Tracy Lawrence

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Tracy Lawrence
CountrySingerTracyLawrence.jpg
Lawrence performing at a private concert in 2006.
Background information
Birth nameTracy Lee Lawrence[1]
Born (1968-01-27) January 27, 1968 (age 50)[2]
Atlanta, Texas, U.S.[2]
OriginNashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Singer
  • Songwriter
  • Record producer
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • Acoustic guitar
Years active1991–present
Labels
Associated acts
Websitehttp://www.tracylawrence.com

Tracy Lee Lawrence (born January 27, 1968) is an American country music singer, songwriter, and record producer. Lawrence signed to Atlantic Records in 1991, and debuted that year with the album Sticks and Stones. Five more studio albums, as well as a live album and a compilation album, followed throughout the 1990s and into 2000 on Atlantic before the label's country division was closed in 2001. Afterward, he recorded for Warner Bros. Records, DreamWorks Records, Mercury Records Nashville, and his own labels, Rocky Comfort Records and Lawrence Music Group.

Lawrence has released a total of fourteen studio albums. His most commercially successful albums are Alibis (1993) and Time Marches On (1996), both certified double-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). He has charted more than forty singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, including eight songs that reached the number one position: "Sticks and Stones", "Alibis", "Can't Break It to My Heart", "My Second Home", "If the Good Die Young", "Texas Tornado", "Time Marches On", and "Find Out Who Your Friends Are". "Time Marches On" is his longest-lasting number one at three weeks, while "Find Out Who Your Friends Are" set a record for the slowest ascent to the top of that chart. His musical style is defined mainly by neotraditional country and honky-tonk influences, although he has also recorded country pop, Christmas music, and Christian country music.

Biography[edit]

Tracy Lee Lawrence was born in Atlanta, Texas on January 27, 1968.[1][3] He was raised by his mother JoAnn Dickens and stepfather Dwayne Dickens, and had two brothers and three sisters. When Lawrence was four years old, his family moved to Foreman, Arkansas. Growing up there, Lawrence sang in the local Methodist church choir and learned to play guitar. His mother had wanted him to grow up to be a minister, but he wanted to pursue a musical career instead.[1] Regarding his upbringing, Lawrence told Country Weekly magazine in 1996, "I was hell-bent on doing things my way. I bucked my stepfather. He thought I was risking too much chasing this crazy music dream."[4] Lawrence began performing in public at age 15, and by age 17, he had joined a local honky-tonk band.[2] He attended Southern Arkansas University in 1986, but dropped out two years later to sing for a band based out of Louisiana. When the band broke up, Lawrence moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1990, supporting himself through odd jobs and winnings from local talent contests.[1] After performing at an artist showcase at Nashville's Bluebird Café in January 1991, Lawrence was discovered by talent manager Wayne Edwards, who helped him sign to Atlantic Records' Nashville division that same year.[1]

Musical career[edit]

1991-1993: Sticks and Stones[edit]

After signing to Atlantic Nashville, Lawrence began recording his debut album Sticks and Stones. On May 31, 1991, before the album's release, Lawrence walked a high school friend named Sonja Wilkerson to the door of her hotel room at a Quality Inn in downtown Nashville.[5] He was confronted by three men who intended to rape Wilkerson and rob both of them.[4] Lawrence resisted and was shot four times, allowing his friend to escape. Two of the wounds were major and necessitated surgery at Nashville's Vanderbilt University Medical Center,[5] and one bullet remained embedded in his hip. The shooting and subsequent surgery also delayed the release of the album so that he would have time to recover before promoting it.[2]

Sticks and Stones, upon its late-1991 release, accounted for four singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts. First was the album's title track, which reached the number one position on that chart in January 1992.[3] Following it were three additional top 10 hits: "Today's Lonely Fool", "Runnin' Behind", and "Somebody Paints the Wall."[3] The last of these was originally released by Josh Logan, whose version had made the lower regions of the same chart in 1989.[6] Sticks and Stones was also certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments of one million copies.[1][7] The album received an "A-" from Entertainment Weekly, whose writer Alanna Nash said that he "pairs a poised and confident baritone with witty and well-crafted songs that shed soft light in the dark corners of the human condition."[8] Contributing songwriters included Mark D. Sanders, Tim Menzies, Bob DiPiero, John Scott Sherrill, and Lawrence himself. Musicians on the album included Bruce Bouton, Mark Casstevens, and Milton Sledge of Garth Brooks' studio band The G-Men, along with session musicians Brent Rowan and Glenn Worf. James Stroud produced the album, and played drums on the track "Between Us".[9] Another cut from the album, "Paris, Tennessee", served as the B-side of "Sticks and Stones". This song was also recorded by co-writer Dennis Robbins on his 1992 album Man with a Plan,[10] and by Kenny Chesney on his 1995 album All I Need to Know.[11] In 1992, Billboard magazine named him Top New Male Vocalist.[1]

1993-1994: Alibis[edit]

In 1993, Lawrence released his second album, Alibis,[2] which earned a double-platinum RIAA certification for shipments of two million copies.[7] All four of its singles reached the number 1 position on the Hot Country Songs charts between early 1993 and early 1994: the title track, "Can't Break It to My Heart", "My Second Home", and "If the Good Die Young". The title track also accounted for his first entry on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching number 72 there.[3] Also produced by Stroud, the album contained songs co-written by Don Schlitz, Randy Boudreaux, and Craig Wiseman, with Lawrence himself co-writing "Can't Break It to My Heart" and "My Second Home".[12] A review of Alibis in Cash Box magazine praised the title track, "I Threw the Rest Away", and "It Only Takes One Bar (To Make a Prison)" as the strongest cuts, while noting the "conviction and authenticity" in Lawrence's voice.[13] Nash was less positive, writing in Entertainment Weekly that Lawrence "settles for clichéd themes and mawkish delivery".[14] Lawrence promoted the album through a tour with George Jones, and signed a deal with the Stetson hat company to advertise a new line of hats.[15] Also in 1993, he was awarded as Top New Male Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music.[16]

1994-1995: I See It Now[edit]

Lawrence's 1994 album I See It Now was the first album that he co-produced, doing so alongside Stroud and Flip Anderson, a member of his road band.[17][18] The title track was the lead single, peaking at number 2 on Hot Country Songs and number 84 on the Hot 100. It was co-written by Larry Boone and Woody Lee,[3] the latter of whom was also recording on Atlantic at the time. Followup "As Any Fool Can See" also went to number 2 on the former.[3] The Bobby Braddock-penned "Texas Tornado" became his sixth number one hit in mid-1995, followed by its B-side "If the World Had a Front Porch", also a number 2 hit, in late 1995.[3] Also included on the album were the John Anderson duet "Hillbilly with a Heartache",[17] previously found on Anderson's 1994 album Country 'til I Die,[19] and the song "I Got a Feelin'", co-written by Joe Diffie and later recorded by him on his 1997 album Twice Upon a Time.[20] Lawrence promoted I See It Now throughout 1995 with a tour consisting of over 200 shows.[21] Nash found I See It Now superior to its predecessor, stating that Lawrence "returns to the honky-tonk sound of his debut, balancing melodic ballads of regret with kick-butt rhythms and lively wordplay."[22] Allmusic rated the album 4 out of 5 stars, with an uncredited review praising the album's honky-tonk sound, along with the "cute lyrical twists for which country music is famous".[23] An also uncredited review in People praised the title track and closing track "I’d Give Anything to Be Your Everything Again" as "lovely, bittersweet accounts of romance lost", but criticized the lyrics of "If the World Had a Front Porch".[24] I See It Now received RIAA platinum certification.[7]

Also in 1995, he released a live acoustic album, Tracy Lawrence Live and Unplugged.[2] The album included renditions of nine previous singles, plus the album track "I Threw the Rest Away" from Alibis.[25] Lawrence compiled the album from 40 different live shows from the six months prior to the disc's release, and once again produced with Flip Anderson.[18]

1995-1997: Time Marches On[edit]

Time Marches On, his fourth album, was released in January 1996. It became his second double-platinum album in 2000.[7] Its lead-off single was "If You Loved Me", a number 4 hit on the Hot Country Songs charts.[3] Lawrence said of the song that "it’s a typical Tracy Lawrence ballad about love gone wrong", and that he felt that it was one of his strongest singles.[4] Following this song was the album's title track; also written by Braddock, it became Lawrence's longest lasting number one single on Hot Country Songs, holding that position for three weeks.[3] After this song came "Stars over Texas" and "Is That a Tear", both peaking at number 2.[3] The album's production duties were split: Don Cook (best known for his work with Brooks & Dunn) produced half of the album, while Lawrence and Anderson produced the other half.[26] Brian Wahlert of Country Standard Time noted that the tracks produced by Lawrence and Anderson were more traditional country in their sound than the tracks Cook produced, highlighting "Is That a Tear" and "Somewhere Between the Moon and You" as the strongest and most country-sounding cuts.[27] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic wrote that the album was "another crowd-pleasing set of contemporary country. Like his previous albums, the song selection is a hit-or-miss affair, with about half of the songs failing to make much of an impression. The remainder, however, proves why Lawrence is one of the most popular singers in Nashville."[28]

1997-1998: The Coast Is Clear[edit]

Lawrence's fifth studio album, The Coast Is Clear, was issued in March 1997 and achieved an RIAA gold certification in May.[7] This album's first two singles "Better Man, Better Off" and "How a Cowgirl Says Goodbye" both made top five on Hot Country Songs, but the followups were less successful: title track became his first single to miss the top 10 when it peaked at number 26, and "While You Sleep" fell outside the top 40 of the country music charts.[3] Tom Roland of The Tennesseean noted that the album had a theme of "attemps to undo what's done", but criticized the album's sound as "restrained" and "middle-of-the-road".[29] Sarah Rodman of Country Standard Time shared a similar opinion of the production, calling "While You Sleep" the "most emotive and touching song" while also referring to "How a Cowgirl Says Goodbye" as "lively".[30] Atlantic issued a greatest-hits package, The Best of Tracy Lawrence, in 1998. This disc included thirteen previous singles and the new song "Her Old Stompin' Ground".[31] Three years after its release, this compilation received RIAA gold certification.[7]

1999-2002: Lessons Learned and Tracy Lawrence[edit]

In late 1999, Lawrence returned to the charts with "Lessons Learned".[2] This was the title track to his sixth album, 2000's Lessons Learned,[2] which he and Anderson produced with Butch Carr.[32] The song reached number 3 on the country charts in 2000, and accounted for his highest Hot 100 peak at number forty.[3] The album charted two more singles in "Lonely" and "Unforgiven".[3] Tom Roland gave Lessons Learned 3 out of 5 stars in a review for The Tennesseean, noting that Lawrence "repeatedly sings of flaws and errors and the challenges in overcoming them."[33] Erlewine wrote of the album in Allmusic that it is "certainly pleasant, yet it tends to fade into the background".[34] Jeffrey B. Remz of Country Standard Time thought that the album maintained a constantly country sound, and had well-witten songs.[35]

By the end of 2000, Atlantic closed its Nashville division, so Lawrence signed to Warner Bros. Records.[1][2] His only release for that label, Tracy Lawrence, produced only two low-charting singles in "Life Don't Have to Be So Hard" and "What a Memory".[2] Both Country Standard Time and Allmusic praised the album for having a more consistent and traditional sound than its predecessors, with the former's Scott Homewood calling it "quite possibly his best album",[36] and the latter's Liana Jonas complimenting the lyrics of both singles along with the "scaled down" production.[37] Allmusic biographer Steve Huey wrote of the album that "Despite some good reviews, it failed to halt his downward commercial momentum."[2]

2003-2004: Strong[edit]

Lawrence was signed to DreamWorks Records' Nashville branch in October 2003. His first release for the label was "Paint Me a Birmingham", which had been concurrently released by Ken Mellons on an independent label.[38] Lawrence's version overtook Mellons's in terms of airplay, reaching number 4 on Hot Country Songs in early 2004.[3] Strong also returned Stroud to production duties.[38] The corresponding album, Strong, also came out in 2004.[2] Following this song were "It's All How You Look at It" and "Sawdust on Her Halo", which were less successful at country radio.[3] Erlewine wrote in Allmusic that Strong "ranks among his smoothest albums, a record dominated by ballads and where up-tempo songs are as polished as the slow ones."[39] Peter Cooper of The Tennesseean thought that the album had better-written songs than its predecessors, highlighting "Paint Me a Birmingham" and "Sawdust on Her Halo" in particular, but criticizing the application of Auto-Tune to Lawrence's singing voice.[40] Robert Woolridge of Country Standard Time thought that Lawrence's singing was stronger on the ballads such as "Paint Me a Birmingham" as opposed to the more upbeat material, but criticized the "mainstream production".[41]

2005-2006: Label change and Then & Now: The Hits Collection[edit]

Following the closure of DreamWorks Nashville in 2005, Lawrence transferred to Mercury Nashville that same year.[42] There, he released the compilation Then & Now: The Hits Collection, which included fifteen of his previous hits, all of which (except "Paint Me a Birmingham") had to be newly recorded as the label did not own the rights to the songs that he had recorded while on Atlantic.[43] Two new tracks were included as well, both of which were released as singles: a cover of Mark Nesler's 1998 single "Used to the Pain", and "If I Don't Make It Back", which was co-witten by Bobby Pinson.[3] Of this compilation, Erlewine wrote, "These new versions are a little more laid-back than the originals, and they're a little slicker too. And while that doesn't necessarily suit Lawrence's voice, which has grown a little thinner over the years, that doesn't make Then and Now a bad listen."[44]

2006-2008: For the Love and All Wrapped Up in Christmas[edit]

Lawrence signs an autograph for a sailor aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), May 2007

In 2006, Lawrence started his own record label, Rocky Comfort Records, in partnership with his brother Laney. Distribution for the label was handled by CO5 Nashville.[45] The first act signed to the label besides Lawrence himself was Chad Brock.[42] Lawrence's first single for the label was "Find Out Who Your Friends Are", which was released in August 2006 from the studio album For the Love. The song initially lingered below the Top 40 of the Hot Country Songs charts, but following the album's release, it gained in radio interest due to the album containing as a bonus track an alternate version with Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney on guest vocals.[46] Thanks to the success of the alternate version, "Find Out Who Your Friends Are" became a number one single on that chart in 2007.[3][47] The song reached that position in its forty-first week on the chart, setting a new record at the time for the slowest ascent to the top of the country charts, and the second-slowest on any Billboard chart.[48] The re-recorded version received Musical Event of the Year honors at the 2007 Country Music Association (CMA) Awards, Lawrence's first award from that association.[49] Following this song were "Til I Was a Daddy Too" and "You Can't Hide Redneck".[3] The album's title track was a duet with Brad Arnold of the rock band 3 Doors Down, while the track "Speed of Flight" was the first song in his career that Lawrence wrote entirely by himself.[42] Michael Sudhalter wrote in Country Standard Time that "the music on the 11-track debut matches the label's traditional-sounding name."[50]

Later in 2007, Lawrence issued a Christmas album entitled All Wrapped Up in Christmas, the title track of which peaked at No. 57 based on Christmas season airplay.[3] In 2008, both Zona Jones and Michael Scott signed deals with Rocky Comfort.[51] Jones released the album Prove Me Right through the label in 2009.[52]

2009: The Rock and The Singer[edit]

Lawrence made his last Hot Country Songs chart appearance with the single "Up to Him" in early 2009.[3] It is the first single for a studio album entitled The Rock, a Christian country album which was released in June 2009. It received 3.5 out of 5 from Country Weekly magazine, whose review noted that it "emphasizes at all turns the shared imperfections that we all strive to overcome in order to be good people".[53] Allmusic reviewer Todd Sterling thought that Lawrence "sounds as comfortable singing songs about the Lord as he does singing straight country", calling it "a positive collection that will appeal to people of all faiths."[54] The album got a 2009 Grammy Award nomination for Grammy Award for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album.[55] Country Standard Time reviewer Jessica Phillips also thought that the lyrics of the album were "positive" and "uplifting", comparing the disc favorably to Randy Travis's gospel albums.[56]

Due to financial difficulties, Lawrence closed the Rocky Comfort label after The Rock, and established a second personal label, Lawrence Music Group, in 2011.[57] His first release for this label was The Singer that same year. It was initially available solely from his website and digital music distributors, a decision that Lawrence made in order to test the viability of online distribution instead of physical sales.[58] The album features only acoustic instruments, and included acoustic re-recordings of "Paint Me a Birmingham" and "Find Out Who Your Friends Are".[59] The album included one single, "Pills".[60] Of the album, Lawrence said that he included more songs that he had written himself, because he felt that he had become more confident in his own songwriting skills.[61] He also said that the album was "different" due to the increased presence of songs that he had written and the acoustic sound.[58]

2013: Headlights, Taillights and Radios and Good Ole Days[edit]

Lawrence released the single "Stop, Drop & Roll" to country radio in October 2012.[62] It is the first single from his album Headlights, Taillights and Radios, released on August 20, 2013.[63] Lawrence funded the album through Kickstarter. Contributing songwriters included Kurt Allison (of Jason Aldean's road band and the production team New Voice Entertainment) and Kip Moore.[64] Erlewine noted that the album was more country pop than Lawrence's existing body of work, but stated that "he sounds comfortable, assured, and quite charming on this enjoyable record."[65] Michael Rampa of Country Standard Time also thought that the album was more country-pop, but praised the lyrics and Lawrence's singing, saying of the content that "Lawrence is both looking back at his two decades-plus career in country music while also taking a significant step toward the future."[64] Lawrence promoted the album through a tour of the same name, which consisted of 28 shows throughout the year 2014, beginning with a concert at the Holmes Theater in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.[66]

In 2017, Lawrence released Good Ole Days, a compilation album which features nine of his hit singles re-recorded as duets with other country singers, including Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan, Justin Moore, Jason Aldean, and Luke Combs. It also features two original songs: the title track, which features both Brad Arnold and Big & Rich, and the Craig Morgan duet "Finally Home", whose proceeds were donated to Operation Finally Home, an organization that assists in housing for injured soldiers.[67][68]

Additional work[edit]

Lawrence has contributed to multiple collaborative works in his career. In 1994, he contributed two songs to multi-artist compilations. The first was "Renegades, Rebels, and Rogues", the first of several singles in Lawrence's career to be co-written by Larry Boone. It was included on the soundtrack of the film Maverick.[2] This song was also released to country radio as a single in mid-1994 after "If the Good Die Young" had peaked, and it went on to reach top 10 on Hot Country Songs.[3] Later in the same year, he covered Keith Whitley's late-1989 single "I'm Over You" on the multi-artist tribute Keith Whitley: A Tribute Album.[69] In May 1996, Lawrence was one of many artists featured on the charity single "Hope", whose proceeds were donated to the T.J. Martell foundation for cancer research.[70] The song received a Grammy Award nomination that year for all artists involved, in the category of Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.[55] In 1997, he contributed to Stone Country: Country Artists Perform the Songs of the Rolling Stones, a tribute album to The Rolling Stones, on which he sang a cover of that band's "Paint It Black".[71] Lawrence also began working as a producer for other artists in 1997, including an album by Rich McCready and the soundtrack to the musical The Civil War.[16] The latter also featured him singing "I'll Never Pass This Way Again", which was issued as a single in October 1998.[72]

Musical style[edit]

Steve Huey wrote of Lawrence's musical style that he was "[o]ne of a number of rock-tinged honky tonk singers who rose to fame in the early '90s" and "gained a loyal audience for his mix of modern and traditional country sounds".[2] Erlewine described Lawrence's musical style as "polished, modern-day honky-tonk"[34] and said that he "has never been among the most adventurous country singers and of all the post-Garth Brooks new traditionalists; he often avoids honky tonk grit, even though he has a nice twang in his voice that would work well on rowdier material."[39] In a review of Sticks and Stones, Alanna Nash noted that Lawrence had a physical and musical resemblance to Alan Jackson.[8] His singing voice has also been described as a "smooth baritone"[30] and a "warm baritone" with "effortless, emotional delivery".[56]

Personal life[edit]

In April 1994, Lawrence was charged with reckless endangerment and possession of a firearm after being confronted by teenagers on a highway in Wilson County, Tennessee. Although he was put on probation for a year, the charges were later cleared.[4][16]

Lawrence has been married three times. His first wife was former rodeo star Frances Weatherford, whom he married in 1993.[1] Weatherford was injured by broken glass and suffered a miscarraige after a gas fireplace explosion, and the two divorced in 1996.[4] In March 1997 he married his second wife, Stephenie "Stacie" Drew, a former member of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.[1] Their wedding included over 500 guests, along with performances by Toby Keith, Tracy Byrd, and Kenny Chesney.[73] In October 1997, Lawrence underwent investigation after allegations that he had abused Drew following a concert at Buffalo Bill's hotel and casino in Primm, Nevada. This incident occurred one month after the couple had filed for divorce.[74] Lawrence was convicted of a misdemeanor for battery,[75] and was ordered by Las Vegas, Nevada courts to donate $500 to a Nevada-based women's shelter.[76] Billboard also reported that Atlantic Nashville's president had suspended Lawrence from recording any new material until he agreed to undergo counseling,[76] but he later denied these claims.[77] He married his third wife, Becca, in a secret wedding ceremony just after Christmas 2000. The couple had a child named Skylar the following June.[78] Two years later, they had a second daughter, Mary Keagan.[79]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums
Compilations

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Huey, Steve. "Tracy Lawrence biography". Allmusic. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Whitburn, Joel (2012). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2012. Record Research, Inc. pp. 188–189. ISBN 978-0-89820-203-8.
  4. ^ a b c d e Larry Holden (January 23, 1996). "How Tracy Lawrence Is Beating Tough Times". Country Weekly. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
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  6. ^ Whitburn, p. 197
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  8. ^ a b Alanna Nash (December 13, 1991). "Sticks and Stones". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  9. ^ Sticks and Stones (CD insert). Tracy Lawrence. Atlantic Records. 1991. 7 82326-2.
  10. ^ "Man with a Plan". Allmusic. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  11. ^ "All I Need to Know". Allmusic. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
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  40. ^ Peter Cooper (April 12, 2004). "'Strong' songs and strange vocals from Tracy Lawrence". The Tennesseean. pp. 5D. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
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  48. ^ "Chart Beat Chat". Billboard. June 15, 2007. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved January 26, 2009.
  49. ^ "41st Annual CMA Awards". Country Music Association. Retrieved 2009-01-26.
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  68. ^ "Good Ole Days". Allmusic. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  69. ^ "Keith Whitley: A Tribute Album review". Allmusic. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  70. ^ Whitburn, p. 156
  71. ^ "Stone Country". Allmusic. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  72. ^ "Singles". Billboard: 27. October 17, 1998.
  73. ^ "Pom-Poms and Circumstance". People. March 31, 1997. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
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  75. ^ "Lawrence now admits battering". The Tennesseean. January 30, 1998. pp. 6B. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  76. ^ a b Chet Flippo (February 14, 1998). "Atlantic suspends Tracy Lawrence; Brooks donates money for kids' zoo". Billboard: 26.
  77. ^ Brad Schmitt (June 16, 1998). "Brad about you". The Tennesseean. pp. 3A. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  78. ^ Brad Schmitt (June 29, 2001). "Brad about you". The Tennesseean. pp. 3A. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
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