Gary Allan’s Not Blowing Smoke

Latest Album Earns Gold Honors

Two surprises — his parents and a new surfboard — awaited Gary Allan at a Nashville party Thursday (Nov. 9) to celebrate his first gold album, Smoke Rings in the Dark.

Harley and Mary Herzberg showed up at the Atlantis restaurant before the shindig kicked off, having just flown in from California for the celebration.

“My mom was the one who would always listen to me,” Allan said. “She’d turn everything off — the TV and stereo — and come in and listen to me play. She’d cry at all the sad songs. And my dad, I’ve played in bars with him since I was 12. Them showing up is huge.”

MCA Records bought the surfing singer a new board, complete with the MCA logo on the front. The Orange County, Calif., native quickly assumed a Beach Boys-like pose with the surfboard, producer Mark Wright and record label executives Tony Brown and Bruce Hinton. The festive crowd, teeming with friends, band members and songwriters, enjoyed the moment.

“It’s wild. I’m overwhelmed by the whole thing,” Allan told about his gold album achievement. “It’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid.”

Smoke Rings in the Dark is Allan’s third album, and its title cut was a Top 15 hit on the Billboard country singles chart. Subsequent singles “Loving You Against My Will” and “Right Where I Need to Be” haven’t fared as well, but Allan said his live show has helped sell the 500,000 copies required for gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of America.

The singer showed his appreciation to his booking agents, band members and songwriters by handing out 170 gold album plaques. Some of them he hand-delivered earlier in the day to the offices of MCA Records. He also presented one to his parents during the party.

“I know we were handing out a lot, but I wanted to make sure the people who deserved them had one,” Allan said. “We spent a lot of money, but I know that for my musicians and songwriter friends, to get a platinum or gold plaque for a record they worked on is a big thing. I wanted to thank everybody who had a hand in it.”

Allan is in the studio crafting his fourth album, which he doesn’t expect to release until next fall. He already has found songs by Rivers Rutherford, who penned “Smoke Rings in the Dark,” and by Harley Allen and Bruce Robison.

“This album is going to be very cool. It’s going to have a nice ’bar’ edge to it,” Allan explained. “It’s all the songs I love playing in bars. I’m not done cutting yet. I want to find five or six more songs.”

Up next for Allan is a trip to Hawaii to tape an episode of CMT Hit Trip. A return tour to Australia is also in the works. Allan played several sold-out shows there in August and had a No. 1 hit with his cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway.”

“I love Australia. It’s very much like Southern California,” Allan explained. “They’re very laid back there, and they live in these little beach towns. We always have fun when we go there.”