NASHVILLE - Randy Travis was lauded with the music that made him famous Wednesday night during an all-star tribute to the Country Music Hall of Famer at Bridgestone Arena.
Mayor Megan Barry kicked off the evening by declaring Feb. 8, 2017, Randy Travis Day. Over the course of the show, Travis’ band backed the more than 30-artist lineup that included Garth Brooks, Chris Young, Josh Turner, Scotty McCreery, Alison Krauss, Jamey Johnson, Chris Janson, Kenny Rogers, Michael Ray, William Michael Morgan and Alabama. With a few exceptions — including Rogers, who sang “Love Lifted Me” and “The Gambler,” and Alabama, which was joined by a choir for “Angels Among Us” — everyone sang Travis’ hits.
“What doesn’t he mean to country music, especially to someone who grew up as a baritone singer in country music?” asked Young, who performed “This is Me.” “I would just constantly sing his stuff. He means a whole lot to a lot of singers, not just me.”
Travis’ wife, Mary, believes his songs saved his life. In 2013 Travis had a stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body and left him unable to speak or walk. During a five-and-a-half-month hospitalization, a series of infections nearly killed him. Travis can now walk and is relearning how to speak.
“I wondered if those songs were running through his head,” she said. “Is he having that talk with Jesus? Does he know that I’m going to love him forever and ever, amen? I think his relationship with songs and music is what got him through this, and I can only imagine, once he starts talking to us again, what kind of songs that he’s going to give us.”
During the show, Travis’ longtime label, Warner Music Nashville, surprised the singer with a career achievement award in recognition of more than 25 million albums sold, 22 No. 1 hits and six No. 1 albums, worldwide.
The Travises watched from their seats on the stage as Janson brought the house down with “Look Heart No Hands.” Johnson delivered an emotional version of “Promises” with backup from Krauss. Kane Brown got fans tapping their toes to a traditional cover of Travis’ cover of Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.” Morgan, who before the show said meeting Travis would be a dream come true, sang “Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart” then gave the singer a hug at the end of his song. Joe Nichols covered Travis’ “Storms of Life.” Ray sang “He Walked on Water.” Turner delivered “Three Wooden Crosses.” McCreery got “1982,” and Brooks had Travis’ signature hit “Forever and Ever, Amen.” The show closed with an all-sing on “Amazing Grace.”
A portion of proceeds from the evening go to benefit the Randy Travis Foundation, a nonprofit that provides support for victims of strokes and cardiovascular diseases as well as arts and entertainment education for at-risk children. Mary Travis said she wants to focus on supporting early detection of stroke and viral cardiomyopathy in hopes that an early diagnosis would prevent others from the suffering her husband has endured.
“Try it all, that’s been our theory with Randy,” she said of different treatments. “If it’s not going to hurt him, let’s give it a shot. My prayer and if I ever had a message for family members (of stroke victims), it’s don’t ever give up.”