Aug
9

Some Respect for Randy Travis at a Tough Time

August 9, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  35 Comments

Alright, so we’ve all now had our yucks over this story of a naked Randy Travis being arrested, and I am certainly not above guilt, but I am seeing some fairly alarming rhetoric surrounding this story that I feel is unhealthy to the country music environment. The details of the story may be funny, but the incident is not. Celebrity or no, Randy Travis is a human being who is clearly going through a moment of crisis in his life. And just because he engaged in some illegal behavior shouldn’t give him some additional cred in country music, or somehow means he’s now a country music “Outlaw.”

We expect our celebrities to live larger than life, so that we can too, through them, vicariously. Forget that most artist and performer types are already predisposed to being more susceptible to things like substance abuse and self-destructive behavior, society also sells to them that as artists, they must suffer for their art to be inspired and authentic. It is true that much great art has come from suffering, but it is also true that great art comes from dedication, perseverance, and sweat. And as much as society likes to perch celebrities up on unrealistic pedestals, we also love to tear them down when they trip, in moments of empathetic vacuousness, clawing at them with our jealousy and spite to feel better about ourselves. This is the vicious pop cycle I like to allude to upon occasion, and just like Taylor Swift once said in a famous song, “The cycle ends right now.” Or at least it does here for me.

Are we so diseased in country music that we actually think more of our stars when their lives become a wreck to the point where they’re laying naked in the middle of the road and making death threats to law enforcement? Is this behavior cool? Is this a fate you would wish upon yourself or any of your friends or family? Getting drunk and doing stupid shit may sound like a country song, but facing felonies and a ruined career and loss of a sense of self-worth are very real issues. It is one of the reasons we have a 27 Club, and why suicides and overdoses are such a heavy burden on the celebrity population.

And us lay civilians love to sit back and say, “Oh yeah, you have it real tough with all that money and fame.” But money and fame are broken promises, and many times don’t help pad a celebrity’s fall, they fuel it.

And for the folks saying Randy Travis’s recent troubles make him an “Outlaw” are only fueling the misconceptions of what a country music Outlaw is. I conceded long ago that accurately defining the “Outlaw” term will be a battle of evermore, but trust me, Randy Travis is no more an Outlaw now than he was in 2011, before his drunken behavior was writing headlines.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, a country music Outlaw has nothing to do with legalities. The original Outlaws–Bobby Bare, Tompall Glaser, and Kris Kristofferson–were not lawbreakers, nor was Willie Nelson until later in life when he was hit with a few stupid and unnecessary pot arrests. Waylon Jennings positively hated the term “Outlaw” and blamed it for his legal woes when the federalies trailed a package of cocaine from New York to the studio where he was recording, later memorialized in the song “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit Done Got Outta Hand?”

A country music Outlaw is one that bucks the traditional Music Row, old-guard way of music production by writing their own songs, recording with their own bands, and calling their own shots. Lyrical content and personal behavior are not completely autonomous to the “Outlaw” country image thanks to artists like Johnny Paycheck and David Allan Coe, but the foundation of a country music “Outlaw” has to do with the business of music, not behavior.

Furthermore, the ignorant assertion that personal behavior does influence a country artist’s “Outlaw” status is what is partly fueling this ridiculous and slanderous use of the term by the crop of “new Outlaws” (Eric Church, Justin Moore, Brantley Gilbert, etc.) who think just because they drink too much, talk about fighting, and put women with big tits in their videos they’re carrying on Willie and Waylon’s legacy. Please. Willie Nelson is a pacifist, and probably respects women more than most women respect themselves these days. Being an Outlaw in country means being yourself, and bucking the trends instead of pandering to them. As Sturgill Simpson says, “The most Outlaw thing that a man today can do is give a woman a ring.”

And through this incident, were seeing the rewriting of Randy Travis’s music legacy. Some folks who come to country from the outside looking in are all of a sudden giving his music another look after laughing him off as pop before just because they recognized the name and it wasn’t Johnny Cash, while judgmental types are saying they always knew there was a screw loose with him and they wouldn’t bring themselves down to listening to him again.

This incident didn’t change Randy’s music one bit. Randy has never received enough credit for spearheading both the new push of neo-traditional country and the commercial resurgence of the genre in the late 80′s. One can make the case he set the table for Garth Brooks and country’s return to the stadium and superstar status, without selling out himself.

Randy Travis has given a ton to the country music community, and now in his time of need, it is time for the country music community to give back in the form of support, forgiveness, and understanding.

Whatever is troubling Randy Travis, I hope he works through it to continue to provide the world great country music, and to grow as a person, and as an artist.

Thank you Randy Travis for your music and your service to country music. And even if you’re called home tomorrow, rest assured your legacy is secured in country music, and that it is a positive one.

35 Comments to “Some Respect for Randy Travis at a Tough Time”

  • waylon and willie and all them were lawbreakers if you consider production and mass use of illegal drugs. george jones even says in his autobiography that at one point his friend waylon jennings was doing a 3000 dollar a day coke habit! and that was back in the 70′s ! so your statement there is wrong about your view on the outlaw bit. that may be unhealthy for the country music environment in itself.

       1 likes

    • Nevermind…

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    • Thanks Zach for serving as a prime example of what Triggerman describes as being fueled by “misconceptions of what a country music Outlaw is”.

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  • Thank you Triggerman for writing this, so many people who tore you apart over Shooter, took to twitter and laughed and mocked Randy. Those same people will say it was just satire, but I call BULLSHIT! This is fuckin’ serious and had Randy gotten killed those assholes would be mourning and praising him for what he done for country music. Randy has battled addiction his whole life and has had clean/sober time under his belt. But that is just it, he is going through personal troubles and as an addict that is when he turns to the bottle and spirals out of control. I was fucked up on dope and whiskey for 14 years and done some stupid shit. 3 years ago I get clean, but since then I have relapsed several times because of problems and stress. I take full responsibility for my relapse but addicts have a hard time living life on life’s terms. I sympathize with Randy and I hope the country community as a whole will stand behind him. This isn’t a joke or some bad career move like teaming up with fuckin’ Bucky, this is a matter of life and death for Randy. He has a long road to recovery and I stand behind Randy.

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    • Even worse, some are praising him for this stuff. Like he is a hero for being passed out in the middle of the road naked at midnight. “Hell yeah, awesome! Rock and roll!” I understand some of the specifics of the story are funny, and like a knucklehead I joined in the laughter too, and we can’t overlook that levity can be an important part in getting over tragedy. But last night when I was going to bed, I tried to think if it was me or someone I knew personally, I probably wouldn’t be laughing. In many ways the public sentiment and reaction is what causes these incidents to go from bad to worse. We wanted Amy Winehouse to be a junky. I’m lucky, I’ve never had to struggle with addiction. But after covering stories like this from Randy to Justin Townes Earle and so many others and my own personal experiences, a level of wisdom and respect I think is called for.

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      • That is so true that we find humor in bad things to get over them. I was just talkin to my girlfriend bout that very same thing. She met a friend of mine who I was in rehab with for 6 months. We were talking bout all the crazy shit we did and “close calls”. He blurted out “when I smoked crack, I would drive around naked”. We laughed our asses off and still do to this day about that. It is our way of coping with bad times and being able to laugh at ourselves. I also was just telling her too that last night I was thinking of the seriousness of what happened to Randy and it hit me that he could have gotten killed and how sad that would have been.

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  • It will be interesting to see how this all plays out for Randy Travis. Who would have ever thought Marv Albert could recover his position as one of the most prominent announcers in sports? I won’t go into all the gorey details here but they included charges of sodomy and assault on a woman who was not his recent fiance all while Marv was dressed in woman’s undergarments. And this is a SPORTS announcer we’re talking about here!!! Well guess who was working the NBA playoffs in 2012? Yep Marv Albert.

    So Randy can redeem himself. Some have recovered from worse. Some have died from less. But like anyone seeking recovery or redemption he has to want it. Let’s hope for his sake that he does.

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  • American society loves to watch famous people fall. Unfortunately for Randy, he’s the latest. Throw in a bitter divorce from his wife AND manager plus alcohol and here we are. He needs help from experts, friends, and family and not more ridicule. I truly hope he gets the help he needs. Thanks for highlighting the seriousness of his problems.

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    • True. But America also likes to see the fallen pick themselves back up and try again. We don’t hate sinners, we hate hypocrites.

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      • “We don’t hate sinners, we hate hypocrites”

        truth!

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  • I bought up his back catalogue a few weeks ago, and it’s a shame this is how he is making the headlines. My support goes out to him and a full recovery. 

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  • I wish Randy recovery and happiness. He has given us some stellar country music for a long time. I hope he reaches out to the right folks and is willing to do what needs to be done to give him a shot at getting his life back in order.

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  • That’s a very profound point about how the combination of wealth and celebrity actually fuels personal problems rather than solving them. Hellbound Glory pointed it out very succintly in their song “Scumbag Country”:

    “Getting rich would be the last thing I’d ever need; drugs are all I’d spend it on; I’d be dead before long”

    I think the problem is that once someone achieves the pinnacle of success (in the case of celebrities, the height of fame and wealth), there is nothing to look forward to. Gloominess about the future, from my observations, is perhaps the key cause of depression. This would also explain why the depression rate is so much higher in wealthy countries than in poor countries.

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  • money can’t buy love or happiness. unfortunately, it can buy plenty of booze and drugs. a sad thing to be sure. i’ve done plenty of crazy shit myself while high on either or both. thankfully, i’m one of the lucky ones who managed to stay out of jail and the morgue. nice write, trig.

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    • occasionally i’ll even spell my name right.

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  • I love Randy and have been praying for him since I heard about this. I don’t think this is going to hurt “country” music half as much as all of the horrible stuff that has been pumped out lately and CALLED country music. Thanks for the new article, was really put off on the other one.

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  • Yeas it’s a tragedy and yest Travis is a living country music legend. But the tragedy becomes farce when a DUI is followed by nude driving! I hope Travis steers out of this obvious crisis and can write a great song about the whole sad and ridiculous time and see the obvious absurdity in it. And that’s a high bar in country music’s legacy of depravity and recklessness.

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  • I’m not outlaw cause of being locked up, the drunken wrecks that bout killed me, the dope I used, fighting etc. ……………I’m OUTLAW cause I’m a single father of a 3 year old girl cause her mother doesn’t give damn and has no rights to her. I’m OUTLAW cause I’m livin’ right for my daughter.

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  • Good points about what being an outlaw actually means in country. The biggest outlaws in Nashville right now are probably two guys who have never been described as such: Vince Gill and Marty Stuart. As for Randy, it sucks that one of the all-time greats is now the butt of jokes. I really hope someone can get to him and help him turn things around.

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  • So how is this different from George Jones or Cash any of the others who hit the skids due to booze or drugs. Most come back, ofter better than before. This is not news so let’s let the man fight his demons in private and god bless him.

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  • Randy Travis needs to hear storms of life again. I’m praying for him. I forgive him, but I doubt the courts will so easily, especially the Texas courts. (I’m a proud Texan, myself.)

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  • My reactions to Randy Travis’ recent travails is love, sympathy and hope.

    I really hope that he is in a treatment center at this very moment.

    There is a whole other world out there which doesn’t involve letting a substance make your decisions for you.

    Some great artists (Waylon and Larry Gatlin come to mind) have gotten help for their addictions and lived free of substance abuse thereafter.

    I concur that screwing up does not make one an outlaw.

    Outlaw musicians don’t try to be outlaws (e.g. Gretchen Wilson).

    When musicians start declaring themselves to be outlaws, it rings quite hollow.

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  • I for one have been a big fan of Randy Travis all along, and his music today stretches more than to influence Garth Brooks, I’d say, since he has also come to influence to guys like Chris Young and Josh Turner, who could be considered as the modern neotraditionalists. If it weren’t for him, Alan Jackson and George Strait, I’m afraid country music could have died a long time ago.

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  • An excellent piece. It is so sad to see an artist I respect so much go through such a difficult situation. I do agree that he’s not given enough credit for bringing country music back to its roots.

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  • I’m always entertained by the editorial commentary on this site. However, perhaps it is not up to one person to determine what’s outlaw and what’s not?

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    • Never said it was up to me to determine what “Outlaw” is, just stated my opinion. If yours is different, I would be interested in hearing it and encourage you to share!

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  • I suppose I prefer Johnny Paycheck’s definition – “To me, an outlaw is a man that did things his own way, whether you liked him or not.” If’n I had mah druthers. . .

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    • Well, I certainly would have to defer to Paycheck for providing a definition of “Outlaw”. My retort would be, do you really think Randy Travis wanted to get arrested after laying naked and drunk in the middle of the road at midnight, and face felonies for threatening police? And even if he did, can’t we divest that behavior from his music career? If you make the argument he’s an Outlaw based on his music career alone, I think I could be convinced easier.

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  • I think ultimately, he will sell more records, the label will get more money and this site will get more visitors :) I guess my point is that this could have been addressed without saying the “O” word, even if public intoxication, nudity and threatening LEO’s generally qualifies as an outlaw. I’d never really thought of Randy as an outlaw because of his music.

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  • Great article sir… we can only hope that others close to Randy will reach out to him in his time of need. The only thing I slightly dissagree with is what you said about the so called new outlaws. Ill admit country music seems to have gone down hill since the 90′s and even then it started to get alittle more bubbly. But you take a guy like Brantley Gilbert who has been underatted for a long time (untill now obviously), he writes all his own songs, and as an honest songwriter he writes from personal experiance. As for Eric Church he is also another guy who writes his own songs and i might add a great story teller (ex. Michael,lightning,two pink lines,etc) like Willie was… Now im not saying if you write your own songs you automatically earn the respect from the greats but I will say that there headed in the right direction. Especially when you put them up against say the bubble gum artists who have taken over Nashville. God Bless!

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  • I grew up on people like Randy Travis, along with all the other older country music as well. I’m covered in tattoos, not spiritual or religious, and I write about whatever the hell I want in my music. I can tell you one thing, I’ve never let any musicians personal life, race, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else effect whether I like their music. I only care about the music and the general well being of the musicians I like. I guess I’m an understanding person but a selfish fan. I just hope he gets better so I can listen to his next album and so he continues to make great music. As far as outlaw country, it’s about content and musical style, not actions. I can do drugs and play gospel, or I can be sober and play hard hitting outlaw country. Please don’t let the country music industry turn anymore Hollywood than it already has, by exploiting people’s mistake and hard times in tabloid style articles. Thanks triggerman for your unbiased honesty on this and other articles.

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  • I hope Randy is getting his life back under control. All of us screw up and wish we didn’t; doesn’t mean that the good things we’ve done don’t count. His music means a lot to me, both the old love songs that I and my wife like so much, and especially his gospel songs, which I have 3 CD’s of. Only Chris LeDoux and Johnny Cash get that kind of room on my shelf or played in my truck.

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  • As one of the worldest biggest (I would like to think #1) Randy Travis fan, I searched this site tonight to see what Triggerman had to say about Travis in the past. Forewarning, I myself am a little buzzed at the moment.

    I decided to leave this note, mostly to say that I appreciate the balanced perspective.

    I recently had a debate with my stepdad, who is a george jones, johnny cash, merle haggard fan. We were discussing the Randy Travis fiasco and stepdad (Jim) complained that Travis’ behavior seemed hypocritical in comparison to the message of his song. I countered that we are all sinners including Cash (a womanizer and addict) Jones (an addict) and Haggard (a womanizer). I stated that while these two people may have stumbled with the respective thorn in their side, they had a conscience and wanted to express regret for their own failings. While Travis was in his prime, he was trying to escape from his alcoholic and law breaking youth, and was trying to spread a positive message. This is not hypocritical, in my mind, but rather to borrow a quote from Travis himself “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

    So to the question of Randy Travis as an outlaw. It gives my ego a bit of pleasure that others have offered up this possibility. I have chewed on the matter, not based on his unfortunate antics, but based on his ownership and advocacy for his own artistic direction. Travis found his own way to stardom. He struggled for years to release material in a country era that was riff with “urban cowboys” and what I call disco country. Struggling to find a label that endorsed his sound, he and his first wife, more or less, released his first major album on Travis’ own terms. “His first wife was, coincidentally, the owner/manager of the honky tonk where Travis performed as the house band. “Storms of Life” was completely unexpected. Everything from the aesthetic, the sound, the subject matter, and the album cover were out of place in the mid 1980s. One could make similar cases for both the Judds and George Strait but for me, Travis has the most compelling case. Storms of Life quickly bolted to number one and held that spot for longer than anyone could expect. 1985/86 became a turning point as albums in the following years had a much more traditional sound that the early, disco era 80s.

    Travis lists George Jones and Merle Haggard as his biggest influences, respectively. One can hear Jones’ influence in Travis countrypolitan stylings and vocal acrobatics, bending the tone of a given word several times before laying it to rest. Travis may not have had Jones’ talent (to me the contest is easy – Jones is THE voice) but it’s easy to see that Travis carried on the Jones’ tradition. Merle had that “rolling off the table” deep drawl that he borrowed from Lefty Frizell, and this too is apparent in Travis’ music. The comparison between Haggard and Travis is easier, in my mind, than it is with Jones.

    Later in his career, Travis continued with the outlaw aesthetic, not by acting like a jackass as is commonly attributed to outlaws, but by sticking to his guns. Travis went an unexpected direction by abandoning the commercial country world altogether and releasing a series of gospel albums. As a Travis fan, I’ll admit Travis succumbed to the pressure of commercial radio in the interim. Between “Old 8×10″ and his first commercial album, Travis it seems was mostly chasing the fame of Brooks and Black and the like. Other fans may disagree about the point Travis became commercial but there’s no question that he had some weak albums.

    To me, redemption is the most powerful action, and Randy’s decision to go gospel more or less erases whatever bubble gum pop he may have released beforehand. To some it may seem ironic that a move to gospel would be pushed as outlaw credibility, but in the spirit of outlaw being an artistic direction rather than a juvenile rebellion, the move to gospel supports Travis’ as an outlaw – I submit. Others may see the “preachy” message as hypocritical in light of Randy’s recent failings, but for me it represents his struggle. He started out with a thorn in his side, he lived with that thorn for many years, and in recent years the thorn got the best of him for a while. His gospel years, to me, where an act of pro-action. Maybe it is here where my bias is most apparent, because I reconcile these years as Travis preaching to himself. It was in this time that he released “you didn’t have a good time” which might have been his most heartfelt song in light of recent events.

    Bottom line, I’ve already exceeded the recommended length of a comment on saving country music, and I’m unquestionably not sober. To all my fellow RT fans – hey yo!

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    • Long-winded and insightful comments like this one are always welcomed on Saving Country Music.

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