Garth Brooks Proclaims Artist of a Lifetime Randy Travis ‘Saved Country Music’ On CMT Artists of the Year Special

The legendary Randy Travis was honored with the coveted Artist of a Lifetime trophy on Wednesday night and country music…


Lauren Jo Black

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October 13, 2021


11:42 pm

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Garth Brooks & Randy Travis; Photo Courtesy of Getty Images for CMT

The legendary Randy Travis was honored with the coveted Artist of a Lifetime trophy on Wednesday night and country music icon Garth Brooks was on hand to bestow the honor upon him. 

“I said this before, and I’ll say it again, Randy Travis single-handedly saved country music,” Brooks declared.  

He went on to admit, “I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for Randy Travis.”

As Travis and his wife, Mary, looked on, Brooks shared, “Every artist that takes the stage over the next hundred years should bow to this man and thank him for his contribution… Artists like this guy only come once in a lifetime.”

Travis made his way to the stage with Mary by his side. He officially accepted the trophy as Mary shared a touching message on his behalf. 

“As Randy would say, and I think he said it before, It’s a pretty good night for me,” she said. 

“After listening to these artists tonight and these artists tonight and these uplifting songs and the great sounds that are coming from them. Thank you so much for following in the footsteps because we fully expect to see y’all up here one day, celebrating you as Artist of a Lifetime,” she told the artists in the room. 

As she continued to speak for Travis, who nodded along throughout the speech, Mary said, “The stroke may’ve taken the voice, but it didn’t take the man, and it didn’t take the heart. 

You know what else it didn’t take? The music, well have that forever and ever, amen.”

Closing the speech, Mary thanked God, the city of Nashville, Warner, Kyle, his writers, his team and his fans. 

Randy Travis & Wife Mary; Photo Courtesy Getty Images for CMT
Randy Travis & Wife Mary; Photo Courtesy Getty Images for CMT

Other artists who have received the Artists of a Lifetime honor include Reba McEntire (2019), Loretta Lynn (2018), Shania Twain (2016), Kenny Rogers (2015) and Merle Haggard (2014).

2021 CMT Artists of the Year special aired live from Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

The show honored Randy Travis with the highly-coveted Artist of a Lifetime title, Chris Stapleton, Gabby Barrett, Kane Brown, Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Combs as the 2021 Artists of the Year and Mickey Guyton with the Breakout Artist of the Year honor.

The 90-minute special, which aired on Wednesday, October 13 at 9/8c, also featured performances by Combs, Barrett and more.

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Additionally, the ceremony included several star-studded collaborations and tributes, including Boyz II Men with Kevin Olusola of Pentatonix honoring Stapleton, Brown paying homage to Travis, and Mickey Guyton performing “Remember Her Name” with Yola. Ballerini joined forces with the Jonas Brothers for a cover of a Joe Cocker hit.

Making his award show debut, Walker Hayes closed out the show with a performance of “Fancy Like.”

Eric Church, Lady A, Nelly, Connie Britton, Michael W. Smith, Copeland, Morgan Evans and CMT’s Cody Alan made special appearances as presenters throughout the evening as well.

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Lauren Jo Black

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Lauren Jo Black

Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for and her work being featured on She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.