Alabama's Teddy Gentry Calls Upcoming Randy Travis Tribute 'An Honor'

Randy Travis performs at LP Field during the 2013 CMA Music Festival on June 7, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon IV/WireImage)
Frederick Breedon IV/WireImage  

Randy Travis performs at LP Field during the 2013 CMA Music Festival on June 7, 2013 in Nashville, Tenn.

This coming Wednesday night (Feb. 8) will be a big one for traditional country fans in Music City, as many of the top stars in the format will come together to honor one of their own -- 1 Night. 1 Place. 1 Time: A Heroes and Friends Tribute to Randy Travis will be held at Bridgestone Arena. Artists such as Wynonna Judd, Josh Turner, and Chris Janson will be lending their talents in honor of the legendary singer. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Randy Travis Foundation for stroke research and rehabilitation. Travis, who has made significant strides since his 2013 stroke will also be celebrated by a couple of his fellow Country Music Hall of Fame members in Kenny Rogers and Alabama.

Alabama founding member Teddy Gentry tells Billboard the band is excited to honor a man and an artist who means a lot to them: “We’ve been fans of Randy for a long time. He came up the hard way like we did. It was an honor for them to invite us to try to help out there.”

Gentry also recalled that one of Travis’ first major tours was with Alabama, and they have always enjoyed their time together. “We’ve worked on and off with Randy over the years at a lot of different events. He’s always been a joy to be around. We’ve always been a fan not just of his singing, but also his songwriting, as well.”

Gentry credits Travis with helping to bring the format back to a more traditional sound when he exploded onto the scene with 1986’s Storms of Life. “I remember that he really re-energized the country base," he recalls. "Our favorite singer was Merle Haggard, and when Randy came along, I think it was just a reset on that traditional sound. I just felt that he was very real and believable. He had such a heartfelt voice, and he just really rekindled the format. He showed that someone could come along who could still sing a country song, and still sell it.”

Just like with Alabama, Travis’s career speed went from zero to 100 mph in the late '80s, and Gentry admires the way he handled his new-found fame. “After all the years of struggling and everything, then things start to happen for you overnight," he marvels. "It’s a big change. I thought the people that it don’t change are few and far between. He was always the same every time we would see him.”

Gentry also admires the grace and determination that Travis has had in his recovery. “I don’t know if I could be that strong or not. The Good Lord has been with him, and he saw how bad he wanted to get back. I think that’s helped him get back this far. We’re all at his mercy every day. Seeing his strength sure makes me want to complain less about anything that is wrong in my life.”

The evening promises to be a great night of entertainment for those in the audience, but as Gentry points out, also a rare night of fellowship for the artists. “Anytime we get to be around our fellow artists is a big honor," he attests. "We don’t get to be around each other enough. During the real busy years, you might see somebody at the award shows in passing or something like that, but it’s very seldom that you get to sit down and visit with your fellow artists, so we’re really looking forward to that.”

When asked what song they’ll be performing, Gentry says “We’re going to do ‘Angels Among Us.’ That was a song that had to earn its way. I remember the first time we played it for the record company, they weren’t very excited about it. It wound up being an inspirational song for people that were going through tough times, and it wound up having a life of its own -- much bigger than Alabama. The song has touched so many people and we still get stories about how it’s affected people.”

As far as plans for 2017, Gentry says the group will be hitting the road for a few select dates. “I think we’re going to continue to play some shows, not really do a full-fledged tour. We are going to try to play between 20 to 30 shows this year, and enjoy it and have fun. We still love getting out there and making music. So, as long as were out there enjoying it, we’re going to try to keep at it.”