Little Hocking man attends Randy Travis’ 60th birthday party

Photo Provided From left, Mary Travis, Randy Travis and Chuck Lipps of Little Hocking at Randy’s 60th birthday party Saturday at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Lipps, a musician, has been friends with Travis since 1986. Travis suffered a career-stopping stroke in 2013. Lipps and Travis have been friends since a 1986 concert at the former Colony Theater in Marietta.

PARKERSBURG — A local musician Saturday attended the 60th birthday party of country music star Randy Travis.

Chuck Lipps has known Travis since a concert 33 years ago in Marietta.

Lipps said he was excited and honored to have been invited to the party, held Saturday night in the backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

Travis, who was among the most popular of country stars, suffered a stroke in July 2013 that abruptly stopped his career. His career includes 16 No. 1 songs on the country charts.

“His odds of surviving at that time were not good, but his strength, will power and guidance of his wife Mary has shown he has beaten some of those odds,” Lipps said. “He is a taurus and a strong man.”

Photo Provided Chuck Lipps, standing, presents a check for $1,000 from Rick Modesitt Associates to the Randy Travis Foundation on Saturday backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

The friendship between Lipps and Travis started on Sept. 16, 1986, at a concert at the Colony Theater, now the Peoples Bank Theater, in Marietta. Lipps was a member of the country band The Breeze, which opened for the young Travis at the Colony show.

Lipps organized a show in September 2016 at Peoples Bank Theater to mark the anniversary of the concert and to honor Travis, who attended the concert. Travis was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame a month later.

Lipps earlier visited Travis on Dec. 9, 2015, at his home in Texas, spending nine hours with him. Travis, who could speak words, but not sentences, walked a lap around his home without help from his wife.

At the birthday party Saturday, Lipps, who is vice president of Rick Modesitt Associates, a local entertainment promotions company, on behalf of the company presented a $1,000 donation to the Randy Travis Foundation, established by Travis to raise awareness of viral cardiomyopathy and providing arts and music enrichment for children.

About 100 to 150 people were backstage for the birthday party, Lipps said. Guests included members of the band and country stars like Connie Smith, Bill Anderson, Don Schlitz, Ricky Skaggs and Josh Turner, among other performers, Lipps said.

Photo Provided Mary and Randy Travis pose before cutting the cake at a birthday party for the 60-year-old country singer Saturday at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. The backstage party was attended by Chuck Lipps of Little Hocking, a musician whose friendship with Travis started in September 1986 when his band, The Breeze, opened for Travis at the former Colony Theater in Marietta.

“Most of them are members of the Grand Ole Opry, too,” Lipps said.

Lipps arrived on Friday and attended a show at the Opry. He spoke with Charlie Daniels.

Saturday was the first time Lipps has seen Travis since the Country Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony in October 2016. Travis’ condition has improved since then, Lipps said.

“He’s speaking more fluently than he was back in 2016,” Lipps said.

Travis gets better as time goes by, according to Lipps. Travis’ book “Forever And Ever Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith and Braving the Storms of Life,” the story of his life, will be released on Tuesday.

“Every time I get to visit him, I see improvement which his wife says are ‘giant baby steps.’ His speech continues to improve to the point that he delivered his infamous ‘amen’ at the end of his hit ‘Forever and Ever Amen’ to close the show,” Lipps said. “What an inspiration of faith by a man who is lucky to be alive.”