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Country music star Tracy Lawrence should have a place in the Tough Man Hall of Fame. The singer-songwriter was already an up-and-coming Nashville staple in 1991 when he completed his first studio album, “Sticks and Stones.”

As the singer exited the studio in the early morning hours of May 31, 1991, Lawrence’s life was about to change forever as three men attacked him and his friend.

An armed robbery changed Tracy Lawrence’s young life forever

Just 23 years old at the time, Lawrence wrapped his first album. To celebrate, he and high school sweetheart Sonja Wilkerson attended a local concert by superstar Alan Jackson. At 3 am, he took Sonja back to her hotel room in downtown Nashville, according to the Orlando Sun-Sentinel.

Three armed men approached the friends. They grabbed $500 in cash, credit cards, and the keys to Wilkerson’s corvette.

That wasn’t enough. The men wanted Lawrence and Wilkerson to take them to her hotel room. The country music crooner believes the men meant to rape his friend and kill them both. He wasn’t going to let that happen.

As one of the men held a gun to Lawrence’s head, he tried to wrestle the sidearm away. As he struggled with his attacker, he yelled to Sonja to run away.

The gun went off. Lawrence’s finger was bleeding. Another shot to the knee, upper arm, and hip left Lawrence bleeding on the ground.

The three assailants then emptied their guns. The superstar said he heard the bullets go right by his head and hit the concrete parking lot. 

Two miracles occurred that early morning. First, the bullet to the hip missed a main artery by one-tenth of a millimeter. If it had hit the artery, People notes Lawrence would have bled to death in three minutes, according to medics at the scene. Second, the three men were bad shots. Not a single bullet hit Lawrence in the head despite their best efforts to kill him as part of the crime.

Doctors predicted a long road to recovery

Lawrence’s doctors said he would need a year to recover. They had to leave the bullet in the hip because it was too dangerous to extract it. Doctors wanted the young man to stay off his feet for several weeks.

The Greensboro News & Record states Lawrence was frustrated at the setback, but he wasn’t taking his situation lying down:

“I was frustrated because all of this was going on and I was lying in the bed. I had to get back. I was ready to go to work. I was ready to play. You know, [my] leg is swollen up real big around and I’m lying there and can’t move. I’m wondering, ‘Lord, am I ever going to be able to walk again? Am I ever going to be able to do anything again?’ … You worry about those things, and I was very determined.”

His manager, Jeff Carver, offered his home to recover following the assault. Just a week into his recovery out of the hospital, Lawrence said he couldn’t take laying down anymore. He insisted on crutches, and he started ambling around.

Carver told People, “I think he was just so excited about his career he was determined not to let this gel the better of him.”

Both Lawrence and Wilkerson had nightmares afterward. She credits her lifelong friend for saving his life, but the country singer doesn’t see himself as a hero. He credited his upbringing and early life in a conservative family for knowing how to act on that summer night in 1991.

Less than a year later, Lawrence had four hit singles on the Billboard Hot Country charts from his debut album. The title track from “Sticks and Stones” was the top country song in January 1992, just eight months after he was shot four times.

“Today’s Lonely Fool” was another popular song from that debut that earned Lawrence accolades and a fan following, according to Country Thang Daily. He received comparisons to other country legends like Merle Haggard and George Strait.

Onward and upward

Two years later, Lawrence, who knew he wanted to be a country singer when he was a young kid, his sophomore album “Alibis” went double platinum selling 2 million copies. Four singles topped the charts in 1993 and 1994.

Four bullets couldn’t slow Tracy Lawrence down. Now in his mid-50s, the superstar has more than 40 hits to reach the Billboard charts, with eight singles reaching number one.

Tracy Lawrence performs onstage during the 2021 Tortuga Music Festival
Country singer Tracy Lawrence at the 2021 Tortuga Music Festival | Jason Koerner/Getty Images

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No one can doubt Lawrence’s toughness or country music acumen. After everything he’s been through, he deserves good breaks every now and then.