NORWICH, Conn. -- Short feature on Rodney Atkins

Rodney Atkins’ early years could be the topic for a great country song.

Atkins was born in 1969 in Knoxville, Tenn. As an infant, he was adopted three times. He suffered from serious medical conditions, and the first two couples who took him home were not able to care for him. Despite many setbacks, a third couple adopted him and refused to give up. During high school, Atkins started to play guitar, sing and write songs. He attended Tennessee Tech and would often go to Nashville to do gigs and write songs.

When he was offered a record deal, the record company practically insisted he change his name. With country stars named Trace Adkins, Chet Atkins, and Rhett Akins, there was a fear of confusion. Rodney Atkins refused in honor of the family that adopted him. 

His first hit was in 2004 when “Honestly” became a top 5 country song. It would be two years before he scored another hit song. 

In 2006, “If You’re Going Through Hell” became his first No. 1 song. He followed that song with another No. 1 song. “Watching You” is one of the biggest songs in the past year. It’s about how children learn some good and bad habits from their dad. Atkins’ 5 year old son Elijah stars in the video and was the inspiration for the song.

Atkins has built his own recording studio, and unlike most major stars, does not record his songs in Nashville. Between spending time with his family, hunting, fishing and doing chores, Atkins will record songs in his own studio. He says his latest album was one of the most inexpensive country albums ever made.

Country music tidbits: Willie Nelson is rescheduling more than a dozen concert dates scheduled in the Midwest during July and early August. Apparently, Willie needs a break. His publicist says the 74-year-old country music icon is “just taking a few weeks off.” Nelson will return to the road Aug. 17 in Oklahoma City. ... Travis Tritt will release a new album, “The Storm,” Aug. 21 on Category 5 Records. The project was produced by “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson. Tritt recorded songs by Richard Marx (“You Never Take Me Dancing,” which is the first single) and Diane Warren (“I Want to Feel Too Much”). ... Hank Williams Jr. will be honored as the next CMT “Giant,” and the two-hour tribute will air in November. 

Norwich (Conn.) Bulletin

Jimmy Lane is the 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. disc jockey and program director at WCTY (97.7 FM) in Norwich. E-mail him at jimmy@wcty.com.