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.

Streaking, Throwing Eggs, and Destroying an Airplane

RMlogo Streaking, Throwing Eggs, Destorying an Airplane

I wrote the purpose of these blogs in my “Apology” for this website. I need to say this to you because of the next batch of family stories. I write these posts for my children. I want them to know what it was like for the “Thomas boys.” One of the biggest problems we have in our country today is that there are several generations who have no clue what it is like to suffer. They have only known a flourishing America. To forget where you came from is to slip into things you’ll regret.

Our three children have lived a blessed life, and they will tell you that if you ask. They do not have my categories, experiences, or darkness. I’m not writing to glorify an evil past (or brag or “one-up” you, or any other misguided interpretation). I want our children to know that God’s grace works and the gospel transforms. I don’t want them to assume they can deviate from God’s path, and it will go well for them.

I began my life by walking down an evil path, and then I found the gospel (Christ). Our children have never known anything but a gospel environment. I want them to see how things could be if they choose to walk from the blessedness of all that they have known.

They Call Him the Streak

We five brothers were notorious for doing pranks. Some of them were fun and funny, while others were mean and regretful. In the mid-seventies, streaking was a big rage. Remember Ray Stevens? To streak, you have to get bum-naked and run through a crowd of people.

One day, I was perusing the Monroe Enquirer and saw a picture of my brother (Gary) on the front page. Yes, the big picture that they put at the top. He was sitting on the back of a rag-top, naked, riding down the main drag of Wingate College (now Wingate University). The front page! Literally. I was so impressed at his boldness and thankful it was not me.

The Egg Caper

My grandfather had chicken eggs. Lots of them. Papa Grant had an entrepreneurial spirit, though he was more like Fred G. Sanford than anyone else. He had scores of washing machines, dryers, and refrigerators in his yard.

Mama Grant accepted it.

One evening Robby and Joey stole some eggs from our grandfather and took them to Wingate College and began throwing them into the windows of the dorms. In those days, there was no air conditioning; they used window fans. When those eggs “hit the fan,” gooey slime splattered all over the dorm rooms. I have always imagined a college student finishing up his term paper on a manual typewriter, and he could not make any mistakes. Remember “whiteout.” This prank made a colossal mess and incited several students.

The chase was on.

Robby, being the athlete, jumped a nearby ravine and kept going. Joey, who was following close behind, tried to leap the large ditch but came up a yard short. He landed on the dark side of the bank. The first thing to make contact was his knee, which caught the corner of a concrete block. It knocked his knee to the backside of his leg. Joey was in screaming pain. The ambulance and police showed up at the same time.

I believe he went to the hospital first.

Is That Your Plane?

Dwayne, the youngest, demolished an airplane that belonged to the neighbors of one of his friends. Dwayne’s friend said the plane was his, as I understand the story, and Dwayne did not believe him and told him so.

The young boy “proved it” was his plane by attacking it with a club. I’m not sure what that proved, other than they were dumb. Dwayne joined in with his buddy. They threw rocks through the windows and beat the body up with sticks. They totaled the airplane.

Dwayne and his friend were about 12 years old. They were too young to prosecute.