Outside, it was dark, cold and drizzling. Inside, Julie Roberts was beaming like a lighthouse. Surrounded by friends, co-workers and TV cameras, she was celebrating her first gold album. The soiree took place Wednesday (Feb. 2) at the Mirror restaurant in Nashville.
As the guests eddied around the bar, embracing each other and munching hors d’oeuvres, a makeup man stood in a far corner, dabbing gingerly at Roberts’ already radiant face. Singer Joe Nichols breezed in briefly. He and Roberts share the same producer, Brent Rowan, who mingled in the crowd, accepting congratulations for his part in bringing in the gold. (A gold designation means that 500,000 albums have been shipped to record stores.) The album, Julie Roberts, was released last May.
Other celebrants included James Stroud and Luke Lewis, co-chairmen of Universal Music Group Nashville, which owns Roberts’ label, Mercury Records; Grand Ole Opry manager Pete Fisher; music publishing nabobs Gary Overton, Dale Bobo and Woody Bomar; and Roberts’ mother.
Stroud opened the formal part of the ceremonies by beckoning Roberts to the restaurant’s improvised stage.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “the greatest smile in music.” Noting that a gold record is increasingly hard to come by, Stroud told Roberts, “It’s a huge night for you and a huge night for us.”
Rick Murray, the Country Music Association’s senior director of strategic marketing, presented the singer a certificate of achievement and proclaimed, “Julie Roberts is truly America’s sweetheart.”
Lewis assured the well-wishers that Roberts’ album had reached the gold level on its own merit. “As good as we are at the record company over there [on Music Row], this wasn’t a bag of tricks,” he said, apparently alluding to a recent newspaper story that revealed UMGN had boosted a Reba McEntire single to the top of the charts by buying airplay for it.
“Mama, look!” Roberts exclaimed when she was presented her gold-record plaque. The South Carolina native praised Rowan, who came to the stage to stand beside her, as “the first man who believed in me and didn’t tell me I should find another career.”
Then, looking out into the crowd, she said, “My other half is here tonight. She got here late from working at the factory. … She’s given me every penny she’s ever had to get this gold record.”
With that, she waved her mother, Sandra Roberts, an accountant, to the stage. Roberts also thanked Fisher for allowing her to sing on the Grand Ole Opry. “I’d play there every Saturday night if I were home,” she vowed.