One of the 1980s’ and 1990s’ most successful country music stars, Randy Travis has sold more than 25 million albums, earned seven Grammy Awards, and toured the world. In 2013 he suffered a massive stroke that left him paralyzed on one side, limiting his speech and ability to do what he loves most: sing and perform. But Travis isn’t letting his condition stop him. The country icon has released a new memoir, inviting ET Canada’s Carlos Bustamante into his Nashville home for an exclusive interview with him and his wife Mary.
Now, six years on from Randy’s massive stroke, Mary says the experience has taught the couple a lot about love, perseverance, and patience.
“You learn to love each other and adore each other in a way that was far beyond what you thought was possible. So we learned a lot about love. There wasn’t anything that I feel like was going to tear us apart,” Mary tells Carlos. With Randy unable to speak much, Mary does most of the talking for her husband.
“As much as I already loved this man, going through those six months in the hospital, it was just an adoration for his fight, a love for that fight, and a respect for the warrior that was in there in his heart,” she continues.
Three and a half months after the stroke, doctors advised Mary to consider “pulling the plug” on Randy as there was “nothing else” they could do to help him.
“He’s highly septic, staph infection we can’t get in control and it’s replicating, and other hospital born bacteria, collapsed lungs, chest tubes, he was intubated, had a tracheostomy, his skull was still off,” she says, listing his ailments. “There was just so many things working against him but there was a couple things working for him and that was God Almighty and that was His will.”
Mary asked Randy if he wanted to keep fighting in a partial comatose state.
“That’s when that tear fell. And he squeezed my hand and we hadn’t got that much out of him in weeks. So knew then that he knew what was going on. I also know that he wanted to fight,” she adds.
Randy’s new memoir, Forever And Ever, Amen, goes into great detail about his recovery journey and survival, as well as his legendary career, financial difficulties, and his struggle with alcohol abuse that led to a car accident in 2012. After seeing misconceptions and half-truths written about the singer’s life, the couple decided now was the right time to release the memoir.
“It kind of wears on you when you hear or you read or you see so many things that are really not the way that they are, and I think it builds up and you’re like I just want the world to know me,” Mary answers on behalf of Randy. “The way I want me told about. So you know to write a book and to be very open and honest and fair, I mean he tells you about his shortcomings and has never been one to back away and didn’t take ownership of his mistakes. He’s always been very humble and kind.”
During his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016, Randy surprised the audience and fans by performing “Amazing Grace” — his first public performance since his stroke three years earlier.
“I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place. I still get emotional when I think about it,” Mary says, tearing up.
She reveals that Randy does still sing, though not as often as she would like.
“He’ll sing in the car when we’re driving back and forth from Texas to Tennessee. He’ll sing a lot. He just has to be in the mood, and he knows all the words to every song,” she reveals. “That’s the funny thing with a stroke and the aphasia… the brain knows it all.”