The Singing Shooter Comes Full Circle
By Roni Toldanes
When 10-year-old Randy Travis squeezed the trigger of a bulky .22-caliber rifle in 1970, he didn’t expect he’d be bitten by something.
“I didn’t know how to hold the gun, how to aim, or how hard it would kick,” Travis recalls. “But after the first shot, I was hooked.” Travis must have been “bitten by the bug,” because today, decades after his first experience plinking empty milk cans with his grandfather’s bolt-action rifle, he still owns guns – about 200 of them. It’s a collection that includes famous trademarks such as Ruger, Colt, Remington, Browning and Smith & Wesson.
Travis spent his childhood in a rural town in North Carolina, where he learned about gun safety and received shooting lessons from his uncle, Ralph Traywick, a gun collector. Travis grew up around guns during an era when gun-slinging actors were the top guys in Hollywood and celebrities routinely performed quick draws and twirled guns before live TV audiences.
Travis didn’t experience an ideal teenage life. Driven by a less-than-perfect home life, he repeatedly ran away, found himself in jail for assault and seemed headed for a long, five-year stretch in jail when fate, in the form of a club owner named Lib Hatcher, intervened. Travis said Hatcher heard him sing at a talent contest, managed to get him released into her custody and put him to work in her club, slinging burgers and singing when he had the chance.
Travis and Hatcher moved together to Tennessee in 1981. She served as manager of the Nashville Palace nightclub and he was the short-order cook and resident vocalist. They fell in love and were married ten years later.
The singer’s big break came in 1985 when Warner Bros. began releasing his records. Since then, he has sold over 18 million records and won more than 20 major music awards. The superstar quit touring full time in 1992. In the past few years, he took small roles in six features and guest starred on TV shows such as Matlock and Touched by an Angel. He has also done commercials for Coca-Cola and Folger’s Coffee.
Travis’ album, Full Circle, proves he’s still a country-music master. All the songs are delivered in the warm baritone that is one of the most instantly recognizable voices in Nashville today. The album, according to the Miami Herald, “might be Travis’ best album.”
Nowadays, Travis estimates that he spends one-third of his time at home in Nashville, Tennessee, a third in Hawaii and a third “on the road.” This hectic schedule does not allow him to visit a public shooting range so he decided to build one in his own backyard in Nashville. He says shooting brings back fun memories of his childhood.
Travis has been a Fast Draw fan for years and his favorite guns are the single-action .45 Colts. He has shared his knowledge on shooting and gun safety with his brother, Dennis, and some colleagues in the entertainment industry. “I think the shooting sport is a great way to spend free time either alone or with a friend,” Travis said. “It gives you a real sense of accomplishment.”
Randy Travis, indeed, has come Full Circle.