Chris Young, the artist, came face to face with Chris Young, the industry, at a party thrown in "their" honor Tuesday (Aug. 30) at Avenue, an airy, high-ceilinged performance venue in downtown Nashville.
Fancy cars bunched bumper-to-bumper along the narrow street in front of the building, their parking lights flashing as they waited for the overworked valets to whisk them away to make room for later arrivals.
A doorman dressed in a business suit kept the foot traffic flowing smoothly.
Once inside, each partygoer had to stop at a credentials table to confirm that his or her name was on the official guest list. According to one of the list-checkers, there were 295 invited guests. It looked like every one of them showed up -- and then some.
Many in the crowd had come directly from the just-concluded BMI party for Jason Aldean and the writers of Jason Aldean's latest hit, "Dirt Road Anthem." Nonetheless, they greeted each other with the kind of ersatz enthusiasm usually witnessed at class reunions.
The party had three stated purposes: to celebrate the release of Young's new album (Neon), to present him a gold album for his earlier CD (The Man I Want to Be) and acknowledge that his most recent single, "Tomorrow," had gone No. 1 and been certified gold as well.
"Gold" is the Recording Industry Association of America designation signifying that 500,000 units of a piece of music -- whether an album, single or other configuration -- has been shipped for retail sales.
In the hour before the presentations began, guests availed themselves of a full bar on one side of the room and a table laden with sausages, pretzels and kindred dietary hazards on the other.
All three performance rights organizations -- ASCAP, BMI and SESAC -- co-sponsored the celebration, along with RCA, Young's record label, and EMI, his music publisher.
Young, an ASCAP member, co-wrote "Tomorrow" with Frank Myers (BMI) and Anthony Smith (SESAC). It's his fourth No. 1.
"Welcome everybody to the celebration of Chris Young," proclaimed Gary Overton, chairman of Sony Music Nashville, of which RCA Records is a division.
Overton then called Young to the stage to award him his gold plaque for The Man I Want to Be. Young stayed front and center for the duration of the ceremony, alternating between accepting trophies and handing them out to those who have been instrumental in his career.
Chief among these were his producer, James Stroud, and his manager, Marion Kraft.
He brought his mother, Becky Harris (who's also his business manager), to the stage, along with his fan club president, Terri Thompson. These two started his fan club "as a joke," he said, when he had virtually no fans to deal with.
"They have been with me through some of the worst fashion decisions in my life," he deadpanned. Whether that included the adoption of a cowboy hat, which he no longer wears, he didn't say.
As befitted the man of the moment, Young reserved the last words for himself. Looking out over the crowd, he grinned broadly and shouted, "I just want to say, 'Hot damn! I got a gold record.'"