On This Day: Randy Travis Scores First No. 1 Single With ‘On the Other Hand’ in 1986

by Jim Casey
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Randy Travis scored his first chart-topper when “On the Other Hand” ascended to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart on July 26, 1986.

Timing is everything. The old adage rang true for Randy’s “On the Other Hand,” which initially flopped on the charts. The tune, penned by songwriting greats Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, had an uncanny life. But fortunately, this story has a happy ending.

Traditionalism Returns With Randy Travis

Randy Travis helped usher in an era of neo-traditionalism with his 1986 debut album, Storms of Life. Like-minded artists such as George Strait, Ricky Skaggs, Alan Jackson, and Keith Whitley began steering country music back toward its traditional stylings. Of course, that was a direct result of the pop-centric sounds made popular by the Urban Cowboy movement in the early 1980s.

Speaking of the early 1980s. Warner Brothers finally signed a young Nashville club performer named Randy Traywick, who had been performing under the stage name Randy Ray. Warner had already turned down the North Carolina native multiple times for sounding “too country.” However, after an exec at Warner heard Randy’s 1982 indie album, Live at the Nashville Palace, the label was ready to give Randy a shot. This time, as Randy Travis.

Randy released his debut single, “On the Other Hand,” in July 1985.

The tune tanked, peaking at No. 67. Undeterred, Randy dropped his second single, “1982,” in December 1985. The song became Randy’s first Top 10 hit, climbing to No. 6 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 1986.

Secondhand Hit

After the success of “1982,” Warner made a rare—and wise—decision. “On the Other Hand” was re-released in April 1986. While Randy Travis wasn’t a household name yet, he was gaining steam—and spins—with program directors at country radio. Three months later, “On the Other Hand” climbed the chart, peaking at No. 1 on July 26, 1986.

Of course, “On the Other Hand” was just the beginning for Randy. He later teamed with songwriter Paul Overstreet on “Diggin’ Up Bones,” “Forever and Ever, Amen,” and “Deeper Than the Holler,” among others.

“We were trying to write a theme for another song,” said Paul Overstreet to Country Weekly in 2001. “It was the idea that when you have one woman, you shouldn’t be looking for another one. I personally was tired of that whole scenario of going from one relationship to another, and not having the strength to really say no in tempting situations. I was hoping we could write a song that would say we had the strength to say no. So right in the middle of that song, we kind of bantered some lines back and forth and Don said, ‘But on the other hand,’ and I said, ‘There’s a golden band.’ From that point, we looked at each other and kind of got that glitter in our eyes, and finished it real quick.”

In 1986, both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association named “On The Other Hand” Song of the Year.

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