Since notching his first Top 10 single in 1986 with “1982,” Randy Travis has inspired generations of artists with his warm, humbly commanding voice. He earned 10 chart-topping singles between 1986 and 1990. His sophomore album, Always & Forever, was ultimately certified 5x multi-Platinum and earned Travis a Grammy, bolstered by his signature hit “Forever and Ever, Amen.” His followup, 1988’s Old 8×10, brought a second Grammy—to date, Travis has taken home seven of those gilded gramophones. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016 and has sold more than 25 million albums.
Three of his recordings, including “On The Other Hand” (1986), “Forever and Ever, Amen” (1987) and “Three Wooden Crosses” (2003), have earned CMA Song of the Year honors.
But in 1984, Travis was another Nashville hopeful, performing for patrons at the Nashville Palace when he wasn’t in the restaurant’s kitchen working as a cook. One year prior, he had released an independent album, Live at the Nashville Palace. He was also writing songs and found work as a demo singer while chasing the dream of signing a label deal.
Now, more than three decades later, one of those early Travis demo recordings has been recovered and released as his latest single.
“Fool’s Love Affair” is a refreshing slice of stone-cold traditional country music, with Travis’ honeyed baritone carrying regret-tinged lyrics centering on a forbidden romance, cradled by steel guitar and piano.
The song marks the Country Music Hall of Fame member’s first new music in seven years, since his near-fatal stroke in 2013 robbed music lovers of the voice that made Travis a prominent figure of the New Traditionalist wave of country singers in the 1980s.
Fans and country artists alike have responded mightily.
Within a week of its release on July 29, “Fool’s Love Affair” reached more than 1 million streams. Travis’ team also released a promotional video clip on TikTok, earning more than 4 million views of the video in less than 48 hours. Country artists including Josh Turner, Chris Young, Charles Esten, Midland and Carrie Underwood (who transformed Travis’ 1988 chart-topper “I Told You So” into a duet with Travis and earned a Grammy in 2009) shared praise for the new song on social media.
“The respect and the admiration that he has gained from the artist friends, that’s what means so much to him. And the fans that are still around after our seven-year hiatus, dealing with the stroke and aftermath, those fans are still around, I think that’s what matters most,” says Randy Travis’s wife Mary Travis, who often joins Randy in media interviews.
“He always told me, ‘If one of my songs touches one person, I’ve made my mark. I’ve done my part,’” she tells MusicRow.
Fittingly, the song was released on 35th anniversary of Travis’ 1985 major label debut single, “On The Other Hand,” penned by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, which eventually became the first of Travis’ 16 No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart (upon its initial release, “On The Other Hand” peaked at No. 67. After the success of “1982,” Warner Bros. re-released “On The Other Hand,” and it became his first chart-topper).
Longtime radio personality and music publisher Charlie Monk co-wrote “Fool’s Love Affair” alongside Keith Stegall and Milton Brown in 1982. Monk had signed Travis to his publishing company Monk Family Music; according to Mary Travis, Randy recorded the song in 1984, just prior to signing with Warner Bros.
“They were at that point looking or someone that could lay down a demo vocal so they could pitch it to people like Merle Haggard and George Jones. Randy was doing demos and working at the Nashville Palace at the time, so I guess it didn’t ever get recorded by anybody and Charlie Monk shoved the 8-track in the back of his desk. He couldn’t find the master recording of it for years,” says Mary Travis.
“Randy remembers doing the demo,” she continues. “For two or three years, Charlie looked for it. Then, when he was cleaning out his office on Music Row and was boxing up a bunch of stuff to take to the Country Music Hall of Fame, he stumbled over a box in the corner and out fell this multi-track of the song.”
Monk took the multi-track recording to Kyle Lehning, the producer for so many of Travis’ albums, including his 1986 debut album Storms of Life, which went on to be certified 3x multi-Platinum.
When asked how it felt to hear Lehning’s finished version, Randy said, “Awesome.”
“It was vintage sounding because there is static and rattle, like something that would be played on an old jukebox,” Mary Travis adds. “But it was great hearing it because it was new material. Then when Kyle got through with it, it gave me goosebumps. I cried, because I love hearing that voice again. And I know he was proud not only for Charlie and Kyle, but to hear Kyle’s work again.
“I told Charlie, ‘It’s just a God wink.’ It was supposed to be because Charlie persevered for so long and Kyle was willing to work on the track. I think everyone has room in their heart and room on the radio dial. It is pretty cool to hear him over the airwaves again,” Mary said.
“Yep,” Randy added.
Mary Travis says fans can expect to hear more of Travis’ classic voice soon.
“There is more to come and there are some great ones that we have found in the archives, and some songs that Randy has written but that have not been put on tape yet. But Kyle has found an album full that we are trying to backtrack to see who wrote them and when they are written. There’s more to come.”
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