On a recent Saturday night, the local crowd was packed into Clark’s Outpost barbecue in Tioga, Texas (pop. 803), clapping and dancing to a new singer’s set. Among the newfound fans: country star Randy Travis, who after finishing his dinner offered the young man encouragement. “He talked to the guy, told him he was impressed and that he ought to keep up with it,” Clark’s owner James Hilliard says of Travis. “He’s very personable.”
It was a very different Travis from the one highway patrol officers met at nearly midnight on Aug. 7 while responding to a one-vehicle crash. Lying in the middle of a dark country road, the singer, 53-a seven-time Grammy winner with a 26-year-long career in country and, more recently, Christian music-was naked, injured and showing signs of intoxication, his battered black 1998 Pontiac Trans Am nearby in a once barricaded construction zone. He was booked for driving while intoxicated and for “retaliation” after he allegedly threatened officers’ lives, according to Sgt. Rickey Wheeler of the Grayson County sheriff’s office. (He faces up to 10 years in jail on the retaliation charge alone.)
Freed on $21,500 bail the following morning, a barefoot Travis-whose previous evening had also included trying to buy cigarettes naked, according to a convenience store clerk-walked out of jail in paper clothes and an orange baseball cap given to him by Gary Corley, a local lawyer and fan. “He seemed fine, alert,” says Corley. “When a brother needs help, you give it.”
It’s no secret Travis has had a rough two years. In 2010 he split with his wife of 19 years and former manager, Lib Hatcher, 71, and on Feb. 6, 2012, he was found in his car outside a church near his Tioga ranch and arrested for public intoxication. (He blamed the incident on “an evening of celebrating the Super Bowl” and was sentenced to 90 days’ probation.) In April, Travis and his ex-wife became embroiled in a toxic legal battle over her management contract; she accused him of breach of contract, and he countersued on grounds she was trying to damage his career. Music insiders and friends wonder if Travis’s recent behavior is just a temporary sign of stress-or something more. “He obviously has a lot of demons,” a Nashville industry source says of the singer, who has openly talked about plunging into the “wild side of life” as a teen. “They’ve resurfaced and he’s out of control. And unfortunately he doesn’t have [Lib], that rock that kept him together for so many years.”
Hatcher discovered the high school dropout in 1977 when he was just 17, and she “made all the decisions,” says the industry source of Travis’s career, which has included acting and a family-film production company. “She spoke for him on everything.” After their divorce, Travis was linked to the former wife of his dentist, Mary Beougher, 53; the police report for his February arrest states Travis said they’d been fighting. Locals say the couple are on and off. “I haven’t seen her with him in probably a month,” says Hilliard.
Though the singer seems ready to put his latest trouble behind him-he’s scheduled to perform in Franklin, Ohio, on Aug. 17-his struggles may run far deeper. Talking about his journey of self-discovery, he told PEOPLE back in April, “If you keep waiting on the right thing to happen so you can be happy, you may be waiting a long, long time. And you may be very seldom ever happy.”