Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Randy Travis, “Heroes and Friends”

“Heroes and Friends”

Randy Travis

Written by Don Schlitz and Randy Travis

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

March 29, 1991

After a duet with the Possum fell short of the penthouse, Randy Travis returns to the top with a solo effort.

The Road to No. 1

Despite No Holdin’ Back producing three No. 1 hits, Randy Travis opted to move on to a new studio album project instead of releasing a fourth single.  A labor of love, Heroes & Friends featured duets with contemporary and classic country artists.  The lead single, “A Few Ole Country Boys,” was a collaboration with George Jones that went top ten.  Warner Bros. chose to release the title track, which establishes the theme of the project but doesn’t feature a duet partner, as the second single.

The No. 1

Randy Travis had this brief period in the early nineties where he was still a young act, but seemed like an elder statesman of the genre at the same time, as a wave of even younger acts walked through the doors he kicked open.

So “Heroes and Friends” sounds quaint and a little dated in comparison to the other traditional hits dominating the radio in 1991, even though it touches on timeless themes and it is exquisitely performed and produced.

It’s a touching tribute to the importance of role models and the need for reliable friends, simplified in that way that makes it relatable to wise old gentlemen and young children at the same time.

It’s not one of his best records, and it’s not one of the best records of 1991.  But those are both very high bars to clear.

The Road From No. 1

Travis released “Point of Light” as his next solo single, which was based on the aspirational inaguaration speech of then-President George H.W. Bush, and it was a top five hit.  It was eventually included on his next studio album, High Lonesome. Travis would top the charts again in 1991 with the second release from that project, thanks to a fruitful songwriting collaboration with one of those rising traditional stars dominating the radio.

“Heroes & Friends” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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7 Comments

  1. Thanks to Jamie, I’ve thought about the old days when I used to record tapes from the radio and make mix tapes. I remember that I liked the short length of this song, because I could throw it on the end of a mix tape and not waste space.

    As far as this song goes, I like it, but I agree with this review. It almost feels more like a jingle or a song for an inspirational promo than a fully constructed song.

  2. I know I’m sounding like a broken record on most of these entries, but this is another essential Randy Travis song from my early childhood. Maybe it’s not quite as energetic as some of the other then hits from the likes of Garth or Pam Tillis, but for me, this record still oozes charm. As soon as I hear that opening harmonica, I’m suddenly transported back to the Fall of 1991, as that’s when I remember hearing it the most, and it’s on one of my favorite tapes from that time. Also love the fiddle in this song, along with the timeless message.

    Leeann – This song also made it on to the very end of that tape from the Fall of ’91! I remember at the time being worried that it wasn’t going to make it all the way through, but it just barely made it. Instead, poor Lee Greenwood ended up getting cut off just when he was about to start. Sometimes I wish this song was a bit longer, but yeah, it was sort of a blessing at the same time too, lol.

  3. Ha. When I recorded songs from the radio, I was pretty obsessive about it, so I would record silence at the end of the last song rather than leave a partial song at the end.

  4. The good thing about those partial songs at the end of my tapes for me was that it made me even more intrigued to hear the full song (especially if it was one you seldom heard anymore on the radio), and if it was one I really liked, it gave me all the more reason to want to get the album it came from.

  5. I remember when 2:52 would have been considered a longer than average song. The typical country song during the 1950s and 1960s typically ran from 2:00 to 2:45

  6. Nice song and video with footage from the Roy Rogers TV show. My wife has said that she loved Roy when she was about 7 years old but never like his wife Dale Evans. I remember the TV show but don’t recall ever hearing this Travis song before.

  7. Travis was in such a groove, and wore the country crown so confidently that he somehow felt above it all. He could almost do no wrong to my ears.

    This song served as reminder of what was so great about having country music heroes for a generation that was just learning what that would feel like with the emergence of so many young stars.

    A timely single.

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