Tracy Lawrence was one of the breakout country stars of the early '90s, but the rising star had a brush with death that could have stopped his career before it got started. On May 31, 1991, Lawrence was shot four times in a robbery that nearly turned deadly.

The Arkansas native had just finished recording the vocals for his debut album, Sticks and Stones, and he went out to celebrate with Sonja Wilkerson, a friend he had known since grade school. After a late night, he was dropping her off at the Nashville-area hotel she was staying at when three men encircled them as they got out of the car, pointing guns at them.

Lawrence and Wilkerson cooperated as the thieves took their keys, credit cards and more than $500 in cash, but it soon became clear that robbery was not their only motive. When the men asked what room they were in and forced them to walk toward the hotel, Lawrence knew he had to act.

"In my mind, the only reason for taking us to a hotel room was to rape her," Lawrence would later recall to People. "They didn’t try to hide their faces. They would not have let us live. I decided that if I was going to die, I was going to die fighting."

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Lawrence lunged for the gun that was pressed to the back of his head as they walked toward the hotel, getting shot in the finger in the process. The other gunmen were walking with Wilkerson ahead of him, and they turned and also began firing. Lawrence took bullets in the hip, right arm and knee before dropping to the ground, and the gunmen continued to fire at him until they had expended all of their bullets before fleeing the scene. Wilkerson was able to get away as the men focused on Lawrence.

"I was lying face down. I could hear the bullets bouncing on the pavement up around my head," the singer told People.

The bullet in his hip missed hitting a main artery by a tiny fraction, and paramedics who responded to the scene told Lawrence he would have bled to death in three minutes if it had struck the artery. Instead, he ended up spending just three days in the hospital, where he had the bullet removed from his knee, while doctors decided to leave the one in his hip. They predicted Lawrence would need a year to recover fully from his injuries, but the singer was determined not to let the incident derail his burgeoning career, and he was back to work within months.

Released in November of 1991, Sticks and Stones reached the Top 10 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart, and its title song and lead single, "Sticks and Stones," gave Lawrence his first No. 1 hit. He scored three more Top 10 hits with "Today's Lonely Fool," "Runnin' Behind" and "Somebody Paints the Wall," launching him as one of the most important new young traditionalists in the genre.

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