The journey of Travis Henry’s music career
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Travis Henry has been into music for as long as he can remember.
“My first memories of singing would be in a white LTD car that my parents owned,” Henry told us. “I was young enough to stand up on the transmission hump in the back floorboards. I would sing in the back seat to every song on the radio.”
Henry’s parents loved music, always playing it in the car when they traveled. As a child, Travis was a homebody and disliked running all the time. “I would pass time by memorizing every lyric, all of the instruments and imitating the singers,” Travis said. “The first song I ever remember singing was ‘All Out of Love’ by Air Supply.”
Over the years, Henry grew up spending most of his time singing. The only problem was that he was very shy and too embarrassed to sing in front of anyone.
By the time Travis was in High School, he was in his eighth year of playing the trumpet in band and his girlfriend at the time as a fantastic singer.
“She would coax me to sing every chance she would get,” Henry said. “I was fine singing with the radio and karaoke tapes had just hit the market and she would ask me to sing with her.”
Travis made the decision to join chorus to get comfortable with singing in front of people. He had spent a few years playing in the band during musicals, but now felt like it was his turn to perform. “The problem was that I was too shy to try out for a main role, so I picked up roles as extras. It was very nerve wrecking performing in front of people, but I loved it.”
During his senior year of high school, Travis was also gifted his first guitar.
“I had no idea what to do with it, but I picked up little pieces here and there.”
One day, Travis’ parents came home and told him they had been at Joe and Pat Hollingsworth’s, listening to the community sing karaoke.
“My parent’s said ‘you have to go’. It was awesome for a guy like me. You could sit in a chair, surrounded by people and sing your favorite songs without feeling like you were on stage.”
Henry feels that what brought him out of his shell was the suggestion by his parents to do karaoke. At the same time, Joe and Pat’s son, Troy, had been to Nashville and recorded an album to promote with karaoke shows.
“I was even lucky enough to sing on stage with him during one of these events and a couple of fundraisers and also compete in a few contests and talent shows.”
Though he had fun with karaoke, Travis wanted to be in a band. “What better way to spend your time than playing music with fellow musicians and feeding off of their energy. That’s what I wanted to do,” Henry said. “The Beatles, The Eagles, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. They all did it and I wanted that too.”
As Henry began searching for a band, he answered an ad looking for a player to be one of the ‘Fab Four’ (Beatles). “I received a phone interview, but when they asked about my guitar playing, I was honest and said I can play guitar very little,” Travis said. “They explained to me they really needed guitar players and that the experience was necessary. I was pretty bummed. I really wanted to be in that band, but I had no idea that was not my only shot.”
A few months later, Henry’s mom brought him a clipping from a newspaper of a band that was wanting a lead singer for 50’s and 60’s music.
“I called the number right away and set up a time to meet and audition for a singer spot,” Travis said. “Little did I know that one of their previous lead singers had called and said he would like to take his spot back singing in the band.”
The band had told the lead singer that they had a young guy trying out, so the plan was to use this as a simple jam session, let Henry sing some songs, tell him that he was decent and send him on his way, then the band would start their practice next week.
The group was ‘The Silvertones’, a 50’s and 60’s Rock ‘N’ Roll group of out Paris that had been playing together since the 60’s. The band was made up of Don and Ron Reed on guitars, Jim Taylor as the singer, Lonnie Davidson on drums and Bob West on bass.
“There were years of experience in that band and I had little to none. They started some simple tunes and I tried to sing my butt off. Then they started throwing everything at me, including harmonizing with Jim singing lead vocals. I must have impressed them enough that they had a little meeting and said they thought it would be great to have two lead singers to help Jim carry the load,” Henry said. “I am forever grateful to that band for giving me the opportunity to do what I love.”
At that time, Travis was just twenty years old and by their second gig, he turned twenty-one. The band would go on to play for around three years together.
“That band taught me everything when it comes to playing with other musicians. Going from a karaoke solo singer to playing and adapting to a live band is a huge difference,” Henry said. “You have to be on your toes constantly and adapt to changing situations at every turn.”
During his performing days with ‘The Silvertones’, Travis’s parents would take him to local studios and record his voice singing on top of karaoke tracks to build up a demo of his voice. “My dad was working with a now close friend of the family, Brian Wilkerson. Brian is a music lover, especially country music,” Henry said. “He listened to my recordings and thought that I needed to do something. Brian’s determination is unreal and he does not take no for an answer.”
Though he doesn’t know the entire story, Henry is pretty sure that Wilkerson was at a show and met country legend Razzy Bailey. “He pushed my recordings on him and told Razzy he needed to meet me,” Henry said. “He listened and agreed.”
Nashville, Tennessee was always a place that Henry visited as a child, but as an adult, knowing that most music derived from that area, he felt an unbelievable rush being there. “My family and I had no idea what we were doing in that city, but we were about to find out.”
The Henry’s met Razzy Bailey at his new office on Music Row. Bailey decided to take on song acts to manage and promote. Travis happened to be one of the new acts that he was interested in. “He told us that he had some songs that he had written and some of them were perfect for my voice,” Henry said. “He told us that he would like to do a demo of my voice singing some of his material. We agreed and said we are ready now.”
Bailey gave Henry some songs to listen to and told him to learn them by tomorrow. Travis listened to them most of the night to do them as best as he could. The next morning, the family traveled to the famous Hilltop Studios. “Razzy had a pre recorded track that I overdubbed my voice on and just like that I had my first Nashville recording demo,” Travis said.
The next few years, the Henry’s would travel to Nashville and back one to three times a month, making appointments for publishing companies to try to find the perfect song for the next demo, all the while, Travis was still playing with ‘The Silvertones’.
“Finally, we had five songs that we were proud of and headed to Abtrax Studios to record it,” Henry said. Abtrax was a studio down by Berry Hill that the brothers from the band ‘Pantera’ built for their father, Jerry Abbot. “Curt Ryle was the producer that sat in on most of the recordings along with Razzy. It’s amazing watching music come together in the studio.”
After days of hard singing, Henry had a five song demo that he was proud of. Now came the time to push it. Upon returning home, Henry’s parents were working diligently to get Travis shows, newspaper articles and radio and TV interviews.
Though he was still fighting his shyness, Travis quickly had to learn to accept it. “We had a close knit group of people who were behind the scenes that were trying to help me every step of the way,” Henry said. “There were too many family and close friends to mention, but they all remember and know who they are. It was a very exciting time.”
The excitement began to grow when the Georgetown Fair wanted Henry to bring ‘The Silvertones’ to back him as an opening act for Trace Adkins in 1997. At that time, Trace was an up and comer to the music scene. After the Georgetown Fair booked him for the show, he gained more popularity.
“That show was the turning point in my music career,” Henry said. “The Georgetown Fair had record attendance. I think there was around 4,000 people that night.”
This was also the first night that Henry decided to bring his guitar on stage. “Being nervous and not a very good guitar player, I picked up my guitar to play ‘Nine Million Tears’ and I accidentally knocked over the mic stand with the neck of my guitar. The stand, along with its mic, went crashing to the ground mid show,” Henry said. “I was terribly embarrassed, picked it up off of the floor and set it back up and spoke quietly into the microphone ‘this is my first time,’”
The statement got a laugh from the crowd and the show went on.
“Trace put on an incredible show. He has such bass in his voice you can feel it when he sings.”
After the Georgetown Fair, Henry’s parents and friends started a fan club. They also found out that Nashville would like a pre-made project ready to put their finishing touches on and sell. “The dream that you can be spotted in some club playing downtown is true, but most artists now have everything together before they ever sign them.”
Henry knew what he wanted to get out of this project. A five song demo that he has just recorded, a thousand paying members to a fan club and promotional head shots, bio, etc. “Those friends and they know who they are, worked tirelessly on my project. I will be forever grateful,” Henry said. “Every person I talk about in this story had more faith in me than I did. They are the best.”
In the three years that Travis spent with ‘The Silvertones’, they played constantly, sometimes playing both Saturday and Sunday nights. “Once the Trace Adkins show was over, the guys were wanting to slow down, but I was just getting started.”
Travis was selected to be on ‘The Charlie Daniels Band Round Up’ and the family headed to Nashville again. “We would drive down to Nashville and I sang in front of a camera to see if I could. The round up was derived from the hit show ‘Star Search’ and would lead into ‘The Voice’,” Henry said. “Unfortunately, I was selected but the show would be canceled before I had the chance to get on television.”
Travis went on to sing at the Bement Opry and the Taylorville Opry, sitting in with the house bands. “On one occasion, I opened for the country act ‘The Kinley’s’. Razzy also invited me on stage at the Nashville, Indiana Opry, Roberts Western World and Tooties in downtown Nashville, Tennessee,” Henry said. “He was always trying to give me as much publicity as possible.”
A handful of radio stations (98.5 out of Paris, Mattoon, Danville and Layfette, Indiana). Henry would spend Friday nights with Travis Redburn from 98.5 doing requests and talking to people on the air. He also did interviews at all of the stations, call sign commercials, making friends with the disc jockeys.
One night, Henry received a call from Lee Willard. Williard worked at the Mattoon station and saw his demo laying around the station and listened to it. “He must’ve liked it because he called me right then. We became good friends right away,” Travis said. “I am the type of person that hopes things happen and Lee is the type of person that makes things happen. He doesn’t know the meaning of the word no.”
During this time, Travis knew it was time to put a band together. Through a mutual friend, he met Bryan Chrisman. “We met at Bryan’s one evening and I knew I had met a lifelong friend. Him and I got along immediately. Our mindsets are very similar to each other’s.”
Travis asked Bryan to be his band leader and help him put together the best musicians in the area. After searching, the line up was Bryan Chrisman on bass, Troy Stone on drums, Larry May on keys and George Halls on guitar.
“When someone couldn’t make a show, we would have a fill in musician and later Jason Messmore replaced Troy on drums, but this was the main group,” Henry said. “This band was killer. I was the weakest link within this group.”
Each member worked on their parts on their own time and got together to fine tune the show. The newly formed band would have their first show in four weeks. Before the band even had a chance to meet, Henry received a call from a club in Lafayette, Indiana wanting an opening act for a Wade Hayes show.
“So, now we have two weeks to prepare a band for a professional forty-five minute show. We pulled it off and sounded huge on stage,” Henry said.
Two weeks later, the band would be opening for a Neal McCoy show in Clinton, Indiana. The band would go on to be the only act to open for McCoy at South Vermilion High School three years in a row.
“Neal was great. Sometimes he would even sit backstage and listen to us play our set. His manager was not the friendliest though,” Henry said. “I’m pretty sure we (the band) got into an argument with him the last two years and one time he told us we played over our set and shut our monitors off to get us off the stage. We laughed about that later, but at the time, I had no idea that those arguments were going on.”
The band would continue to be an opening act for more musicians like Ty Herndon, Jeff Carson, Terri Clark, The Warren Brothers, Sawyer Brown, Sons of the Desert, Kenny Chesney and Mindy McCready.
“Some were very nice and some wouldn’t give you the time of day.”
As the band started to gain popularity, Razzy Bailey was starting to show Travis around to some of the record labels and management companies at the same time. “Me and my parents or sometimes just me and my dad would drive down to Nashville and attend these meetings once or twice a month. It was very hectic,” Henry said. “Sometimes one would drive down, we would have a meeting and the other would drive back to save money on hotels. I have the best parents in the world. They put everything on hold for me and for that I am grateful.”
One afternoon, Travis got a call from Razzy stating that someone from Dreamworks label wanted to talk to him about his music. “I had never been asked to talk to someone at a record label before, especially one that is up and coming. Razzy, my dad and I met with Allison Jones.”
Jones was an artist developer at Dreamworks. They talked for a bit and he sang for her in her office. “It was quite a bit like a job interview. She told us that we needed to do a showcase for James Stroud,” Henry said. Stroud was the President of the label. “She gave us her number and said call me when you get something ready.”
Razzy was so excited that he asked Henry to sign him on as Producer/Manager. Prior to this, there was no contract and Razzy had never asked. “He saw something in that meeting and needed to stake a claim in me,” Henry said. “He told us that he never asked for any money up to that point and he wasn’t asking now. He wanted to sign me as an artist so that if they signed me, they would have to buy him out.”
Henry compares the contract signing to a ‘finder’s fee’, but they all agreed. After Travos was signed for a year, everything started to go downhill. Travis had only spoken to Allison one more time on the phone before she stopped taking or returning his calls.
“We decided to push on and have our Nashville showcase. We used the backstage at Tootsies downtown,” Henry said. “My parents paid for the band to go down and perform and we even rented a drum set so we wouldn’t have to drag one down there.”
As the band was ready to perform, Razzy told the band to play quietly so not to overpower Travis’ vocals. The band didn’t play well because of it and neither did Travis.
“We ended up back home, playing more shows. After that show, I played one more show for Razzy.”
Razzy started a ‘I Hate Hate’ foundation to battle school violence and asked Henry to play his first major show. It consisted of celebrities from the music industry, actors and other famous people. “It was a great idea, but it didn’t go over very well. He stopped calling me and we thought he dropped the ball with the Dreamworks label and that’s why he wouldn’t talk to us anymore,” Henry said. “It was decided to let our year contract expire and part ways. We never heard from him again.”
On their own, the band decided it was time to create another album. Something that was a little more current with the type of music that they were hearing on the radio. Without the help of Razzy, the band had to figure out a way to get solid material for their album.
“I talked to Curt Ryle at Abtrax and told him our dilemma. He told us that he would love for us to record there and he had some of the latest and greatest song writers in his catalog. He was right,” Henry said. “The material he had was killer. Songs that I could relate to. We started recording as soon as possible. Everything was going great until backup singer Curtis Wright came into lay down tracks.”
The band started a song called ‘Telluride’. When Wright heard this song play, he said ‘Stop, I’ve heard this before’. He listened again and said ‘Yes, I did the tracks for this song on Tim McGraw’s new album. If they hear my voice on here, they will know it’s me. I can’t sing this song’.
Henry knew they were in trouble when they heard that, but Curtis assured them not to worry and they would shelf that song and record another until they find out whether Tim released that song on his record or not.
It would come out later that Curtis never had the rights to record that music and he knew the songs weren’t in his catalog. The truth was that he made a copy of every demo recorded in that studio and pawned them off as his own.
“We finished the album and it sounded pretty good. I called Curt for the rights for those songs and he would come up with an excuse every time,” Henry said. “When you mass produce music through Sony or anywhere legit, they always ask for the right to the material and we had none. That record sat for almost a year and I wouldn’t do anything with it at all.”
After 9/11, the music industry started slowing down and almost came to a screeching halt. No one was touring, there weren’t any shows to play and the hardware store that Travis managed for the last few years closed down.
“I started looking and found a job working for Rural King in Paris. The music industry was looking worse and I figured I needed to start concentrating on working,” Henry said. “I had the opportunity to get into their management program and was headed towards running my own store, but I was torn.”
“If you’ve ever played music in front of a crowd of people and felt the energy that it gives off, you know exactly what I mean. I didn’t want to give that up. Music is my life.”
With the help of his very supportive parents, they gave Travis the opportunity to move to Nashville. He had already met a man named Anthony Von Dolan, who helped him get the rights to the songs he had recorded for his second album, but it was too late. “There were no shows, no fan base, no phone ringing for anything,” Henry said. “We still have most of those albums stored in my dad’s garage, wasting away.”
Von Dolan worked at Arista Records as Artist Development. He decided to part ways with the label and go out on his own after he saw that the cutbacks were imminent in the company. Anthony told Travis that he was taking five acts that he had interest in and no more.
“We were going to make the best album I had made yet. He even drove up to watch one of my shows in Indiana before they (the shows) came to a halt. We believed in him,” Henry said. “If anyone could take us where we wanted to be, it was him.”
My friends Lee from Mattoon and Cain Hall from Sullivan, Indiana had been living in a small home by the river owned by Genie Seeley. Lee was the self-driven disc jockey from Illinois and was a road manager for Bill Anderson.
Cain was a singer/song writer and worked downtown playing at all of the clubs on Broadway. On the weekends, he went on the road with Loretta Lynn as her merchandiser.
By the time Travis moved to Nashville, both Cain and Lee had moved on with their lives, living with their girlfriends, but would visit often.
“I spent my days learning how to get around Nashville and applying for jobs. I will admit with no GPS and living in a big city, that I got lost often,” Henry said. “But as my dad always says all roads lead somewhere and I would always find my way back home.”
During the weekends, it was Opry time. Henry spent time backstage with all of the country acts that he had only saw on TV or heard on the radio. “They were right in front of me. I could walk the halls and listen to bands and singers rehearse in their dressing room. It was amazing.”
Henry met with Anthony a few times while he lived in Nashville, but the connection started to drift.
Soon the contacts were lost and the project was over. “I wasn’t making much money and that was coming to a head. I missed small town life, my family and my friends, so I decided to go with Cain to somewhere in Georgia,” Henry said.
At three a.m., after the bars closed, Henry and Cain picked up a band to make the overnight trip to Georgia.
“That is the moment I knew that I was done,” Henry said. “I’ve dealt with anxiety all of my life.”
Before every show, Henry would be sick the night before, sometimes even running a temperature. The morning before the shows, he would eat two pieces of dry toast and drink only water that day. “I wouldn’t eat anything until the show was over and I was on my way out. It really messed with my health,” Henry said. “When I get on stage, I am a ball of nerves until I finish a couple of songs and then I go into this trance where everything starts to disappear and I’m calm. So I decided to ride to Georgia on a bus with mostly strangers, all of this anxiety and no control and thought ‘I’m an idiot’.”
After making the trip, Travis didn’t eat anything but one dry ham and cheese sandwich. It was then that Travis realized it was time to go back home, plant his roots and turn his love for music into a hobby.
Throughout the years, Henry has played in a couple of bands, but when he got married, he put it to the side to spend time with his new family.
“There’s always something in the back of my mind that tells me you need to play. My musician friends can relate,” Henry said. “I talked to Guy Winters about a band he was forming and we started to play together.”
It was through this meeting that ‘Alternative Therapy’ was born. After a year’s run, it was time to regroup. The current band is named ‘The Travis Henry Band’.
“The band thought that it (the name) had a ring to it,” Henry said. “We play a lot of material I grew up on.”
The band members of the THB Classic are Scott Easton, Guy Winters, Frank Manderino and Jeff Archer.
Looking back, Henry is grateful for all that he learned throughout his time in Nashville and being involved in the music scene.
Now, he’s happy where he is. “It was a journey,” Henry said. “One that I couldn’t have ever done without the help of my parents, family and close friends.”