As a kid who spent most of his teen years in the 1980's, it was out of the ordinary (or so it seemed) to be a country music fan at such a young age. While most kids my age were rockin' out to the hair bands of the day (think Poison, Twisted Sister, and the like), I was happy listening to Conway Twitty, Eddie Rabbitt, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and George Jones. If I wanted to put some rock in to my life, I would fire up the Alabama records. Country music seemed to be on the fringe of popularity at that time, at least in my opinion, as I look back upon those days. But in 1986, things were about to change, and this change led directly to the next step that brought country music to the world conscience, and it remains there to this day.
If Ricky Scaggs opened the door just a crack in the early 1980's for a newcomer to start making some headway in Nashville, Randy Travis left the door splintered as he stormed through in 1986. Randy was seemlingly what Nashville wanted at the time -- good looking and talented, with a pure, soulful country singer voice and best of all, he was YOUNG. The country music industry hadn't experienced as youthful a country singer in nearly a generation and it was time to work their magic and make young Randy Travis a star. And it worked. It worked in spades.
With the top ten success of his second single, "1982", Randy Travis quickly went from unknown newcomer, to country music's biggest superstar seemingly overnight. His debut album, "Storms of Life", was honored as album of the year at the annual Country Music Association awards and the Academy of Country Music in 1986 and 1987 respectively. His follow-up album, "Always and Forever", afforded even bigger hits and bigger album sales. Most importantly, at least for the Nashville music industry, they now had their superstar that transcended generations. Kids my age, seemingly everyone, knew the name and music of Randy Travis. Superstar status, indeed. His face and music was everywhere. Travis' initial breakthrough led to the ultimate breakthrough of talent three short years later, with the infamous Class of '89. In case you aren't familiar with that group, the Class of '89 yielded the following talent: Clint Black, Travis Tritt, Vince Gill, Lorrie Morgan, Alan Jackson and the newest inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Garth Brooks. I don't think I need to elaborate on the influence these artists have had on music over the last 20 plus years.
When considering all of this and the influence Randy Travis has had on modern country music, I find the events of his recent personal life very sad and troubling. It's one thing to get caught being intoxicated in public, it's quite another when one is walking around intoxicated in public naked. This speaks to something far greater than a problem with alcohol. This is a cry for help.
There will be many questions as to what's happening with Randy Travis in the coming days, weeks and months, and hopefully we'll find out some answers. One has to wonder what has precipitated this obvious downfall. Recent success with the Carrie Underwood cover of one of Travis' biggest hits, "I Told You So", of which Randy had more than a guest vocal on, seemd to bring Randy Travis back in the spotlight. Carrie even brought Randy with her for an appearance on American Idol, which introduced Travis to a whole new generation of fans. Perhaps the downfall can be traced to events shortly after that appearance. His long-time marriage ended ubruptly and not without bitterness. His recent 25 year anniversary album, and this is an uneducated guess, I don't believe has sold particulary well ... even though it's a great album. You would like to think that one could rise above these tough life events. But it can be very tough for some people.
What seems to be happening with Randy Travis is something larger, something bigger than the music. This is a man's life that is at stake. A lot of websites are discussing and reporting on these recent events, and the comments at the bottom of the story are what you would typically expect from certain elements of the public. You won't find comments like that here, at least not from me. It's the same reason I won't publish a negative album or concert review. I don't believe writing blog posts such as that are productive. Negativity only breeds more negativity. Instead, I will only write that I wish Randy Travis the best. I hope that he can get the help he needs, the help that he is crying out for. I hope he finds the support from his friends, fans and peers in the music industry that can help him get through whatever issues he's facing right now. And yes, I will be saying a prayer for him. Whether you love or hate his music, let's all hope he can turn his life around becaue after all, we're talking about a persons life.