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UPDATE

RANDY’S BRAVE FIGHT

EIGHT MONTHS AFTER HIS STROKE, TRAVIS STAYS FOCUSED ON RECOVERY

At his ranch in Tioga, Texas (pop. 803), Randy Travis and fiancée Mary Davis sometimes get a few visitors: the firefighters from the local station who make a trip up the hill to wish him well and check in. “He was so happy and appreciative,” recalls Bill Tackett, director of the volunteer fire department, of a recent visit. “He had tears in his eyes, but a lot of us did.”

Since last July, when Travis, 54, was hospitalized for viral cardiomyopathy and subsequently suffered a stroke, the legendary baritone’s friends and fans far from his hometown have been hoping to hear the seven-time Grammy winner’s booming voice again. While no official statement about Travis’s health has been released since August, friends say he’s pushing through daily physical therapy with the help of Davis, 55. Says James Hilliard, owner of Clark’s Outpost BBQ in Tioga: “He’s working on walking [every day]; that’s the kind of guy he is. If prayer helps, then God knows he’s got those.”

LOVE IT OR HATE IT?

Brand-New Dos

WE ASKED, YOU ANSWERED! HERE’S WHAT YOU THOUGHT OF THESE STAR HAIRCUTS

Taylor Swift

Who needs big hair? 69% of you love Taylor’s new bob.

Eric Church

It’s a draw! 53% like the buzz cut better; 47% preferred it shaggy.

Keith Urban

Oh, Keith! America voted, and 84% want your long locks back.

David Nail

We love whatever he’s got, but 70% wish his hair were a little longer.

STAR READS

Life Lessons from Josh

MAN STUFF by Josh Turner

The singer offers “thoughts on faith, family and fatherhood” in a new book due April 29 from Christian imprint Thomas Nelson.

LOVE AND THEFT’S ERIC GUNDERSON

CELEBRITY Dream ANALYSIS

ERIC DREAMED IT; WE HAD IT ANALYZED!

THE DREAM

“I’ve had this recurring dream since I was 6 where I am chased by turtles. I’m in my backyard, and I’m sitting in this awesome sandbox my dad built, and the turtles come over our fence. I try to run, but I can’t run fast enough. It’s weird since turtles are so slow, but they end up catching up to me, and right before I die, I wake up.”

THE ANALYSIS

“If this dream were my dream, I’d wonder if those turtles represent a totally unexpected invasion of something into my life,” says dream coach Paula Scardamalia of diviningthemuse.com. “The turtles climb over a fence, which is a boundary. I’d ask, ‘Where in my life is a big change about to happen that I feel helpless to stop?’ Also, because of the speed of the turtles, I’d ask myself, ‘Do I need to slow down or do I need to pick up my pace?’ A sandbox is a place to play and create… until it is invaded. I’d ask, ‘Where in my life does the unexpected interrupt and threaten my creativity?'”

Jerrod Niemann’s

BIG EASY PROPOSAL

When Jerrod Niemann started thinking about how to propose to longtime girlfriend and nursing student Morgan Petek last October, he thought he had come up with the perfect plan: A horse-and-carriage ride through New Orleans – a place that holds many happy childhood memories for Petek. “We were walking over to Jackson Square, and we turn the corner and see, like, 13 carriages just waiting for someone to rent them,” says Niemann. “So I’m like, ‘Hey, you want to take a ride?’ She’s like, ‘Nah. Horses are supposed to be in pastures, not walking the streets of New Orleans!’ I just thought, ‘Oh, crap!’ I was literally frantic.”

But thankfully the quick-thinking singer, 35, had another trick up his sleeve. “We walked over to this statue in Jackson Square, and I just turned to these ladies and said, ‘Would you be kind enough to take our picture? I think we might be getting engaged.’ Morgan was like, ‘What?’ Then I took out the ring. Morgan was crying; the ladies were crying … It was a cool moment.”

The couple are planning a destination wedding in Puerto Rico this fall, and while Niemann admits he’s leaving most of the details to his bride, he has weighed in on occasion. “We went to Vegas, and we saw some of those crazy shows, and Morgan started wanting to have acrobats and all this stuff at our wedding!” he says. “I was like, ‘Man, this is not a circus!’ Literally, I think our wedding is going to be some minimized version of a Vegas show.” But whatever Petek, 32, has in store for the big day, Niemann says there’s one moment he knows will be great. “I just can’t wait to see her walk down the aisle. I know she’s going to be stunning.”

Rascal Flatts

HOW NOT TO SCREW UP MOTHER’S DAY…

WITH THEIR NEW ALBUM REWIND DUE MAY 13 (TWO DAYS AFTER MOM’S BIG DAY), RASCAL FLATTS’ JAY DEMARCUS, GARY LEVOX AND JOE DON ROONEY SHARE THEIR SECRETS FOR KEEPING MAMA HAPPY!

No. 1

DON’T FORGET IT

“The most amazing thing I’ve ever done is not forget,” jokes LeVox. “We adjust our schedules to make sure we’re home. We have to be there to celebrate our wives and our mothers.” And if you can’t be there, it’s not okay to send a substitute. “My brother is my assistant, and I’ve been busted a few times because I’ve sent him to get a card,” says LeVox. “My wife’s like, ‘Okay, I know this didn’t come from you because you never say these things to me in a card!'”

No. 2

MAKE IT HEARTFELT

“One of the best things I’ve ever done was make a big card for my wife with my daughters,” says LeVox. “Sometimes something you can’t buy makes the biggest impact.” Says DeMarcus: “I send flowers and get her a massage. She seems to be in a better mood when she’s been rubbed on for a couple of hours.”

No. 3

BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR HELPFUL HINTS

“I’ll open my drawer in the bathroom and see these little cutouts from magazines. You know, little necklaces, earrings, bangles … I’m like, ‘Lord, have mercy!'” says Rooney. “I have a stack of information of what I can buy any time of the year!”

No. 4

DON’T GET THE POLICE INVOLVED

“I got a speeding ticket on my motorcycle at, like, 2 in the morning on Mother’s Day when I was 18,” says LeVox. “The tags were also expired, so the cop wouldn’t let me drive home. I had to call my mom to pick me up. She got there, and I was standing with the cop and said, ‘Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!’ She was like, ‘Well, this is one I won’t forget!'”

No. 5

BE A MAMA’S BOY

“I always make it a point to tell my mom how grateful I am for her and how much love and respect I have for her,” says DeMarcus. “I remind her of that all year long, but it’s particularly important on Mother’s Day.” “Yeah, we’re the biggest mama’s boys on the planet!” jokes LeVox. “I actually have ‘Proud to Be a Mama’s Boy’ tattooed on my back.”

ME & MY DOG

JAKE OWEN

THE SINGER REVEALS FIVE THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT HIS TOP DOG

1. HE’S A GAMER

I was tailgating at the Florida-Georgia game, and this lady came by with a couple of bulldogs in a wagon. He was just sitting there staring at me, so I had to bring him home. He’s been my best buddy ever since.

2. HE’S A GOOD LISTENER

Merle’s been there for me. He’s like my confidant. I can talk to him, and he doesn’t say a whole lot—he just listens.

3. HE HAS EXCELLENT TASTE IN WOMEN—AND HIS OPINION MATTERS

Before I got married, I could always tell if Merle liked the girls I was dating or not. He won’t go near you if he doesn’t like you. I could also tell a lot about a girl by how much interest she took in Merle. If you don’t care anything about my dog, then you really can’t care that much about me. My wife fell in love with him the minute she met him, and he loves her—he follows her everywhere.

4. HE’S A GOOD BIG BROTHER

He’s not only my best friend, he’s my [16-month-old] daughter Pearl’s best friend. She loves to lie on him and pet him, and he just loves it.

5. HE’S A VIP ON TOUR

He’s got free rein on tour. He has his own backstage laminated pass he wears on his collar in case anyone questions him. Merle’s got all access.

COUNTRY ON TV

Time to Set Your DVRs!

BLAKE, LUKE, GEORGE, KIMBERLY AND MORE ARE ALL HITTING THE SMALL SCREEN

THE 49TH ACADEMY OF COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS

Sunday, April 6, 8 p.m. ET on CBS

Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan return to host “country’s biggest party” live from Las Vegas with special remote performances hosted by last year’s New Artist winners Florida Georgia Line.

KIMBERLY’S SIMPLY SOUTHERN

Saturday, April 12, 1 p.m. ET on Great American Country

Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman heads back to the kitchen for the third season premiere of her cooking show.

NASHVILLE: SEASON FINALE

Wednesday, May 14, 10 p.m. ET on ABC

Series creator Callie Khouri promised no car-crash cliff-hanger this year, but Rayna and Deacon find themselves at an emotional crossroads.

ACM PRESENTS: ALL-STAR SALUTE TO THE TROOPS

Tuesday, May 20, 9 p.m. ET on CBS

Carrie Underwood, Merle Haggard, George Strait, Lady A and a host of other stars take the stage to honor the men and women of the armed forces.

STAR STYLE

John Rich’s New Line

Already a singer, songwriter and reality TV star, John Rich can now add clothing designer to his list of credits. After returning to his favorite childhood vacation spot, the Gulf Coast of Florida, a few years ago he started researching the locale’s nickname. “Country folks call it the Redneck Riviera because they can’t go to the French Riviera,” says Rich. “It’s been around since the ’60s, so I couldn’t believe nobody ever trademarked the phrase!” Enter Rich’s new line of Redneck Riviera shirts, hats and beer cozies aimed, he says, at “people who work hard and play harder. The Redneck Riviera is a place with a lot of soul,” says Rich. “I wanted to represent the people who love that area.”

STAR TWEETS

#SAY CHEESE!

PUPPY-LOVING CARRIE, DRINKS WITH GEORGE, AND TIM IN THE KITCHEN! THESE CELEB PICS HAVE US ALL A-TWITTER

LUKE BRYAN

“Found my boy @jakeowen at the #ACAs,” tweeted Bryan from the show.

TAYLOR SWIFT

“Just trying to be like George Washington,” wrote Swift, with model Cara Delevingne Feb. 6.

KACEY MUSGRAVES

“This girl. SUCH a champion. #manythanks,” Musgraves tweeted Jan. 28, of tourmate Katy Perry at the Grammys.

RASCAL FLATTS

“Headed to Houston to start our #Rewind #RadioTour,” the band tweeted from their jet on Jan. 8.

KEITH URBAN

“Selfies with @JLo & @HarryConnickJR!!!” tweeted Urban, with his fellow American Idol judges Feb. 19.

FAITH HILL

“What a man!” Hill tweeted on Feb. 12. “Setting the stage for valentines day baby!!” husband Tim McGraw tweeted back.

CARRIE UNDERWOOD

“More cuties!!!” the singer tweeted while volunteering at an animal shelter Jan. 8.

LADY ANTEBELLUM

“Check 1, Check 2 … how does this thing work?? !” the band quipped of a pic of Hillary Scott’s baby girl Eisele.

JASON ALDEAN

“Hangin with the one and only Mr. @GeorgeStrait at our show last week. Coolest dude ever,” posted Aldean on Jan. 12.

PASSAGES

EXPECTING

Justin Moore, 30, and his wife, Kate, 30, are growing their family. And while big sisters Ella Kole, 4, and Kennedy Faye, 2, want a baby brother, Moore noted that, “As long as we have another healthy child, we will be happy regardless.” • Joe Nichols, 37, and wife Heather, 37, will soon have a playmate for daughter Dylan, 2. “Aaaaaaand we’re pregnant again!” the “Gimmie That Girl” singer tweeted Jan. 9. Nichols also has a daughter, Ashelyn, from a previous relationship. • Bucky Covington, 36, is expecting his first child with his fiancée, publicist Katherine Cook. The dad-to-be admits to being clueless and needing a minute for the news to sink in. “Katherine came and threw a pregnancy test in front of me – three of them actually – and they all said the same thing. The only problem was I didn’t know what they were! I was like, ‘What is this? Are you okay?'” the former American Idol contestant recalls. “So she told me, and I got so excited!”

BABY

Joey and Rory Feek welcomed baby girl Indiana Boone on Feb. 17, with Joey writing on Facebook that “Mama and baby are both doing well.”

RECOVERING

Singer Trace Adkins, 52, entered an alcohol rehab center on Jan. 15 after having a verbal confrontation with an impersonator during a Caribbean cruise.

ENGAGED

“Did It for the Girl” singer Greg Bates did it right by girlfriend Shelley Skidmore. On Valentine’s Day at her hometown church in Stanton, Ky., Bates, 26, surprised Skidmore by lining the aisles with candles and preparing a heart-shaped carpet of rose petals, and, as Sinatra’s “Love Is Here to Stay” played, Gates told her “how much I loved her and how lucky I would be to be with her for the rest of my life.” A crying Skidmore, 27, happily said, “Yes.”

DIED

Folksinger and social activist Pete Seeger, who penned such classics as “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “If I Had a Hammer” – which he performed with his group the Weavers – died Jan. 27 in Manhattan at age 94. President Barack Obama praised Seeger “for reminding us where we come from and showing us where we need to go.”

• Phil Everly, who, with his brother Don, recorded numerous 1950s and ’60s hits, including “Wake Up Little Susie,” “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “Bye Bye Love,” died Jan. 3 in Burbank at age 74.