Randy Travis defines what it means to be a country music legend and he was honored for this well-deserved title during 2018 CMA Fest with the first Cracker Barrel Country Legend Award.
Travis is the inaugural artist to receive the award that commemorates his longevity in country music, along with his partnership with Cracker Barrel’s music program. Travis was presented with a $5,000 check in his name on behalf of Cracker Barrel that will be donated to the CMA Foundation, helping to provide music education programs in schools around the world.
“I think it’s a great honor for him. I know because they could’ve chosen from so many and it just means so much that he’s here with us to enjoy it,” Mary Travis says seated next to her husband backstage at Ascend Amphitheatre after he was presented with the award. “For them to think enough of him to say he’s our first one that comes to mind right now for a legends award, that means so much to us.”
The award also honors Travis’ impact on the genre at large, which is evidenced not only by his multitude of CMA, ACM and Grammy Awards, but by the countless artists who have cited him as an influence. Garth Brooks, Kenny Rogers, Alison Krauss and Chris Young were among the many stars that paid homage to Travis during his 2017 tribute show in Nashville, proving how far-reaching his music is. “If you ask Randy, he’ll never say he deserves an award because he’s a man of humility, always has been,” Mary explains. “But I think what set Randy apart back in the ‘80s was his determination to stay with traditional country and not be swayed by what somebody told him he ought to be doing.”
It’s this determination and steadfastness that Mary attributes to his influence on artists of all generations, with acts like Kane Brown and Scotty McCreery noting Travis’ impact on their own musical upbringing. Since experiencing a stroke in 2013 that’s made it difficult for him to walk and speak, Travis and his wife have been using their time to discover new singers, surprising people like Brown and McCreery backstage at their shows. The couple has been just as overwhelmed by the artists’ gratefulness towards Travis as they are overjoyed that he takes the time to see them.
“It’s a B-12 shot, it’s a boost, it’s encouraging,” Mary says of why it’s important for them to meet these artists that look up to Travis. “Just from speaking to and meeting some of these younger artists which we just love doing…They may be different style, but there’s so much talent out there…It’s like I tell people ‘we’re just singing a different song now, and if that’s to go and encourage the next bunch, we’re having more fun than they are.’”
It’s this type of influence that helped Travis earn the Legend Award, one whose mission aligns with the work he and his wife are doing with the Randy Travis Foundation. Music education is at the core of the foundation and the couple hopes to expand that sector of the organization that encourages art and music therapy for patients and at-risk children as a method of healing. “One of our hopes is to get music education in schools and also in rehabilitation centers because we went through three rehab centers after the stroke and not one of them has a music therapy program,” Mary explains of witnessing “how much music matters to the kids, to the people that are healing. It’s education and rehabilitation.” Founded after Travis’ stroke, the couple has channeled their efforts into raising awareness and early detection of viral cardiomyopathy, the virus that caused the stroke, in addition to supporting research for stroke prevention.
“If we can help just one we’ve done our part,” Mary says. “He’s already done his part.”