Randy Travis' "Fool's Love Affair" is a decades-old song that required careful handling to prepare for its official debut in July of 2020. For a time, in fact, finding a releasable version of the song seemed like a lost cause.

Written by "The Mayor of Music Row" Charlie Monk, a music industry veteran; his friend from Mobile, Ala., Milton Brown, a well-known songwriter; and Keith Stegall, a now-legendary producer who was working on a career as a songwriter and artist at the time, "Fool's Love Affair" began as a demo, sung by a pre-fame Travis in the early 1980s. The song never landed with another artist, and when the country icon got his career going, it wasn't the right fit for him to sing officially.

So, "Fool's Love Affair" sat on the figurative shelf. Monk kept a copy of the demo, and began playing it on his satellite radio show; fans often emailed to ask where to find it, but officially releasing it was never a possibility -- until Travis had a stroke in 2013.

After sharing a copy of the demo tape with Travis and his now-wife Mary, Monk contacted producer Kyle Lehning to ask about creating a better version of "Fool's Love Affair" based on Travis' demo. To do so, Lehning said, would require the multitrack, which Monk eventually found by a bit of chance.

Even then, turning "Fool's Love Affair" into a more professional-sounding single wasn't a done deal. Read on as Monk and Lehning explain the story behind the song, and reveal its lengthy journey to release.

Charlie Monk: The song was written by me and Milton Brown, who is a very successful songwriter who lives in Mobile, Ala., and Keith Stegall ... Milton Brown, who was a friend of mine when I worked in Mobile ... would come to town to pitch songs because he was having success as a traditional country writer, and he knew I liked that kind of stuff, so he would always come by to visit when he was in town ...

I had this idea ... I don't remember exactly where the idea came from, but back in those days, there were a lot of sleeping around and messing around songs, and it was usually about rendezvousing with somebody at a hotel or a motel ... This guy had said something to me to the effect that he was gonna try to make it work, he was gonna rendezvous with this lady for a regular rendezvous, on a weekly basis, and he kinda got around to saying something to the effect of he kinda wished he didn't do it ... and I also said that, you know, I have currently been married to the same lady for 61 years, so I felt like that wasn't something I wanted to do, but it sounded like an awful thing ...

I kept thinking about it, and Milton came to town ... The title I had come up with was "Fool's Love Affair," because they weren't gonna do anything about it, and I told Milton, and he said, "Yeah, let's try it" ... We asked [Keith] would he like to be involved with this? ... So we sat and wrote this song.

We were kind of working with Randy; we had a friendship business deal with him ... We were both fascinated by him, and we had not used him to sing any of the demos for us at that point in time, so I think we just asked him ...

He came and did the demo, and he did a great job of it, but at that period of time, we were straying away from traditional country music ... We pitched it around, and nobody really wanted the song. We weren't pitching it to Randy as a singer, although we were hopeful we could help him get a deal. Of course, nobody paid attention, 'cause we were pitching the song ...

Randy, of course, became a big star, and the the lyric of the song didn't lend itself to a clean-cut country boy like Randy, so we really didn't think about Randy recording it ...

Eighteen years ago, I was offered an opportunity to do a radio show on SiriusXM, and about 10 years ago, I was playing that cassette [of the demo on the air] ... All of a sudden, I was getting emails about, "Hey, where can I get that Randy Travis record?" ... and so over the years, I just kept playing it.

Randy and I saw each other occasionally ... and then, of course, Randy had his stroke ... I sent Mary a copy of the MP3 of the song, and they both loved it. Randy had a vague memory of the song, but he didn't remember the date and time and place ...

I decided I'd take [Kyle] the cassette and play it for him and see if there was anything he could do to tweak it up ... [Kyle asked for] the multitrack ... I tore the entire Nashville community up trying to find the multitrack ... and I couldn't do it ...

A couple years ago, I decided I was gonna wind down my music business job and focus on my radio career ... so I decided to sell my building ... We moved all the stuff out of it ... to my house, for me to go through ... I stumbled over a box ... and I kinda looked in it ... Although Randy Travis' name wasn't on it, the title, "Fool's Love Affair," was on the box. So I got in touch with Kyle again ...

Kyle Lehning: So then Charlie brought me the multitrack, and I took it to a buddy of mine ... He has a system, a convection oven where he bakes tapes and can transfer the tape to ProTools, and very luckily, the tape was in pretty darn good shape, so they baked it and transferred it into ProTools so I was actually able to hear the original recording, which was done very well ...

I was able to take that tape and just with adding a couple of instruments -- I added an electric guitar part, a steel guitar part and a fiddle -- I fleshed it out so it was a more finished record rather than a basic demo. There were already background vocals on it, which was unusual for demos at that time ... and Randy had an excellent vocal on the tape already, so it really wasn't difficult to spruce it up.

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