Tracy Lawrence was one of the rare artists to score a chart-topping hit with his very first single, but it was far from smooth sailing. The breakout ’90s country star survived a near-fatal shooting on the way to releasing “Sticks and Stones” on Oct. 15, 1991.
The traditional-minded country singer moved from Arkansas to Nashville in 1990 to pursue a country music career, and he signed to Atlantic Records the following year. He went into the studio with producer James Stroud to record what would become his debut album, Sticks and Stones, and had just completed work on the vocals for the album when tragedy struck.
Lawrence celebrated finishing his vocals by going out with a female friend he had known since grade school. He was dropping her off at her hotel late at night when three men surrounded them as they got out of the car and pointed guns at them. They began walking them to her room, where Lawrence feared that they planned to rape his friend and kill them both, so he fought back, taking four bullets in his finger, hip, right arm and knee before the men fled.
Listen to Tracy Lawrence’s Debut Single, “Sticks and Stones”:
Paramedics who responded to the scene of the shooting told Lawrence he would have bled to death in three minutes if the bullet in his hip had struck a nearby main artery. He ended up spending only three days in the hospital, where doctors removed the bullet from his knee but decided to leave the one in his hip. They predicted Lawrence would take a year to recover from his injuries entirely, but the aspiring star was determined not to let the shooting derail his career, and he was back to work within months.
Atlantic released “Sticks and Stones” to country radio in advance of the album on Oct. 15, and the album of the same name followed in November.
“Sticks and Stones,” gave Lawrence his first No. 1 hit on Jan. 24, 1992. He scored three more Top 10 hits with “Today’s Lonely Fool,” “Runnin’ Behind” and “Somebody Paints the Wall,” and his debut Sticks and Stones album peaked at No. 10 on Billboard‘s Top Country Albums chart, launching him alongside Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, Clint Black and more as one of the most important young new traditionalists in country music.
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