Joe Nichols Celebrates First Gold Album

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“We’re here to celebrate Universal South’s first gold record. We’re here to celebrate Joe Nichols’ first gold record. And we’re here to celebrate the fact that we’re here to celebrate.”

This was the succinct right-to-party proclamation that label chief Tim DuBois delivered to the hundreds of guests gathered at Nashville’s Rocket Town night club Tuesday (July 8) to toast the sale success of Nichols’ current album, Man With a Memory. DuBois, the co-founder and senior partner of Universal South Records, clearly directed the last part of his remarks to his friend and business partner, Tony Brown, who stood beside him on the stage, looking fully recovered from the near fatal head injury he suffered in April.

The party drew most of the songwriters who had contributed material to Nichols’ album, including Jeffrey Steele, Blake Mevis, Tim Mensy, Kelley Lovelace, Lee Thomas Miller, Donny Kees, Charlie Black and Rory Bourke. Also attending were Doug Morris, head of Universal Music Group; Brent Rowan, Nichols’ producer; Ron Baird, Nichols’ booking agent at Creative Artists Agency; John Lytle, Nichols’ manager; Gary Overton, Nichol’s publisher at EMI Music; Ed Benson, executive director of the Country Music Association; and Kyle Young, director of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

“It’s a sticky business now folks,” DuBois continued, alluding to the decline in country music sales, “but I’m here to tell you that we’re keeping busy and we smile a lot.” Repeating the remarks he uttered June 26 at the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame ceremonies, Brown said, “I’m proud to be standing here tonight — I’m proud to be standing anywhere.”

Benson presented Nichols a certificate honoring his gold-album status. (A gold designation signifies that 500,000 copies of an album have been shipped to record stores.) “This couldn’t be better for all of us in the industry,” Benson asserted. “You’re just right for country music. Keep it up. Call me if you need me.”

“And now, the moment you’ve waited for,” DuBois intoned to the crowd, “when Joe attempts to say something intelligent.”

“It’s not gonna happen,” Nichols responded. Then, just as he began to thank the label for its support, his mike went dead. But the party roared on.

The fact that such a lavish celebration was held for a gold album demonstrates how far country music’s fortunes have fallen in recent years. As one of the songwriters remarked to after the ceremonies, “It used to be they didn’t even throw a gold party — they just waited until the album went platinum.” (Platinum signifies the shipment of 1 million units.)

During the heydays of the early-to-mid 1990s, country not only sold more albums, it also sold them much faster than it does today. Man With a Memory was released July 23, 2002, but did not “go gold” until May 13, 2003. It has been propelled to prominence by three hit singles: “The Impossible,” which went to No. 3 in Billboard on Sept. 28, 2002; “Brokenheartsville,” which reached No. 1 on March 29, 2003; and the currently rising “She Only Smokes When She Drinks.”

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