“Diggin Up Bones” cycled through my iTunes list the other day. Belle had never heard it before. Even worse, she had never heard of Randy Travis. That killed me, y’all. How can my young’un not know one of the greatest singers to ever come out of North Carolina?
I was born during the neotraditional country movement. The movement emphasized an instrumental background with a “traditional” country vocal style. The rise of neotraditional country music ended the pop country that dominated the charts in the 1970s. Travis was one of the primary driving forces of the movement.
Born in Marshville in 1959, Randy Travis was basically a child prodigy. He learned to play the guitar at 8 years old and sang in his church choir. Travis struggled with delinquency during his teen years. Luckily, in 1975 he landed himself a gig at Country City USA in Charlotte. Performing helped Travis turn his life around.
The year I was born, Travis moved to Nashville. Three years later, he was recording Storms of Life. Daddy wore out “Diggin Up Bones” that year. I remember sitting in Daddy’s lap and watching Travis clean house at the Academy of Country Music Awards for that album. It’s one of my oldest and most treasured memories; it’s how I fell in love with country music.
In the years that followed, I rode through Marshville multiple times a year on the way back and forth between Canton and Wilmington. We must’ve stopped at the Marshville “Home of Randy Travis” sign a dozen times to take pictures before I was old enough to drive.
Meanwhile, Randy Travis sold over 25 million records and won 7 Grammy Awards. He earned himself a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, had 16 number one hits, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Not too shabby for a Carolina boy who used to boost cars and commit burglaries!
In 2013, a stroke ended Randy Travis’ career and left him handicapped. Travis has faded into the background since then. Like his popularity, the “Home of Randy Travis” signs are long gone now, too. It felt like the end of an era the first time I drove through Marshville but couldn’t stop for pics. In their place is a mural. It’s beautiful, but I miss the signs.
I guess I miss more than the signs. I miss the music and the man who introduced me to it. Thinking about it has me over here diggin’ up bones.
Did anyone else grow up on Randy Travis?