After celebrating his first No. 1 hit and his first gold record, Trace Adkins is about to receive a more dubious honorhis first tabloid story. At his gold party last week, Adkins thanked those in attendance for their support, noting that he’d need them more than ever in the upcoming weeks. That’s because a story about a near-fatal altercation between the singer and his wife is ready to hit the stands.
In 1994, Adkins, 35, got into an argument with his wife after returning home from a demo session. “It was rather heated, there was a gun in the kitchen, and she got the gun and shot him,” explains the singer’s publicist, Jesse Schmidt. “He had lifted up his arm to say, ‘No, you’re not going to shoot me,’ and when he raised his arm, the bullet went underneath his armpit. It went totally through his body. It went through both chambers of his heart and both lungs.”
An ambulance picked up Adkins and carried him a little ways before he was life-flighted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He underwent emergency open-heart surgery and then later had another open-heart surgery to repair the large hole left by the bullet. Emergency gall bladder surgery followed several months later, as did a divorce.
While most local media, including the Scene and The Tennessean, have known about the event for months, no one has written about it. Now The Star, a national tabloid, is scheduled to run its story Monday, says Roger Hitts, senior reporter who covers Nashville. While the tabloid had known about the incident for a while, Adkins had to achieve success before The Star was interested in pursuing the story. “If ‘(This Ain’t No) Thinkin’ Thing’ hadn’t hit No. 1, we wouldn’t be doing it,” Hitts says.
“I can understand that [Adkins] may have some apprehension about it coming out in a tabloid,” Hitts says. “But we’re doing a straight-up story.... It’s a fascinating case. We’re not tabloiding it up, so to speak, talking to all his friends and family members. We’re going by police reports and what Trace has already said about it. We’re certainly doing a fair and accurate job.”
“[Adkins] is afraid people will think he’s a wife beater,” Hitts adds. “No one is going to write that, at least not here. He did push his wife before the shooting, and he admitted they were both pushers. We’re running a quote that says he didn’t beat his wife.”
The Star isn’t actually breaking the story. Adkins already broached the subject on the TNN show Today’s Country. While it looks as though the singer is trying to address the subject before it appears in the tabloids, Jesse Schmidt says the timing is simply coincidental. “It has been something that we’ve known about, but Trace has chosen not to talk about it up until now because he wasn’t emotionally ready,” she says. “With all the recent success he’s had, he felt a little more confident that the media wouldn’t view his story as a means to get a career boost.”
Adkins, for his part, wanted to head off any false reports before they came out. “I thought, should Ijust sit here and take a defensive posture when one of these completely fabricated stories comes out?Or why don’t I just tell the truth in the beginning, and then anything they print will be more or less in response to what I’ve already said?”
Indeed, it’s doubtful that the incident will have any impact on Adkins’ career or popularity. Tracy Lawrence has both shot and been shot at, and that hasn’t affected his popularity at all. Perhaps Adkins can use the attention as a forum to address the issue of domestic violence.
Tennessean music writer Tom Roland was unfairly criticized by the Scene recently when it named Banner writers Jay Orr and Michael Gray “best music hardworking music reporters.” “Has anyone ever actually seen Tom Roland [in a club]?” the Scene asked.
While the Banner writers’ accomplishments and talents are to be commended, the two of them are covering music for a paper that publishes five days a week. For much too long, Roland has been the sole music writer for a paper that comes out daily. In addition to covering breaking news, he has to turn out regularly scheduled features. (And yes, he was spotted recently at the Ace of Clubs.)
But things should soon change, because the Tennessean has just hired a second music writer, Rick de Yampert from Daytona Beach, Fla. De Yampert officially started the job on Monday.
The Ranch’s 7 p.m. Tuesday appearance at Tower is part of Capitol Nashville’s plans to launch a new act without relying on country radio. The three-piece band, featuring Australian guitar virtuoso Keith Urban, doesn’t fit the radio mold, so Capitol is taking a grass-roots approach to breaking the band. “Because they’re a little more alternative than just straight-ahead country, we’re taking them out on the road and letting people see them,” says Capitol’s Rachel Weddle. “We’re not working a single yet.
“We are doing videos...for ‘Clutterbilly’ and ‘Walkin’ the Country,’ and we may service both to CMT at the same time. We’re trying to think of creative ways to get this band out. It’s the live show you’ve got to see.” According to Weddle, The Ranch has been drawing 500 to 600 people at its club dates.
Secrets of success
Arista Records president Clive Davis will speak Thursday to a group of attorneys at a one-day Leadership Music conference called “The Client-The Firm-The Deal.” Davis, a Harvard Law grad who also ran Columbia Records and played an integral part in the careers of Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith, and Whitney Houston, attributes his success both to his ears and to his legal skills.
“The background of attorney skills provides the discipline for hard work, the discipline for refining and honing one’s reasoning powers so that you can apply common sense,” he says. “I think the education skills...were [also] very helpful. The discipline to get through the rigors of law school and the preparation for the bar and the ability to work 15 to 17 hours a day have kept with me.
“What I would tell an attorney is if you are going to practice music, learn the underlying business. Immerse yourself in the profession of the clients whom you represent so you do not give legal advice in a vacuum.”
With their ability to make deals and negotiate contracts, entertainment attorneys hold great power in the industry. While some musicians may balk at “suits” getting so heavily involved in the creative process, Davis says it’s not a bad thing. “It’s always been far more beneficial when you have an attorney on the other side who understands the arts, who understands the music and the profession, who understands the realities of both sides of the table, because the deal has to be good for both parties.”
Davis says he is not overly concerned with 1996’s 11 percent drop in country record sales; as such, he is not reevaluating his plans for Nashville. “Country music is exceedingly important in the national music picture,” he says. (Arista Nashville brings in about 20 percent of Arista’s overall revenues.) “You can see it by the new artists coming into the business and selling literally millions of records, so it is vital. I think there is too much talk about a dip. There was bound to be a dip after the Garth Brooks phenomenon.
“Obviously Garth Brooks is here to stay, and I’m glad the country music genre has absorbed the Garth Brooks phenomenon and is able to compete with previous years’ figures and grow very healthily.” Davis notes the multiplatinum success of LeAnn Rimes and Shania Twain, as well as of Arista’s Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn. “Those are phenomenal figures that gain the respect of everybody, no matter what genre of music they’re in.”
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