Randy Travis is opening up about the details of his personal life, both the good and the bad, in his new memoir, Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life. The book was written by Travis along and New York Times best-selling author, Ken Abraham, with help with many of the details by Travis' wife, Mary.
"It's good to have this story out there," Mary shared with PopCulture.com. "There's lots of questions that people wanted answered. I feel like the book does that. It was exhausting going through the writing of it. Just emotionally and spiritually and physically, as Ken will tell you. But Ken made a daunting task very tolerable.
"We laughed a lot," she continued. "We cried a lot. We spent a lot of time on the phone, in person, going through articles and magazines and pictures, and just re-creating the life of Randy Travis. That's a challenge, because he had such a life and lived it in full color."
Full color, indeed. One of six children born in Marshville, North Carolina, Travis' father was an alcoholic known for violent outbursts, causing Travis to live in fear for most of his childhood. Before Travis was a teenager, he was already drinking, setting off a pattern of trouble with the law that could have continued, if not for his singing.
"I think it was painful, but Randy has not been one that ever ran from truth," Mary said about Travis' willingness to share parts of his history he would like to forget. "He's full of humility. He's always owned up to his mistakes and the tough times that he's been through in life. Especially in his childhood. It probably brought up some things he wished that he could forget. And I know there's things. He's always told me, 'I would sure do it differently.' So in this book, if it keeps somebody from making the same mistakes, then job well done."
Forever and Ever, Amen shares Travis' numerous career highlights and accolades, working with artists like Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Alan Jackson and more, as well as having a lengthy run of hits at radio, and becoming a member of both the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. But his story was marred by trouble as well, including a lengthy – and costly – divorce from his wife Lib Hatcher, while at the height of his career. Fortuitously, as his marriage was ending, Travis fell in love with Mary, a friend he had for decades, who was also ending her marriage to her husband, Ritchie, a dentist.
"We had a 20-year friendship," Mary said, after Travis jokingly referred to her as a "hot mama.". "We met through a shirt company that my brother had. Randy wore his shirts. We had met back in 1990, 1991. We both went our different ways in life, and re-met in 2010. I told him, 'I just fell in love with my best friend.' We had a special relationship just because it was based on a friendship.
"We knew a lot about each other but we learned a lot about each other, too, after we fell in love," she added. "It was definitely a high point in my life."
Travis also delves into one of the more regrettable parts of his life in his book, when he was arrested twice in one year, including one time when he walked into a convenience store naked, and subsequently crashed his car while intoxicated.
"Everybody assumed that Randy had gotten drunk and went out and had a car wreck," Abraham said. "That wasn't the story. But how do you defend yourself against that? Once something gets out there nowadays, it's almost hard to counteract that. Partially, that's why we wanted to face that story head on in the book and tell the truth about how it happened. And these guys were great. They didn't flinch at all about doing that. It's in the book."
Less than a year later, Travis was stricken with viral cardiomyopathy, followed by a stroke that initially went undetected because he was in a coma. The stroke left Travis with permanent damage in his mobility and speech, but the 60-year-old is far from finished.
"We've turned it all over because it's out of our hands," Mary said. "We've turned it over to God. Sometimes in life we try to push a rope and that doesn't work real good. It's a whole lot easier just to follow His lead. Strokes are tough things to understand and comprehend, but the fiber that he's made of, he's not quitting. So we'll take it one day at a time. And we're happy wherever it ends up, if it ever ends. We'll just keep learning."
Purchase Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms at Amazon.
Photo Credit: Anna Webber