This year has been a whirlwind for Opry favorite Randy Travis – celebrating the 35th year anniversary of his groundbreaking debut LP, Storms of Life, with a remastered release of it and being named “Artist of a Lifetime” by CMT, feted by Garth Brooks and newcomer Kane Brown. Not to mention, he’s celebrating his 35th anniversary as an Opry member in 2021 as well.

Randy spent some time with us, taking a trip down memory lane to talk about life and getting started, his new album, the Opry, and more.

Randy Travis Full Color
Randy Travis 2021.

First Impressions

Randy recalled that his first visit to the Grand Ole Opry was at the impressionable age of 10, and that he and his family went multiple times after that over the years.

“I was always in awe and anxious for the next time Dad would say ‘Load up!’ I loved going so much," he recalled.

Once he moved to Nashville as an adult in the early 1980s, he saw several shows at the Opry while writing originals and attempting to break into the business. He now marvels at his good fortune to have played on the stage so many times and to be a part of the Opry legacy.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would one day be up there on that stage, in that sacred circle… it was much too grand for the dreams of this simple, country kid from Union County, North Carolina.”

Early Nashville Struggles

Randy maintained his faith in his artistry and the path he was on during those lean, pre-success years in Nashville.

“I don’t know if I was just plain stubborn, or if I didn’t have sense enough to vacillate with the whims of the current winds (of the record labels and the industry). Either way, I knew I only wanted to make and sing traditional country music. When asked to ‘try’ something different because I was ‘too country,’ I took my country self to the next listening ear in hopes of finding someone who believed in the music I loved. People were hungry for traditional country music but radio was only feeding them ‘pop country.'”

On whether performing helped sustain him during that time, Randy said, “Playing anywhere there was a live audience gave me energy. They are the ones that encouraged me to continue my path. To this day, I owe my fans a debt of gratitude for their unbelievable support over the years –I’m blessed!”

Randy Travis 80s, singing
Randy Travis singing in the 1980s.

First Time Stepping into the Circle

“My initial appearance came as a surprise to me, as well as the audience, when in 1985, Little Jimmy Dickens coaxed me on as we stood side stage. He had come to the Nashville Palace earlier in the evening to grab a bite to eat (where I was working as a cook). He asked me to ‘come go with him over to the Opry’ when he left.

“I couldn’t pass up that opportunity, so I threw off my apron and donned my most presentable jacket. I thought I was going as his guest and was going to get to watch from the back instead of the front for once!

“Well, when Little Jimmy’s segment of the show came along, he pushed me out there in front of God and everybody—I was singing on that sacred stage. I was real nervous but I loved the feel of it… I loved the folks of the Opry… I loved Little Jimmy Dickens (for doing that).

“Subsequently, I made several other guest appearances, and in March of 1986, was asked to be a member. This little boy's wildest dreams were coming true. This was before my first album, Storms of Life, was released. I was inducted in December of  ’86, and, I was only an audience member for special events from then on. It’s still a great honor to this day to be a part of the Opry family. Always a home to go to!”

The Show that Changed Everything

Randy fondly recalled what led up to him winning a talent contest in Charlotte that jumpstarted his whole career.

“My brother, Ricky, and I had played all over Union and surrounding areas for years. Moving into a larger market, like Charlotte, was an adventure. We entered a competition that (the club) Country City USA was having. We made it to the finals, but Ricky wasn’t able to make the date when (it) came around, so I performed on my own… and won.

“Frank and Elizabeth Hatcher owned Country City and took a liking to my voice… I wasn’t very polished for sure and I didn’t have any stage presence. I just went up there and sang, and then walked off! I was 17 and had my share of self-inflicted troubles from misbehaving. Frank and Elizabeth promised the judge I would stay out of trouble and a job at their club. They were given custody of me. Life was different after that.”

Randy Travis, Carrie Underwood Invite
Randy Travis and Carrie Underwood on her Opry member invite night, 2008.

The Debut Album

When it came to settling on the songs that ultimately became his debut album, Storms of Life, (recently re-released with great bonus tracks that didn’t make the final cut), Randy said, “There were 20 songs recorded and we had to narrow it to 10 since this was my freshman attempt and Warner [Music] would only finance that many – that was pretty standard at the time.

“Ultimately we agreed on the 10 that made it – and they made Storms of Life the album it is today.  I remain very proud of those choices to this day.”

Regarding his influences for singing and songwriting for that debut, Randy said, “I loved Johnny Cash and his style. He had a mysterious greatness and sang sad songs I guess I related to. The song ‘Send My Body’ was in the vein of Cash and Haggard – both of which I admired. I can’t tell you exactly what inspired it – maybe I shouldn’t have watched so many westerns.”

When asked about the Storms of Life cover – the trend at the time was to have a big color headshot of the artist and storm was unusual – monochromatic, pictorial, reminiscent of a Dust Bowl photo of the 1930s and Randy was small in the picture, turned away from the camera.

“It was very different from the norm at the time. I didn’t have a recognizable face or name, so there wasn’t much use in plastering (it) across an album sleeve. That old country store said it all.

“It reminded me of home… the wise gentlemen in the rocking chairs on the porch — they could certainly tell you about storms in life. To this day, I believe our greatest lessons can be learned sitting on an old porch, downloading the minds of the older generation – they have stories the Internet will never know.”

Randy Travis_StormsOfLife(35thAnniversary)-FNL
Randy Travis Storms of Life 35th Anniversary Deluxe Album

Help us celebrate one of our most beloved Opry members on his 35th anniversary and listen to his 35th anniversary remastered deluxe debut album, Storms of Life, now.