In the early Eighties, Randy Bruce Traywick, originally from North Carolina, could often be found frying up catfish in the kitchen at the Nashville Palace nightclub near Music City’s Opryland Hotel and theme park. Today, of course, he’s better known as Randy Travis, one of the most successful country superstars of the modern era, and one of the genre’s most traditional singers of all time.
Having moved to town in 1982 with his manager (and future wife) Lib Hatcher, Traywick left behind a troubled past as a budding juvenile delinquent with an ever-lengthening rap sheet of arrests and an exasperated judge warning him he was headed for a five years behind bars if he didn’t straighten himself out.
Convinced by the judge to release Traywick into her custody, Hatcher began to focus her efforts toward the young man’s obvious talents as a singer and songwriter, which she had first witnessed when he won a talent contest at her Country City USA nightclub in Charlotte. Still in his teens when he began singing for club patrons (and working in the kitchen as well), by the time he arrived in Nashville with Hatcher, Traywick was already a seasoned performer. As manager of the Nashville Palace, Hatcher put Traywick to work, once again, in both the kitchen and on stage, where he now appeared under the name Randy Ray. Soon, the singer was appearing on nascent cable channel TNN, the Nashville Network.
Although he was turned down after an audition for the network’s talent competition, You Can Be a Star, the deep-voiced neo-traditionalist was featured on Nashville After Hours, a talent showcase from the Palace stage, hosted by soap opera actor and country hitmaker Wayne Massey. Before he sings in the above clip (which is silent for the first 13 or so seconds), Traywick — or is it Ray? — is shown in the kitchen, but then trades his cook’s uniform for a sport coat to perform. Asked point blank by Massey about his past, the singer addresses the subject of his criminal exploits with candor, admitting that they began when he was just 10 years old, but that by the time he was 17, Hatcher had “changed [my life] more so than anybody.”
In November 1982, while working at the Nashville Palace, and getting rejected by nearly every record label in town, Randy Ray self-released a live (and now extremely rare) LP that included his own compositions, several of which would later go on to be re-recorded when he signed — as Randy Travis — with Warner Bros. in 1986. Performed during this TV taping is one of those songs, “I Told You So,” which would not be officially released as a single until March 1988. When it did hit, as the fourth and final single from his second album, Always & Forever, “I Told You So” became his sixth Number One, logging two weeks at the top.
In 2009, the song hit the charts again, thanks to American Idol winner Carrie Underwood, who reached Number Two on the country survey and also had a Top Ten pop hit. When Underwood appeared on a March 2009 episode of Idol, she performed the song with Travis. Their duet, released as a digital single, gave Travis his first Top 40 country hit since 2002’s “Three Wooden Crosses.” The collaboration also scored the pair a 2010 Grammy.