Three Wooden Crosses

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"Three Wooden Crosses"
Randy Travis - Three Wooden Crosses single.png
Single by Randy Travis
from the album Rise and Shine
Released November 25, 2002
Format CD single
Genre Country gospel
Length 3:21
Label Word Music/Curb
Writer(s) Kim Williams
Doug Johnson
Producer(s) Kyle Lehning
Randy Travis singles chronology
"America Will Always Stand"
"Three Wooden Crosses"
"Pray for the Fish"

"Three Wooden Crosses" the title of a song written by Kim Williams and Doug Johnson, and recorded by American country music singer-songwriter Randy Travis. It was released in November 2002 from his album, Rise and Shine. The song became Travis' 16th Number One single, his first since "Whisper My Name" in 1994.[1] "Three Wooden Crosses" was named Song of the Year by the Country Music Association in 2003[2] and won a Dove Award from the Gospel Music Association as Country Song of the Year in 2004.[3]

Title reference[edit]

Throughout the song there is mention of "three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway." This is a dual reference to roadside memorials and to crosses that, in 1984, funded by Reverend Bernard Coffindaffer, began appearing on the sides of highways across the country. These crosses stand in the traditional Christian formation of a tall cross in the middle and two slightly shorter crosses on each side representing the Crucifixion of Jesus.


The song describes four passengers, a farmer on vacation and a teacher seeking higher education, a hooker and a preacher both of whom were "searching for lost souls", on a mid-night bus traveling from the United States to Mexico. The bus is involved in a fatal accident due to the bus driver not seeing a stop sign only to be hit by an 18-wheeler which kills three of the four passengers;[4] the lyrics ask why there are only three crosses and not four.

The song mentions that the farmer and teacher were killed in the wreck, with the farmer leaving a harvest and a son who would follow in his footsteps, and the teacher leaving knowledge in the children she taught. It also mentions that the preacher lays his bloodstained Bible in the hands of the hooker, asking her if she could "see the Promised Land".

The end of the song reveals that the story was being told by a preacher during Sunday church services. However, in a twist, it reveals that the hooker survived and had a son. The preacher telling the story is in fact the son of the hooker (holding up the bloodstained Bible as proof), who read the Bible that had been given to her by the dying preacher; in turn, her son eventually became a preacher himself. This leads to speculation that the hooker read the Bible, left prostitution, got married, and gave birth to the preacher at the end of the song.

Critical reception[edit]

Deborah Evans Price, of Billboard magazine reviewed the song favorably, calling it a "beautifully written tale of faith and redemption." She goes on to say that Travis has never sounded better, "and his warm baritone perfectly conveys every nuance in the lyric."[5]

Chart performance[edit]

"Three Wooden Crosses" debuted at number 52 on the Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart dated December 7, 2002. It charted for 34 weeks on that chart, and reached number 1 on the chart dated May 24, 2003, giving Travis his sixteenth Number One single, his first Billboard Number One since "Whisper My Name" in 1994.[1] In addition, it crossed over to the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, peaking at #31 on that chart, making it his first and (excluding guest singles) only top-40 hit.

Chart (2002–2003) Peak
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[6] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[7] 31

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2003) Position
US Country Songs (Billboard)[8] 17
Preceded by
"Have You Forgotten?"
by Darryl Worley
Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks
number-one single

May 24, 2003
Succeeded by
"I Believe"
by Diamond Rio


  1. ^ a b Shelburne, Craig (2003-05-19). "Randy Travis Scores First No. 1 Since 1994". Retrieved 2008-05-16. 
  2. ^ 2003 CMA Awards –
  3. ^ Country Dove Award Winners -
  4. ^ Excluding the driver of the bus and the trucker of 18-wheeler which hit it, neither of whom presumably died in the wreck.
  5. ^ Billboard, December 14, 2002
  6. ^ "Randy Travis – Chart history" Billboard Hot Country Songs for Randy Travis.
  7. ^ "Randy Travis – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Randy Travis.
  8. ^ "Best of 2003: Country Songs". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 2003. Retrieved July 13, 2012. 

External links[edit]