Randy Travis: His Star Shines Big and Bright in ABC’s Movie “Texas” (1994)
Originally published in the Nov. 8, 1994 issue of Country Weekly magazine.
Randy plays a frontier lawman in an all-star cast that filmed James A. Michener’s sweeping saga Texas, set for home video release Nov. 9 and a January television airing on ABC-TV. He also performed onstage for his Texas fans, returning to the stage after a lengthy layoff to play 15 concert dates in September, ending with the huge Texas State Fair.
“Those September shows gave me a taste of touring again, and I enjoyed it a lot,” the ruggedly handsome superstar told Country Weekly. It was his first real tour in two years and he did it right, reassembling his eight-piece band and serving as grand marshal for the fair’s Sept. 30 opening day.
The tour pushes music to the forefront of Randy’s busy career at an opportune time. He hopes the title cut from his current album, This Is Me, will duplicate the chart-topping status of the recording’s earlier singles, “Before You Kill Us All” and “Whisper My Name.”
Fans’ next chance to see him in person is in early 1995. He’ll lead a three-month tour with Sammy Kershaw beginning in January.
Acting and other business have cut deeply into Randy’s touring time. He got out of the Charolais cattle business recently because, he said, “I just had too many irons in the fire.” Randy’s latest acting role helps tell the dramatic history of Texas, but for the cast, the biggest enemy wasn’t a hostile force storming the walls of the Alamo. It was the heat.
On the set in Del Rio, three hours southwest of San Antonio, everyone from stars to extras wilted.
“It was so hot, several other people became sick,” Randy said. “They had the military guys in full uniforms. It was between 100 and 110 degrees and the humidity was very high. You had to continually be drinking something. Every day, people either didn’t feel good or passed out.
“They’d holler, ‘Action,’ and then you’d hear, ‘Wait a minute, somebody’s passed out.’”
Randy doesn’t sing a note in Texas, but it should be a hit just the same. Texas stars one-time country singer John Schneider, Stacy Keach, Patrick Duffy, Rick Schroeder and David Keith.
“I have a fair amount of dialogue,” Randy said. Memorizing lines is no big deal for the acting veteran, who also plays Cole Younger in Frank and Jesse, a theatrical film shot in Arkansas last December and due out early next year. It stars Rob Lowe as Jesse James and Bill Paxton as Frank James.
“I just get in a room by myself and read out loud—that’s how I memorize dialogue,” Randy explained. “Because I’ve [memorized lyrics] so many years with singing, it comes pretty easy. I can read it over and over and not learn it as fast as saying it out loud. You also go over the lines in rehearsal on the set.”
Randy portrays a good guy. “My character is Sam Garner, who serves under Sam Houston [Keach] and is among the first group of people to become Texas Rangers,” Randy said. “He has a good relationship with Otto McNabb [Schroeder]. He’s McNabb’s boss, basically, but they become friends. I’m on the show throughout the last two hours.
“Texas covers a lot of territory. The Alamo scene takes place in the middle of the show. I think it will be an interesting movie. But the shooting schedule was so hectic. John Schneider, who plays Davy Crockett, and I just got to spend a few minutes together. I never even saw David Keith. We’d go in and work a few days, have some days off, and go back in.”
The movie makes use of Randy’s skills as a horseman. “I did quite a bit of horseback riding,” he confirmed. “I was involved in the scene in which [Mexican General] Santa Ana is captured. Since I’ve been riding all my life, I wanted to do all the battle scenes myself. That was the most fun, anyway.
“All of [the actors] didn’t ride good for sure, but every set I ever worked on they have wranglers there who match the horse to the person riding it. I had two horses: There was one that was a laid-back horse for sitting on and doing dialogue; the other wasn’t a race horse by any means but was a pretty good animal.”
Like horseback riding, the touring trail was familiar territory, and Randy made it as comfortable as possible by reassembling his band.
“Some in the band will be with me in January and some won’t,” the singer said. “That will be about a three-month tour and some can’t afford to be out of town that much; they have too much work in the studio.”
With both acting and touring still fresh in his mind, Randy said he still prefers singing, “especially on those good nights. You sure don’t get a reaction from a camera.”