My Life and Times with Randy Travis

RMlogo My Life and Times with Randy Travis

His real name is Randy Traywick. He changed it to “Travis” back in the ’80s, as he was becoming famous in Nashville. Randy and I went to middle and high school together. I don’t recall if he graduated from high school. His family was like ours (dysfunctional), and placing a premium on completing school was not a thing.

A Talented Family

He had a brother one year older, named Ricky. Ricky was the same age as my brother, Gary. Randy and I were the same age; I am one day younger. The Traywicks lived outside Marshville, NC, on a farm. They loved horses and had a beautiful piece of property.

The Traywick family was not wealthy but appeared to have it more together than we did. Randy’s dad had a room in their home for playing instruments and practicing for different events. Joey (my brother) sang with them once upon a time. I remember them doing an excellent rendition of “The House of the Rising Sun” for a school talent show. Ricky was more talented instrumentally and a better singer. He was the lead, but it was Randy who caught the break.

Our Shenanigans

One evening a group of us stole a couple of cases of empty drink bottles at a store near the Traywick home. Bottled sodas came in wooden crates that held 24 of them. We drove the roads, throwing the bottles at mailboxes. There was no good reason for doing this; we were dumb, country kids with no aim or aspiration for our lives.

Another time Gary, Ricky, Randy, and I broke into a local black church building for the fun of it. I was preaching, my brother was pretending to take the offering, and the Traywick boys were singing. The irony is that what we were doing eventually defined our lives. I went into the ministry. Gary became money-centered, and the Traywick boys focused on the music industry.

Weird, right?

And then there was the time when we skipped school and spent the day on Lake Lee, killing sea monsters.

Christians ponder, at times, on why the world is the way it is. They view the troubles in our culture through their “Christianized lenses,” as though how they believe and behave is how things ought to be. They have difficulty understanding why unregenerate people do the dumbest, vilest, and most ungodly things. I’m not confused like that. I understand fully how life can be without God, and there is no end or off-limits to the depravity of the human mind.

I lived it.

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:10-18).

What Happened

Gary went into the military when he was seventeen. Randy went to Nashville, and you can Google the rest of his story. Ricky went to prison. I got married and started carving out a traditional life. 

The Lord saved Ricky.

In 1989, I went home to “look him up” to see how he was doing. He was singing at a local church, and doing small-time gigs wherever he could. Gary pulled twenty-plus in the Army and retired in his early 40s.

Randy made millions.

After I moved to Greenville, SC, to attend Bible college, I was in a Sky City store (i.e., Walmart), and passed the music section. I saw an album cover that had “Randy Travis” written over it in a big font. I just happened to see the pic, and it had an uncanny resemblance to Randy Traywick. I stopped. I stared. I went on my way.

A few weeks later, I was talking to my mother. She asked if I had heard what happened to Randy Traywick. I said, “No,” and she told me about the name change and path to success.

On the humorous side, the town of Marshville put “The Home of Randy Travis” above their “Welcome to Marshville” sign that leads into town. It’s on Hwy 74. Most of the folks who cared about their little community were glad to get rid of him. But after his fame, he became one of their favorite sons.

People are funny like that.

I did ask Ricky in 1989 what he thought about his little brother becoming famous. I was thinking specifically about Ricky being a better talent. He said that he had to work through it.

Good for him.

My Probation Officer Was a Nice Man Who Gave Me Hope

RMlogo My Probation Officer Was a Nice Man Who Gave Me Hope

Probation was two years. It did not infringe on anything, other than a regularly scheduled meeting with a nice man. I’m not sure when or why they stopped, but they did. I wish I knew his name. You can find encouragement in the strangest places; it was my probation office whom the Lord used to move me farther along, and eventually finding Him.

What You Want to Do?

Mr. Probation Man asked me during one of our times together what I wanted to do with my life. I told him that I wanted to finish high school, go to college, get an excellent job, and have a family. He told me that I was an unusual juvenile. Most of them did not have ambition, other than more crime. I was so encouraged that I wanted to get mom a, “My son is the best juvie on probation” bumper sticker for her car.

One of the questions he asked me was whether I was going to commute to college. I had never heard that word in my life. Being the cool kid that I was, I gave him a half-baked answer, hoping it would not reveal my ignorance. I said that I had not decided yet. After I got home, I looked up commute in the dictionary to see what I had not decided yet.

Whew! I out smarted him!

Walk This Way

The most significant benefit of the arrest and probation is how it stung me enough to pause and think about what I was doing with my life. Robby was already in prison. Joey was not doing well, and they were about to incarcerate him. They arrested Gary and Dwayne with me, so their lives were circling the drain too.

Dad was a habituated drunk, and mom was sleeping around with many men, including the police force. Let’s just say that my family was out of control. I had to decide if I was going to walk their way or make an about-face.


If you don’t know the Lord and want to change yourself, you pay attention to what’s working with others, assuming it’s legal, and you model it. So I cut my hair, stopped cursing, drinking, and smoking. Those things were the natural, common-sense things to amputate.

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell (Matthew 5:29-30).

I figured I would limp through high school since I had no college plans. (I wish someone would have helped me to think about college and show me what I needed to do to get there.) I chose, instead, to become successful since I had a solid work ethic. I worked wherever I could.

I left home and moved into Mama Grant’s house when I was fifteen, and walked away from the 15 years of dysfunction that I had known. The next ten years were various forms of self-reformation, which had successes and failures.

My Plan

My formula was simple. Get a job, save money, find a wife, and live happily ever after. What could possibly go wrong with that?

I had a job; I was finishing up high school, and I was saving money. Self-reform was in full effect. There were good times ahead, no doubt.

I did note how there was still something missing inside of me, even with the determination and plan to self-reform.


As early as I can remember I’ve always been in search of my niche in life. And, on occasion, I fell into certain things where I lucked up. (A non-Calvinistic term) 

There were a few areas where there was moderate success. I typically did well in verbal areas like an interview context for our high school DECA class. Or being the orator at the school play. One area that I fell into was putt-putt. I went to a Charlotte Professional Putt-Putt Course and played one day. I saw they had a tournament and decided to enter it. I liked it and figured I was going to make 100,000 as a Professional Putt-Putt Champion. I suppose I didn’t do well that night, I don’t remember. But I do remember getting hooked. I would go up on Mondays as early as I could after work and practice for hours to get ready for the tournament that night.

During this time I met Putt-Putt friends and developed a few relationships. We had a good thing going. We also had a system. We would put dings in the sides of the metal rails (if it was a bank shot) so we would know exactly where to hit the ball to get it in. It was not a matter of aiming at the hole on most shots. It was much easier than that. We would aim at the ding on the rail about 3 or 10 or whatever feet in front of you. If you hit the spot and had the right speed, then it was nearly impossible to miss.

The real challenge was that all the regulars knew this so it was still a matter of some skill since we all were doing the same thing. It became a battle of who could do it better. The rookies didn’t have this advantage so they were never a challenge unless one was exceptionally skilled w/o the inside information.

There was one night that was one of those nights where I was on fire. I birdied 8 out of 9 holes on the front nine. Par was 36 for the whole course. I was sitting at 10 under on the front nine. Eighteen would be par on the front nine, smok’in. I three-putted (bogeyed) on the back nine, birdied and pared the rest of the way. I shot a 23 if I remember correctly, which means I birdied 13 out of 18 holes. It was the night of my life. It felt good. The trophy on that night was mine. It was my fifteen minutes of fame. That was a memory.


I remember one time sitting on the bank of Lake Twitty. It was the fall of the year I believe. I remember this because I was looking up through the trees and they had no leaves on them. The Lake was not a lake at that time. They were digging it out. Part of it used to be my grandparent’s property. They sold it for virtually nothing because Bubber didn’t know any better and my grandpa had died. They dug out a lake, made a reservoir and that was that.

Before it was filled-in with water I used to go down and walk around in the empty canyon of a lake. It was where our favorite creek ran, where we used to camp out, swim, swing into and more. Anyway, one day I was sitting on that bank contemplating. I looked up to the sky and thought that I was put on earth for some reason which I did not know at that time. Life seemed a lot bigger than just a 12-year old kid living on Olive Branch Road. There had to be more, but I had no idea what the “more” was. This was the first triggering in my soul that transformed me into a “compelled” man. I was put on earth for something special. It was still a mystery however. When Mrs. Russian, my tenth grade typing substitute teacher, told me in front of the class that I was going to do something important in life it just confirmed what happened that day sitting on the bank of Lake Twitty. It was a moment of powerful clarity. I never forgotten that subjective moment.

Now the question remained, “What was my purpose in life?” To get that answer I had to make some decisions. I didn’t feel like school was that place for my discovery. It was too painful and a seemingly necessary evil. However, I did find out that I had game in the workplace. Therefore, throughout my life I have been obsessing in every job I have ever had. For that matter anything that I found out that I could do well, I went to the extreme in the doing of it. This is why I couldn’t be satisfied with just running around my country block of three miles. I had to train for a marathon and blow out my leg. I couldn’t be satisfied with a simple bike ride with the boys; I had to go on a 100 mile bike trek and blow out my knee again. I couldn’t settle with being an average worker. I had to excel more than my peers. I set very high standards for myself and it was not odd for me to impose those standards on anyone especially management types who didn’t do things the way I expected them to do them. As you can imagine I set myself up for disappointment for most of my work career. I was fired at 13 or 14 years of age from Judd’s Restaurant because the future owners were stealing from the boss and I retaliated by not helping the wife serve customers. I would make coffee for the other waitresses as an offer to help. I would not make coffee for her. She was offended and I was fired. I don’t know how it happened, but I know it happened right after that night of not submitting to her. Later I ran into politics in the workplace. This was a brutal discovery and one that took me about 30 years to understand. Boy, am I stupid or what?


Sometime during the Prince Electric and/or Delaval years I took to pretty extensive exercising. I first began by running. I decided I wanted to run a marathon. Greta Weitz was a world famous runner at that time. She ran in the Charlotte Marathon. I decided I would run in the 10K or 5K, I can’t remember. They had a big pasta meal the night before and Greta was there. She may have spoke, I don’t remember. I don’t remember if Penny went with me or not. I went to the meal. It was so not me to do something like that. I don’t remember if I ate with anyone, met anyone, sat with anyone or whatever. I don’t remember. I showed up the next day and ran the race. I don’t remember how I did. It was pretty average, I’m sure.

From there I wanted to run a marathon. I began to train more intensely. I was running about 9 miles one afternoon and I felt something in my right side-knee area snap. It was a terrible pain. I was 1.5 miles away from home. I decided to run on in. It was not a good choice, but I had to get home. It was a day w/o cell phones, imagine that. I hobbled in. My knee has never been the same. It was checked out one time, but they couldn’t find anything. I can run and walk and ride a bike in a limited way, but if I push it the pain will kick in. It’s been that way for 25 years.

From there I took up riding. Like most things I was an incessant rider and it wasn’t long before I was doing 100 mile bike treks. And it wasn’t long before the same thing happened to my knee. It went out again and this time I was 25 miles from the house, but I wanted to do the 100 miles so I rode it on in and that was pretty much the end of my biking days.

Boy, did we have fun. One time I was coming across Skyway Drive and I spotted a dump truck at a traffic sign. I got behind it before it took off and when it did take off I began to draft the dump truck. I had a “cat eye” computer on my bike and before long I was drafting above 55 mph. It was a surreal moment. It was a dumb moment I suppose. But it was fun. I decided to pull out of the draft because he couldn’t see me back there. I was drafting anywhere from 5 to 12 inches from the truck.

When we made the long trips we would ride in-line and let one person take the brunt of the wind on point. We would draft behind and then take turns. It was the fun times for sure. I really do miss those day.