As he ran, carrying his wife to safety, Tracy Lawrence expected the building behind him to explode. This was, after all, just play-acting for the video to his new hit single, “Renegades, Rebels and Rogues.”
But the make-believe danger became too real when a heavy, wooden crate was accidentally left in front of the exploding building.
“It blew that crate 40 feet off the porch,” Tracy told COUNTRY WEEKLY. “I didn’t know it until the playback, but that thing landed two inches away from me. If I’d been running any slower, it would have hit my wife on the head. Needless to say, the head of Atlantic Records said nobody will be doing explosions anymore. It was a little too real.”
In the video, Tracy plays a time-traveling hero who rescues a bank clerk—played by his wife Frances—just as bandits dynamite the safe.
“There’s no way I can describe the intensity of the explosion,” Tracy said. “I could feel wood and debris hitting me on the back. My wife was tied up and gagged over my shoulder with her head pointed right toward the building, and the hair on top of her head was singed. When I put her down, we just hugged each other real tight. It scared us to death.”
The video for “Renegades, Rebels and Rogues,” the first single from the Maverick movie soundtrack, isn’t the first time Tracy has taken physical risks for his art. For his “If the Good Die Young” video, Tracy drove a race car—a very fast race car.
“I like to do exciting things,” Tracy said. “I think my music is exciting and the videos just go along with the music.”
The explosion added more excitement than he and his wife Frances had bargained for.
“Wow, I was scared,” Frances said, even though she had been shown pictures of similar explosions and learned the debris—all of it—was supposed to be soft polyfoam and balsa wood.
“The explosion certainly generated a lot of heat,” Tracy said. “Even the crew talked about it.”
Elaborate safety precautions were in place. “The pyrotechnician was stationed to the side and triggered the explosion manually after Frances and I had passed the safety point,” Tracy said. “If I had stumbled and not passed the point, the explosion would not have happened.
“We just didn’t realize how intense it was going to be,” he said. “Seeing it now, I can relax a little bit.”
The explosion mishap added unexpected drama to what had been a fun, family event. Tracy, his band, his brother Laney, their wives, and about 50 extras spent two days at Old Tucson Studios filming the video.
Taping had its funny moments, like when drummer Alex Torrez fell
off his horse.
“All the guys in the band said, `Sure, we can ride horses,’ and the first thing he did was fall off,” Tracy said.
The action never stops in the video, which is high on special effects, gags and pranks, said producer Anne Grace from Scene Three, the film production company that has produced nearly all of Tracy’s videos.
“Something is happening all the time,” Anne said. “Tracy does a gun trick, the band is shooting up a storm on their horses, one guy can’t get on his horse because his saddle keeps falling off, and Tracy literally shoots the pants off another guy.”
In this video, he appears in the old West in a fireproof suit he wore in “If the Good Die Young,” and crashes into the wall of a barn.
“I get dressed, get a gun on, and wind up getting into all kinds of trouble,” Tracy said. “The last scene is I save the girl from the bank, she kisses me, and I vanish, to who knows where.”
Close calls and rebounding from trouble to triumph happen in Tracy’s real life, too. The unintentional blast on his video was just one more rough-and-tumble episode.
In 1990, after his band in Louisiana broke up, he limped into Nashville aboard a truck with 250,000 miles on it. He first found a job as an ironworker, but soon decided to hammer out a music career. Entering Nashville music contests provided a meager living, but besting his competition for $75 or $100 wasn’t the real goal. Eventually, he did gain the attention of record producers and signed with Atlantic.
Just four hours after finishing the vocals on his debut album, Sticks and Stones, he took four bullets while shielding a friend during a May 1991 robbery attempt.
He had been celebrating the album’s wrap-up with a woman he had known since his childhood on the Texas-Arkansas border. As he walked her back to her hotel in the Music Row area, three robbers jumped out of the darkness, waving guns. They took money, credit cards and keys, but then wanted to know the woman’s hotel room number. Tracy guessed the robbery might take an even worse turn and jumped the men while his friend ran. They emptied their guns at him, then fled, leaving him wounded in the left hand, upper right arm, left knee and left hip. The gunmen got away.
The bullet in his hip caused the most trouble. It slashed within a whisker of a major artery, and Tracy spent most of 1992 with a pin in his hip, but he recovered fully, beating the timetable the doctors had set.
Despite the injuries, he pushed himself into a grueling tour schedule, and got his first No. 1 single—also titled “Sticks and Stones.” The same album also produced three other Top 10 hits: “Today’s Lonely Fool,” “Runnin’ Behind” and “Somebody Paints the Wall.”
His next album, Alibis, went gold in just 17 days, and produced a trio of No. 1 hits: “Alibis,” “Can’t Break It to My Heart” and “My Second Home.” Tracy was nominated for the 1993 Country Music Association Horizon Award.
But trouble was not all behind him. Police investigating a confrontation that occurred earlier this year on a Nashville
interstate between Tracy and some youths ended up arresting Tracy. He was charged with having an unlicensed handgun and a phony police identification.
As Tracy’s real-life episode with the car made news, his video that features him in a race car made more fans. “If the Good Die Young” hit Billboard magazine’s Top 10 for country singles.
And now, his latest video will carry a time-travel theme that begins a miniseries in video, Tracy said.
“The concept is to travel through time and space to a new location for each song,” he said. “We will decide what place and time when we pick each new song. I doubt that we will try to top this one ….
“I’d always wanted to do a miniseries in video, but it seemed like it meant you’d be doing the same thing over and over,” he said. “This way, it leaves me open to go anywhere or do anything. I can show up on a pirate ship or in outer space. I can transport anywhere and save the day!”