too Long” and “Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart.”

Because he was shy and not known to date anyone, rumors persisted that Travis was gay. In 1991, the singer interrupted his performance at the annual Country Radio Seminar to angrily deny a story to that effect that has just appeared in The National Enquirer. That same year, he married the considerably older Hatcher. They would remain wed until 2010.

The New Traditionalists — again excepting Strait — were somewhat eclipsed in the early 1990s by the meteoric rise of such stars as Garth Brooks and Clint Black. During that decade, Travis hits became fewer, although partly because he had moved from Nashville to Hawaii and was also acting in movies. His last No. 1, the religiously tinged, “Three Wooden Crosses,” came in 2002.

After his divorce from Hatcher, Travis embarked on series of drinking escapades near his ranch in Texas that led to his being arrested, fined and sentenced to probation. In 2013, he suffered a near-fatal stroke that cost him both his mobility and his singing voice, a tragedy from which he is still recovering under the care of his second wife, Mary.

In 2016, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum

Here are 10 songs that illustrate the starry trajectory of Travis’ career:

  • “On the Other Hand”

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    Songwriters: Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz

  • “Forever and Ever Amen”

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    Songwriters: Overstreet and Schlitz

  • “I Told You So”

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    Songwriter: Travis

  • “Diggin’ Up Bones”

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    Songwriters: Overstreet, Nat Stuckey and Al Gore

  • “He Walked on Water”

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    Songwriter: Allen Shamblin

  • “Heroes and Friends”

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    Songwriters: Schlitz and Travis

  • “Better Class of Losers”

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    Songwriters: Songwriters: Alan Jackson and Travis

  • “If I Didn’t Have You”

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    Songwriters: Max D. Barnes and Skip Ewing

  • “The Box”

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    Songwriters: Buck Moore and Travis

  • “Three Wooden Crosses”

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    Songwriters: Doug Johnson and Kim Williams

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.