Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Tracy Lawrence, “Runnin’ Behind”

“Runnin’ Behind”

Tracy Lawrence

Written by Ed Hill and Mark D. Sanders

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

August 21, 1992

Tracy Lawrence goes three-for-three.

The Road to No. 1

After two No. 1 ballads with “Sticks and Stones” and “Today’s Lonely Fool,” Atlantic sent Tracy Lawrence’s first upbeat single to radio, and it duplicated the success of its slower paced predecessors.

The No. 1

“Runnin’ Behind” doesn’t break new narrative ground for country music, but it reprises a familiar theme with an incredibly clever framework.

Capturing the breakneck pace of working your fingers to the bone but still never getting ahead of your bills and burdens, Lawrence sums up that experience perfectly:  “I’m always runnin’, I’m always runnin’ behind.”

It’s a fitting metaphor for Lawrence himself, who never got the attention and laurels given to many of his contemporaries, despite putting out one consistent record after another for the better part of the decade.

The Road From No. 1

“Lord, the day my ship came in, I was waitin’ for a train,” Lawrence wailed on his fourth single, “Somebody Paints the Wall,” which went top ten.  After that, he released his tremendously successful sophomore album, Alibis.  We’ll see the title track first, once we get to 1993.

“Runnin’ Behind” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. Lawrence’s growling vocals suit the frustrated lyrics so well, while the the band crackles with a dogged determination and energy behind him.

    I forgot he took his first three singles to the top.

    This is the first example of how capable he would prove to be with various styles and tempos, from ballads to western swing to pop country productions. Add this musical versatility to the list of things Lawrence isn’t credited and recognized enough for.

  2. Such a fun song! I’ve enjoyed this one ever since I heard it as the first cut on Tracy’s Sticks and Stones album back when my step dad got it for me on cassette in early 1992. Love the killer dobro licks featured here along with Lawrence’s spirited and playful performance, despite the somewhat downbeat lyrics. I especially always loved that note he stretches near the end when he goes “I’m always runnin’ beeeeeeeee…hind!” Similar to Brooks & Dunn’s “My Next Broken Heart,” this is another song I can picture playing loudly in some crowded honky tonk with everybody having a good time.

    Besides having it on that album, I also recorded this song from the radio on to the same tape I mentioned in Alan Jackson’s “Love’s Got A Hold On You” around the Fall of 1992. It wasn’t until around 2001 when I listened to that tape again that I realized that the album and the radio versions are just slightly different from one another. The radio version actually features more of Tracy’s signature growling whenever he sings “Yeah I’m always runnin’…,” while on the album version he just sings it more straight. I just always thought it was interesting how they make little changes like that for when a song is sent to radio.

    I absolutely love “Somebody Paints The Wall,” as well, and I wish that one had also gone to number one! Definitely one of his more underrated songs, imo.

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