“Sticks and Stones”
Written by Roger Dillon and Elbert West
#1 (1 week)
January 25, 1992
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
January 10, 1992
Another major artist launches his career with a No. 1 single.
The Road to No. 1
Born in Texas and raised in Arkansas, Tracy Lawrence was performing music from a young age. Resisting the ministerial path his parents wanted him to follow, he was singing in local bars by his mid-teens, and later dropped out of college to be in a country band based out of Louisiana.
When that band broke up, he moved to Nashville, and within seven months of performing locally, he’d been signed to Atlantic Records. His debut album was recorded in Spring of 1991, but then was delayed when Lawrence resisted an attempted robbery and assault at a local hotel. He was shot four times, and underwent major surgery.
By that fall, he’d recovered, and Atlantic sent his debut single to country radio.
The No. 1
Once again, a fantastic debut single launches a core nineties radio artist. But in this case, it’s a singer taking a decent song and elevating it into an instant classic through the power of his performance.
Lawrence is a criminally underrated singer, so I can’t stress enough how this song wouldn’t work nearly as well if delivered by a lesser vocalist, like any one of the C-list hat acts that would crowd the charts in the coming years.
The way his voice drops down low and rises back up when he sings, “So take everything we have if it makes you happy” is so key in building the emotional resonance of this record, and he uses his upper range to great effect in the chorus.
It’s the sound of a man attempting stoicism but being betrayed by his emotions as he processes the loss of the woman he sacrificed everything for. He realizes that being surrounded by their material possessions will make her memory that much more haunting.
Lawrence has a lot of great records on the way that will top the charts, and he started off with one of the very best.
The Road From No. 1
Lawrence will do very well with the singles from Sticks and Stones, with his next two releases also topping the charts in 1992.
“Sticks and Stones” gets an A.
Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties
Previous: Collin Raye, “Love, Me” | Next: Doug Stone, “A Jukebox With a Country Song”
The serendipity of this feature lately is spooky.
I was listening to Tracy Lawrence’s “The Coast is Clear” this morning while I cleaned my apartment.
I grabbed my phone and saw a headline that Tom T. Hall had died. The air went out of my lungs and my eyes welled up with tears. He is on my Mount Rushmore of personally important country artists. This loss feels like family.
I checked this site and Kevin had already post an “In Memoriam” for The Storyteller.
The weirdness came when I saw he had also posted the next featured #1 song of the nineties: Tracy Lawrence’s “Sticks and Stones.”
As for it, it is a wonderfully worthy song. I agree Lawrence is an underappreciated vocalist. His entire body of work is so rock solid. He always stuck to his neo-traditional, honky-tonk sound while sensibly incorporating pop influences. I always loved how he frequently included a western swing number as well on his albums. He pretty capably covered a lot of country bases on his albums.
I was always surprised the industry didn’t honour him much despite significant chart and sales success at his peak.
In the moment, it felt like the series of debut #1 hits would continue forever, so rich was the talent vein Nashville had tapped.
The debut is pure gold and somehow sounds better today than it did back then.
This is yet again another great song that still stands up today! I agree that it wouldn’t work so well from a lesser vocalist, but it does remind me of what Garth Brooks did with “Friends in Low Places.”
It’s very fitting that this is the first song to kick off 1992, as I remember this was one of my very favorite songs on the radio in early 1992 after my parents and I had just moved into my dad’s house in Fredericksburg, VA. It’s the one that made me a Tracy Lawrence fan from the start at age six, and it’s still one of my all time favorites of his. I’ve always loved the song’s catchy melody, the great fiddle work on it, and Tracy’s vocals, especially the lower notes in the verses that Kevin mentions. It’s yet another in a long line of classics from this golden early 90’s era for me, and it just brings back so many good memories!
I liked this song so much back then that my step dad actually got me his first album on cassette one time when we were in Montgomery Wards at the Spotsylvania Mall. I remember us getting excited when we first put it in our stereo and “Runnin’ Behind” started playing. A few days after that, I remember us waking up one grey morning with all the power in the house suddenly gone. I remember it being kind of a freaky feeling for us to suddenly be waking up with the house all dark like that and not being able to turn on the TV or anything electric. Then my step dad suggested that I should listen to my new tape on my Walkman to make me feel better. He grabbed my Walkman, put Tracy’s Sticks and Stones tape in, hit play, and started listening for himself at first. Then he started laughing and gave me the headphones to hear just what he thought was funny. It turned out the batteries in my Walkman had gotten too weak, and what I’m guessing was supposed to be “Runnin’ Behind” sounded completely unrecognizable. It didn’t even sound like the Darth Vader like voice you’d usually hear with weak batteries and the song playing at too slow of a speed. Instead, it just sounded totally WEIRD, and it just ended up freaking me out even more. I was almost thinking that something might’ve been wrong with the tape, but happily, he was right about it just being weak batteries, lol.
Today, that is still one of my very favorite albums from the early 90’s, and it’s actually one of my favorite debut albums of all time. For me, it’s simply early 90’s neo-traditional country at its best from beginning to end, produced wonderfully by James Stroud. Besides the great songs and lots of fiddle and steel right in your face, I’ve always loved Liana Manis’ harmony vocals, as well, which blended so well with Tracy’s unique twangy vocals. Sticks And Stones, both the song and the album, also just brings back so many great memories of the time when we lived in the then still sleepy town of Fredericksburg during the first half of 1992 and when all four of us lived together as a family in my dad’s house. Great times! Btw, I still have that very same cassette copy, along with a CD copy as well. :)
Tracy would continue to be one of my favorites throughout the rest of the decade, with me enjoying nearly every one of his songs, and he’s still one of my favorite artists today.
Great song by a great singer. Tracy Lawrence was my favorite of the “hat acts” to emerge during the 1990s
Another great debut song! Amazing