CMT is about to honor country great Randy Travis as its latest “Artist of a Lifetime,” presenting Travis the title at tomorrow night’s (October 13) CMT Artist of the Year special. But in the lead-up to the event, he had an honor of his own in store for Jon Pardi.
Chosen as one of the current hit makers to honor Travis at the CMT event, Pardi is actually a longtime fan of iconic country traditionalist — going all the way back to his earliest memories. So when the Travis showed up to surprise Pardi at a video shoot before the show, the moment got pretty emotional. Check out out in the clip below.
Filming a tribute performance for Travis at the famed Nashville Palace, Pardi was seated with an acoustic guitar, just minding his own country-star business, when in walked on of his biggest inspirations. Clearly shocked — and maybe a little unsure of what to do next — Pardi welcomed Travis and shook the Country Music Hall of Fame member’s hand, before explaining why the moment meant so much.
“You don’t remember everything when you’re young, but my grandmother loved you and loved country music,” Pardi said, fighting back tears as he spoke. “Ya’ll got me. Ya’ll be doing me dirty. I was just here to sing!”
Those tears of joy helped inspire a moving performance later on, when Pardi finished out taping his rendition of “He Walked on Water” as Travis and his wife, Mary, sat nearby. The moment took place in one of the venues where Travis got his Music City start, helping frame a career that shaped countless country artists in his wake.
“It’s special being here at the Palace,” Mary explained, since Travis still has trouble speaking after his 2013 stroke). She noted that Travis also worked as a cook in the venue, saying “They’d call him up onstage and he’d take his chef’s hat and apron off, jump up on the stage and sing.”
Pardi can also understand the dedication it takes to make it as a country singer — and how much having an idol to emulate helps. It all came to head as he tried to sing the final, emotional lines of “He Walked on Water,” a song about a younger man looking up to his hero.
“Everybody needs a good cry now and then, right?” Pardi said.
The 2021 CMT Artists of the Year special airs Wednesday (October 13) at 9/8c, honoring Randy Travis along with Chris Stapleton, Kane Brown, Kelsea Ballerini, Gabby Barrett and Luke Combs, plus Breakthrough award winner Mickey Guyton.