Trace Adkins
at Opry on July 26

by Tamela Meredith Partridge

One small shake of country entertainer Trace Adkins family tree will reveal a heritage rich in musical influences.

“Granddaddy was a great bass singer,” Adkins says. “I used to love to stand beside him in church and listen to him sing. Uncle J.W. has recorded several gospel albums and was a train engineer, so his nickname became the ‘singing engineer.’ Uncle John played boogie woogie piano at all of our family gatherings and Mama and all my aunts sang in the choir. As you can see, I grew up with music.”

Adkins will share his inherent baritone with the Little Nashville Opry audience on Saturday, July 26, at 6 and 9:30 pm.

Son of a teacher and a papermill worker, Tracy “Trace” Darrell Adkins grew up in Sarepta, Louisiana, where he delivered the national rural newspaper “Grit,” hauled hay and performed with his high school gospel quartet.

Upon graduation, the 6 foot 6 inch lineman spent two years playing football, singing gospel and studying petroleum technology at Louisiana Tech University.

Leaving college, Adkins worked the next ten years as a carpenter, pipefitter and offshore oil rig derrickman.

“I grew up in the oilfield, and that’s who I am and what I am,” Adkins says. “I’m a Southern gentleman—polite, hospitable and respectful—but 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.”

Another thing Adkins couldn’t hide was his passion for singing, songwriting and entertaining. Transferring his years of gospel experience towards his true love of country music, Adkins began playing the honky-tonk circuit in the south and southwest.

“Performing live is something I absolutely live for,” Adkins says.

His big break occurred in a Mt. Juliet, Tennessee venue where a Capitol Nashville records executive heard him sing and offered a recording contract in 1995.

Adkins unique flair for choosing songs of varying moods, colors and attitudes is exemplified in the July-released album, “Trace Adkins Greatest Hits – Vol. 1.” Chart-topping singles on the album include, “Every Light In The House,” “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing,” “The Rest Of Mine,” “I’m Tryin’” and current single “Then They Do.”

“I’m still recording songs that I think could be career singles,” Adkins says. “So I was a little concerned when they told me the next album was going to be a Greatest Hits. I thought, Oh God, one of the reasons why an artist puts out a Greatest Hits is that it’s a last, desperate act. Well, I definitely don’t think I’m done yet, so let’s choose reason Number Two. There have been times in my career when the wheels have come off the bus and things got screwed up. But I’m still here, and things are better than ever. In fact, this year’s been pretty wild, man—every gig we’ve done has been a sell-out.”

No stranger to adversity, Adkins road to success has hit a few bumps along the way. Assorted broken bones, physical injuries and near death experiences include a finger severed on an offshore oil rig, nose re-attached after a car crash, being run over by a bulldozer, explosion of a 400-barrel oil tank while he was repairing it and accidentally being shot through the heart by his second wife.

But everything you survive makes you stronger—physically, emotionally and professionally.

“When I was singing five nights a week in beer joints I think I just developed tungsten vocal cords,” Adkins says. “I think those years of playing in clubs and not having a good monitor system and singing as loud as you possibly could, just to hear yourself, served me well.”

Adkins horizons are sunnier these days due to a happy marriage with third wife Rhonda, their daughters Mackenzie and Brianna, two daughters Tarah and Sarah from his first marriage and a music career that is right on track.

“I’m a country artist and proud of it,” Adkins says. “But, man, I’ve also got that wild streak in me, too, that I can’t wash away. It’s that 38 Special, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchett side of me. That’s why I cut ‘Know a Little’ for the King of the Hill movie soundtrack and did ‘Legs’ on the ZZ Top tribute TV show. I enjoy doing that stuff. It just feels good. In fact, most everything feels better now. I want to get back to having that joy for music that means you do it just for the pure love of doing it. That’s what I want to be like, and I’m getting that way. One day at a time.”