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April 2012 Cover Story: Trace Adkins

After all he’s been through, the superstar singer is proud to be here, indeed.

Photography by Russ Harrington

It’s the day before Trace Adkins’ 50th birthday and he’s at his farm near Nashville, Tennessee, recovering from the latest in a long line of reconstructive surgeries. No big deal, he insists. In fact, going under the knife is practically an annual tradition for him.

“Every winter,” he explains in his trademark sandpapered drawl, “I usually get something fixed. It’s either a shoulder or a knee or an elbow or a wrist or an ankle or something. I’ve been pretty hard on my body over my life. It’s catching up with me now, and I have to get stuff fixed.”

This year, Adkins adds, it was time for the knee to get tweaked. Again. “I dislocated my kneecap the first time when I was a senior in high school,” he says. The second injury occurred while Adkins — who hails from the north Louisiana town of Sarepta — played defensive end for the Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech University. Then he made the trifecta during a skiing vacation.

“So it’s been a recurring thing — my right knee is completely trashed. This is probably the last surgery that’s going to give me any relief. I’m probably looking at a replacement at some point.”
One could be forgiven for viewing Adkins’ entire life as a recurring cycle of injury and recovery. While a teenager, he broke both arms, a leg, and some ribs and had his nose partly torn off after his pickup truck collided head-on with a school bus. During his hardscrabble days as an offshore oil-rig roughneck, he had to have his left pinkie finger surgically reattached after accidentally severing the digit while opening a can with a knife. “It’s probably the most ridiculous thing that I’ve ever done to myself,” he recalls with a self-deprecating chuckle. “And I was sober when I did it, so I don’t have any excuses, really.”

Adkins subsequently survived other well-documented mishaps — including a near-fatal encounter with a gun-toting ex-wife — while determinedly trudging the long, hard road from playing honky-tonk gigs to charting multiple-platinum albums. Along the way, he has earned the adulation of an ever-increasing fan base with such megahit singles as “You’re Gonna Miss This,” an irresistibly affecting ode to the importance of stopping and smelling the roses; “Brown Chicken, Brown Cow,” an uninhibited celebration of afternoon delights down home on the farm; and “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” an exuberantly rowdy appreciation of shapely female anatomy.

Nowadays, Adkins is a multimedia luminary, a country music superstar who has branched out as an actor (opposite Matthew McConaughey in The Lincoln Lawyer, Val Kilmer in the recent DVD release Wyatt Earp’s Revenge, and a small army of Hollywood’s elite in the forthcoming Civil War miniseries To Appomattox), a reality-TV regular (courtesy of Donald Trump’s The Celebrity Apprentice), and a bestselling author (A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Freethinking Roughneck). But despite the lofty heights he has scaled, his most devoted fans continue to think of him as one of them. Indeed, when his Nashville home was razed by fire last year, forcing him, his wife, Rhonda, and three of his five daughters to temporarily relocate to his farm, Adkins was surprised — and deeply moved — when everyday folks began offering donations to finance the building of a new house.

“I was just glad that we as a family were able to take that generosity and point it in the right direction,” Adkins says. “And try to get people to make donations to the Red Cross or whatever else they might want to do. Because we didn’t really need it.”

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