61 Years Ago: Randy Travis Is Born in Monroe, N.C.
Happy 61st birthday to Randy Travis! The singer was born on this day (May 4) in 1959, at Memorial Hospital in Monroe, N.C.
Travis was born Randy Bruce Traywick, the second of six children to Harold and Bobbie Traywick. Influenced by his father, who listened to country music, Travis and his brother Ricky performed around town as the Traywick Brothers. But in spite of their early popularity, the siblings often stayed on the wrong side of the law: Ricky Traywick spent time in jail for a car chase, while Travis was repeatedly arrested for numerous offenses.
In 1975, while his brother was in jail, Travis won a talent contest at a Charlotte, N.C., nightclub owned by Elizabeth "Lib" Hatcher, who offered Travis a regular performance slot at the bar, as well as a job as a cook. Unfortunately, Travis was still struggling to keep on the straight and narrow. He was arrested yet again, with the judge issuing one final warning that if he appeared in court one more time, he would spend a long time in prison. The judge released Travis into Hatcher's care, and she became his manager.
Travis' self-titled debut album, Randy Traywick, was released in 1978 on Paula Records. It failed to produce any hit singles. In 1982, Travis and Hatcher, who had been living together, moved to Nashville and earned the attention of Warner Bros., which suggested that Travis change his name from Randy Traywick to Randy Travis.
By this time, Travis and Hatcher's business relationship had blossomed into romance, in spite of the fact that Hatcher was 16 years his senior, although they kept it a secret for several years.
"I was uncomfortable talking about it," Travis told People magazine at the time, "but I've learned to deal with it and not worry about it."
WATCH: Unforgettable Randy Travis Moments
Travis' debut album on Warner Bros., Storms of Life, was released in 1986. The first single, "On the Other Hand," peaked at No. 67, but the second single, "1982," landed in the Top 10. Fresh off that success, the label re-released "On the Other Hand," which this time shot straight to the top of the charts.
The success of Storms of Life kicked off a series of hits for Travis: His next four albums -- Always & Forever, Old 8x10, No Holdin' Back and Heroes & Friends -- went straight to No. 1 and featured a series chart-topping hits, including "Too Gone Too Long," "I Told You So," "Forever and Ever, Amen" and "Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart." Travis also became a member of the Grand Old Opry in 1986 and won a series of awards, including CMA Awards, ACM Awards and Grammy Awards.
In the '90s, Travis released several more albums, including the gold-selling This Is Me in 1994 and You and You Alone in 1998, the latter of which was his first on the DreamWorks record label. But he also turned his attention to acting, starring in a series of movies including A Holiday to Remember, The Rainmaker and Baby Geniuses, among others.
“If you’re going to succeed in the film business — just like in the music business — you have to be serious and apply yourself and be willing to put the time into doing smaller projects to work your way up,” Travis tells Country Weekly. “I’ve had to beg for every part I’ve gotten."
By the start of the new millennium, Travis was focused on a career in gospel music, releasing six faith-based albums, including Rise and Shine in 2002, which spawned the No. 1 single "Three Wooden Crosses."
Unfortunately, Travis faced personal, legal and health troubles as his music career waned. He divorced Hatcher in 2010 and was arrested numerous times in the years following. In February of 2012, Travis was arrested in Texas for public intoxication, and again the following August, also in Texas, for driving while intoxicated, along with retaliation. He was placed on probation, paid a hefty fine and was given a suspended sentence of 180 days in jail.
LOOK: Randy Travis Through the Years
On July 7, 2013, Travis was hospitalized in critical condition due to complications of viral cardiomyopathy. While in the hospital, he had a stroke, which left him unable to speak. At the end of the month, he was moved to a private care facility to continue his rehabilitation process.
“He’s getting his voice back now, little by little,” Travis' father said in early 2014.
But Travis had some good news in the middle of all of his struggles. His Influence Vol. 1: The Man I Am album was released on Oct. 1, 2013, with Influence Vol. 2: The Man I Am released on Aug. 19, 2014.
"Words can never express my gratitude to those who continue to believe in me, pray for me and keep me lifted up in thought and deed," it said in part. "The kind cards and heartfelt letters of testimony and encouragement brought me through the darkest of days. Mary read each and every one of them to me, and I felt the love and concern being sent my way; and, I gathered strength from this. None of us are worthy of the immense outpouring of support shown to me, and I consider each of my fans, a friend. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
It was also revealed that Travis had secretly married his longtime fiancée, Mary Davis, on March 21, 2015. The couple, who have been together since before his stroke, remain optimistic about his recovery.
“The music does come easy,” Davis reveals. “He plays every single chord, and he knows all the words.”
Travis joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016; he continues to make progress in his recovery from his stroke. Although he still hasn't performed, in early 2019, he made a surprise appearance onstage at a Cody Jinks show, after the artist covered Travis' "Diggin' Up Bones." In May of 2019, Travis released his memoir, Forever and Ever Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith and Braving the Storms of Life.
This story was originally written by Gayle Thompson, and revised by Annie Zaleski.
WATCH: 5 Lessons We've Learned From Randy Travis