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.
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.
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).
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.