When Randy Travis released “I Told You So” from his 1987 album Always & Forever, it quickly became a landmark song for his career. Though the single had humble beginnings — first sung in clubs and recorded under Travis’s stage name “Randy Ray” — it went on to reach platinum status and top Billboard‘s country singles charts.
Almost 20 years later, producers of Fox’s American Idol brought Travis in as a mentor in celebration of the show’s Grand Ole Opry week. Idol‘s own Carrie Underwood had just given new life to “I Told You So” by recording the track for her second album Carnival Ride. It was only natural for the next step to be a duet, and the pair debuted their collaboration on the Idol stage. (Watch a video of the performance above.)
At the time of the song’s original release, Underwood was just a five-year-old preschooler living in rural Oklahoma. Citing Travis as an early musical hero, “I Told You So” went on to become one of Underwood’s favorite country ballads. “I first remember my sister having a cassette tape of it,” she told People magazine in an interview.
The adoration and respect was mutual: “I don’t know how much of an influence I would be vocally on her,” Travis told Billboard in 2012. “She’s so far beyond me that it’s ridiculous! She’s an incredible singer. If her range is six feet tall, mine would be about a foot. I can’t touch what she can do.”
Their Idol duet in March of 2009 would kick off a successful run for Underwood and Travis. The pair’s studio version of “I Told you So” reached Number Two on the charts and went on to win a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals that same year.
Coincidentally, Underwood was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry seven years ago this week after performing that very song on the Opry stage. Following the performance, Travis surprised the singer and officially asked her to be part of the esteemed country institution. It all came full circle: This Oklahoma girl who found inspiration from a Randy Travis cassette tape was welcomed into the Opry family by one of her country music heroes.
Tragically, Travis suffered a stroke in 2013 while being treated for a heart infection in Texas. He continues to make progress on his recovery. Underwood, meanwhile, gave birth to son Isaiah Michael with husband Mike Fisher in February, and recently released the new single “Little Toy Guns” from her Greatest Hits collection. Naturally, the album also includes “I Told You So.”