Just Another Day in Paradise for Phil Vassar

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Fellow artists and songwriters turned out in force Wednesday (Feb. 13) at the Union Station Hotel in Nashville to help Phil Vassar celebrate the receipt of his first gold album. (Gold signifies the shipment of 500,000 units to record stores.) Vassar’s self-titled album has been on the charts for 103 weeks.

Among those attending the party were Kenny Chesney, with whom Vassar has been touring, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Billy Yates and songwriters Tommy Rocco, Charlie Black, Rory Bourke and Jim Photoglo.

Also on hand were Vassar’s mother and two sisters, his co-producer, Byron Gallimore, and Ed Benson, executive director of the Country Music Association. Before the ceremonies, Vassar told CMT.com he has finished his second album for Arista Records and that the first single from it — not yet chosen — will be out in late April or early May.

Brad Schmitt, entertainment columnist for The Tennessean, acted as master of ceremonies in the absence of Joe Galante and Butch Waugh, the top officials at Vassar’s record company. Alluding to the singer’s form-fitting black leather trousers, Schmitt introduced him as “the tightest pants in the room.”

Johnson, who is Vassar’s labelmate and also on the Chesney tour, told the crowd, “Phil helped me out years ago. He hired me at his [night] club and let me be his waitress and bartender. … I’ve always known he was going to make it.”

“I want to congratulate Phil for having a gold album his first time out,” said Chesney. “I don’t think my first three albums sold 500,000.”

Benson presented Vassar a certificate, as is the custom of the CMA when member/artists score their initial gold record. “Phil’s going to host the first CMA awards [show] in Atlanta,” Benson joked, referring to recent speculation — now quashed — that the highly rated awards show might relocate from Nashville to the other city. “Stay tuned for the date of that,” Benson added, clearly intimating it would be a long wait.

Vassar was by turns whimsical and serious as he accepted his gold plaque and began to single out those who had helped him achieve it. He mused that Galante and Waugh were probably absent because they were attending a party for some other artist who had sold platinum (a million units). “Those of you who’ve known me for a long time,” he said soberly, “know it’s been a long road.”

Shortly before the ceremonies started, word began circulating through the crowd that Waylon Jennings had just died. Vassar ended his brief remarks by confirming that this was true.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.