You could smell the barbecue a block away, and the crowd noises spilling out into the chilly Nashville afternoon carried almost as far. The object of this sensory overload was Broken Bow recording artist Craig Morgan. He had come to Judge Bean's, a barbecue restaurant, Monday (Feb. 26) to revel in the fact that his latest album, My Kind of Livin', has been certified gold.
Photo Credit: Marilu White
Morgan was clearly the happiest guy in the house. By the time the party officially started at 4 p.m., he was already in front of the TV cameras and grinning like it was the first time he'd ever been the center of such attention. Already, the long, narrow room was so packed with Morgan's friends, family, co-workers and well-wishers that the only way you could move was sideways.
Parking was just as tight -- and virtually non-existent for late arrivals. You could see the same cars crawling back and forth along the street while hoping for a miracle. Occasionally, a music industry heavyweight would trot into view, puffing from the unaccustomed exercise.
While they waited for the official presentations to start, the partygoers filled their plates with barbecue, snagged drinks from the bar and looked around anxiously for places to sit.
"If you are driving a white Suburban and parked in the Tennessean [newspaper] parking lot," a voice boomed over the sound system, "they are going to tow you."
About a half hour into the party, Brad Howell, Broken Bow's general manager, called for the crowd's attention. He introduced Benny Brown, the label's founder and owner, and then brought Morgan to the stage to receive his gold record.
"Now it's my turn," the singer exulted. When the crowd continued chattering, Morgan yelled, "Whoo! Hey, listen up. This is important." He thanked Brown for his faith and support in his career, noting that, "This is the man who approves the budget -- down to the last nickel."
Morgan then turned to the job of handing out plaques to members of his support team. He began by calling up his co-producer, Phil O'Donnell. "We hunt together, fish together, write together, laugh together, cry together and pray together," he explained. Next he called his manager, Faith Quesenberry, forward to receive her praise and award.
Suddenly, Morgan realized that he'd forgotten to acknowledge Keith Stegall, his other co-producer on the album, as well as Broken Bow's chief creative officer. "There's no better guy we could have brought in to help us out," he said.
Next up was Jody Williams, vice president of writer-publisher relations for BMI, which co-sponsored the party with Broken Bow. He spoke about the growing successes of independent country record labels, such as Broken Bow, pointing out that 21 percent of the albums and 30 percent of the singles on the current Billboard charts are by independent artists. "This is the album that kick-started our [independent] community," he concluded. "So this is a historical album in many ways."
Morgan returned to the chores at hand, proffering plaques and posing for pictures with Broken Bow's promotion staff, the distribution team, his publisher, his booking agent and various members of the media.
"[Craig] is the hardest working artist I've ever worked with," said Jon Loba, Broken Bow's head of national promotion. "He never asks for more than he gives."