Written by Tanya Clark
In 1991 Tracy Lawrence’s platinum-selling debut album “Sticks and Stones” launched his career into rare air. He reveled in nearly a decade of mile-high success until scandal knocked him back down to earth and straight out of the country music mainstream.
The Texas native owned the 90’s country music scene. Before the decade was over all five of his top-ten chart topping albums were certified gold or platinum. Two of them reached double platinum status: “Alibis,” in 1993 and “Time Marches On,” in 1996. He won Billboard’s Top New Male Vocalist of the Year Award in 1992 and was named Academy of Country Music’s Top New Male Vocalist in 1993.
Between 1991 and 1996 the singer-songwriter scored seven number one hits on the Billboard country music charts: “Sticks and Stones,” “Can’t Break it to My Heart,” “ Alibis,” “My Second Home,” “If the Good Die Young,” “Texas Tornado,” and “Time Marches On.”
During the last decade of the last century his honeyed southern drawl floated from the radio seemingly non-stop. His strong baritone could caress lovelorn laments like, “Today’s Lonely Fool,” and belt out rockers like, “Renegades, Rebels and Rogues.” He also scored in the looks department: his baby face, baby blues, and cascading curls formed a picture-perfect façade for glossy mags and CD covers.
But the Midas touch abandoned him, and the fans followed suit. What precipitated his Space X-like meltdown?
It turns out that away from the spotlight, this cowboy was rocking the black hat way more than the white hat!
His first high-profile hookup with bad behavior and the law occurred about six months prior to the release of “Sticks and Stones.” A late-night confrontation with some shady characters ended in gunplay. Lawrence caught four bullets with his legs, and has a souvenir slug lodged in his hip to show for his troubles.
In 1993 he had another pistol party, opposite a group of adolescents. This time Lawrence was the one with the gun and he used it to fire shots in the air, for which he was charged. The charges were later dismissed.
In 1998 he was convicted of domestic violence stemming from a 1997 incident with his then-wife, in Primm, Nevada. The tabloids gorged on the very public, he-said, she-said scandal.
During that same time period Lawrence ran afoul of law enforcement in Medford, Oregon. He was picked up by police for watching two people perform a sex act under a bridge. Police questioned whether the act was consensual.
This was all too unsavory for a fan base and a music industry built on family values and traditional mores. Lawrence went MIA in 1997 after the release of his fifth album, “The Coast is Clear.”
He resurfaced with a new album in 2000, and went on to have very modest success with a string of releases. Lawrence’s once dominant music career had been neutralized by his own self-inflicted crises.
But wait! Lawrence’s story would end on a down note if it were not for a fortuitous collaboration with a couple of country music superstars.
In 2007 he recorded, “Find Out Who Your Friends Are,” with Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney. The aptly named single was a buoyant, feel-good song about being down and out until being rescued by friends.
The partnership thrust Lawrence back into the spotlight and back to number one. “Find Out who Your Friends Are,” captured the top spot on Billboard’s country singles chart before the year ended.
His friends’ big name support played a big part in Lawrence’s semi-comeback. When two of country music’s finest stood side by side with Lawrence, public perception shifted.
Since 2007 Lawrence has released a steady stream of albums, and formed his own record label. He continues to make live appearances. This summer his weekly radio show Honky Tonkin’ with Tracy Lawrence was syndicated by Nashville radio station WSM-AM.
Still, Lawrence’s rebound hasn’t been all chill. Old habits die hard and in 2011 he was charged with disorderly conduct for fighting a concert promoter.
Let’s hope that was an isolated incident. Lawrence’s star in the country music universe has dimmed, but today its glow is decent. His baritone is as silky and expressive as it ever was, and his loyal fans deserve a bit more listening pleasure and a little less distraction.
You can hear Tracy Lawrence’s syndicated radio show at: http://wsmonline.com/shows/honky-tonkin-tracy-lawrence/.
To keep up with all the latest Tracy Lawrence news be sure to check out his website at www.tracylawrence.com.