The Story Behind The Song: “Is It Still Over?”

Randy Travis
Randy Travis

Randy Travis had reason for concern early in his career. In a discussion with his new producer at Warner Bros. Records, Kyle Lehning, Randy mentioned his reverence for “Lefty,” in which Lehning responded, “Lefty who?” Travis expected that anyone in the country music business would automatically know who Lefty Frizzell was, and he began to wonder if his label had assigned the right man to guide his career

Kyle Lehning described himself as a person who “respected” country music, but was certainly not an “aficionado” of it. This understandably made Travis a bit concerned, so he decided to educate Lehning by presenting him with a copy of Lefty Frizzell’s “Greatest Hits” album to study. Kyle listened to the record.….and he understood.

“Now I know where all these guys came from!” he said. “These guys” included Merle Haggard and George Jones, two of Travis’s biggest influences. More than a trace of his predecessors can be found in the performance of Randy’s ninth number one single, “Is It Still Over?”

The song came from Ken Bell and Larry Henley, who would get together weekly to write material. In one of their sessions, they finished early in the day, and Henley, who had recently broken up with a girlfriend, decided to get her on the phone. He told Bell, “I think I’ll call her and see if we’re still over.” Bell heard a title in Larry’s quip and the next time they met, they set to work on “Is It Still Over?”

The guys composed the whole thing in about twenty minutes. They were laughing and clowning around as they wrote, capturing it all on a small tape recorder that was running the entire time. Later that day when Henley went to lunch, he bumped into Martha Sharp of Warner Bros. Records. He told her, “I think I’ve got a song for Randy Travis. How do I get it to you?” Sharp told him that if he wanted to pitch something to Randy, she needed it that day.

Since Bell and Henley hadn’t had time to prepare a demo, Larry gave Martha the embarrassing work tape that had been rolling as they wrote the song (containing all the laughter and cutting up). Fortunately, the gist of the song was on there, and the musicians were successfully able to construct the melody of “Is It Still Over?” from the work tape.

It was difficult, but after six different attempts, artist Travis and producer Lehning finally got a musical track they were happy with, and laid down most of “Is It Still Over?” straight through with limited overdubbing. Randy’s ninth record to reach #1 peaked on Billboard’s country singles chart May 13, 1989. 

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