Adkins, Trace (Contemporary Musicians)
Singer, songwriter, guitarist
Trace Adkins towering six-foot, six-inch, 250-pound baritone vocalistlimbed to the top of the country music scene in 1997, earning his first numberone single for the song "(This Ain't) No Thinkin' Thing," seeing his album Dreamin' Out Loud reach platinum status, and winning his first award from the Academy of Country Music as Top New Male Vocalist. Like many other country artists, Adkins, too, has seen his share of hard timesnd then some. Surviving a number of calamities ranging from car accidents to a gunshot wound and working for nearly a decade on offshore oil rigs while mounting every stage he could with the hopes of attracting the attention of Nashville, Adkins is a multi-dimensional, honest songwriter who couldn't hide his ruggedness even if he wanted to. "I grew up in the oilfield, and that's who I am and what I am," he explained for his official website, commenting about the subject matter of the album More..., released in 1999. "I'm a Southern gentlemanolite, hospitable, and respectfulut I'm not going to try to be squeaky clean. I'm not that kind of person. I'm a roughneck, and I won't try to hide it."
The son of a paper mill worker, Trace Darrell Adkins was born on January 13, 1962, in Springhill, Louisiana, and grew up in the nearby town of Sarepta. As a youth, Adkins worked selling the national rural newspaper Grit and hauling hay, and during his teen years began singing in a gospel quartet called New Commitment. The group recorded two albums for an independent label: The New Commitment Quartet, released in 1979, and The Best of the New Commitment Quartet, released in 1980. Upon graduating from high school, Adkins played defensive end for the football team at Louisiana Tech University, where he studied for a degree in petroleum technology. However, after two years of college, a knee injury ended his chances of a career in sports. Thus, he dropped out of school, spending the next eight years or so working in the oil industry as a derrick man and pipe fitter. Around the same time, Adkins married his high school sweetheart, with whom he had two daughters, but the union ended four years later.
Meanwhile, Adkins continued to dream of becoming a musician, performing at local venues whenever possible and joining a band call Bayou. That group eventually won a regional talent contest and competed in the national finals in Nashville, Tennessee. After this success, Adkins spent four years touring with Bayou in cities in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Mississippi, but soon grew disillusioned with the music business and returned to the drilling rigs. Nonetheless, he asked doctors to set an injured pinky fingerhat had to be sewn back on following an industrial accidentn a permanent bend so he could still play the guitar.
In addition to this work-related injury, Adkins, who also had to have his nose re-attached when it was torn off in an automobile crash, was run over by a bulldozer and almost lost his legs, and had a 400-barrel oil tank explode while he was repairing it. More recently, in 1999, he broke his ankle after he stepped into a hole on his farm in rural Tennessee near Nashville, resulting in months of recuperation time. Then one year later, Adkins seriously injured the middle and index fingers of his left hand during an accident on his property. While using a front-end loader and trailer to move some rocks in order to solve an erosion problem at the farm, he dislodged a 400-pound boulder that rolled over his hand. Both fingers were crushed. Recovering at home, he said of the incident for a press release: "Well, it's been a solid year since I paid my last visit to the hospital, and I was missing all my friends in the emergency room." Luckily, Adkins received a good prognosis after surgery and made a full recovery in less than two months.
His greatest flirtation with death, however, occurred one February night in 1994 when Adkins and his second wife of three years, Julie Curtis, got into an argument over his beer drinking. A shoving match ensued, and Curtis tried to call her mother, prompting Adkins to knock the phone from her hand. Subsequently, Curtis grabbed the family's .38 pistol. "Being a macho guy like I am, I tried to scare it out of her hand," he recalled to Samantha Miller of People. "I said, 'Give me the gun, or I'm gonna take it away from you...." Despite the threat, Curtis reacted by firing the gun. "[The bullet] went through both my lungs and both ventricles of my heart," added Adkins, whose torso is covered in scars from the event.
After recovering from several surgeries to repair his heart and lungs and divorcing Curtis (Adkins declined pressing charges and the police ruled the shooting accidental), his luck, in terms of his musical career began to change. Previously, back in 1992, Adkins had relocated to Nashville in order to dedicate himself full-time to music. Here, he met Capitol Records Nashville president Scott Hendricks, who picked up Adkins as his first signing to the label after hearing the country singer perform at Tillie's, a Mount Juliet bar.
In November of 1996, Adkins released his debut album for Capitol Nashville. Produced by Hendricks, Dreamin' Out Loud proved a major success, eventually going certified platinum the following year. Adkins' first single, "There's a Girl in Texas," soared into the top 20 of the Billboard country chart, while the follow-up single, "Every Light In the House Is On," peaked at number three. Finally, the smash singles "(This Ain't) No Thinkin' Thing" and "I Left Something Turned On at Home" both topped the charts at number one in 1997. And in April, Adkins earned an Academy of Country Music Award for Top New Male Vocalist. Other accolades included a Country Weekly nod for Favorite Male Newcomer in 1997 and the TNN/Music City News Male Star of Tomorrow in 1998, as well as nominations for the Country Music Association's Horizon Award and for Best New Artist by the Country Music Radio Awards.
By now acknowledged as one of country music's hottest newcomers, he received comparisons to the likes of Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, with the legendary Buck Owens describing Adkins as "a cool breeze on the music horizon... with all the makings of a star," as quoted by Miller. Adkins' sophomore collection, 1997's Big Time, cemented the rising star's reputation. Easily going certified gold in 1998, the album spawned additional hits, including the ballad "Rest of Mine," a song Adkins wrote and sang at his May 1997 wedding to third wife Rhonda Forlaw. It peaked at number two on the country charts in December of that year.
In November of 1999, Adkins released his highly anticipated third album, More..., which Adkins himself described as "a little edgier," as quoted on his website, than his first two offerings. "I think there's a little rawness to it," he said. "This one is medium-rare. And that's exactly what I wanted. I'm gonna open myself up and let people see what I'm about. This is who I am." Along with hits like "Don't Lie," More... included songs such as "Working Man's Wage," a tribute to blue-collar parents, "The Night He Can't Remember," a pivotal night in the life of a man with an alcohol problem, and "Every Other Friday at Five," a heartbreaking account of a divorced father.
Remaining in the limelight, Adkins in the May 30, 2000, issue of Country Weekly was listed as one of the Top 25 Sexiest Country Stars, and on August 2, 2000, made his acting debut on the TNN original series 18 Wheels of Justice. He also began to seek recognition outside the country music scene, appearing on the Saturday Early Show on the CBS television network on September 9 of that year. Later that month, the Nashville Music Awards nominated Adkins, a continued local favorite, for Male Vocalist of the Year. Throughout Adkins' career, touring has remained important. Surprisingly, he never perceived a loaded tour schedule as an extreme hardship. Rather, he always enjoyed performing for and meeting with his fans. As he explained, "Performing live is something I absolutely live for."
Dreamin'Out Loud, Capitol, 1996.
Big Time, Capitol, 1997.
More..., Capitol, 1999.
Kingsbury, Paul, editor, The Encyclopedia of Country Music, Oxford University Press, 1998.
Billboard, February 22, 1997; October 16, 1999; November 20, 1999.
People, June 23, 1997; November 10, 1997.
Trace Adkins Official Website, http://www.traceadkins.com (October 12, 2000).