Brett Eldredge has earned his share of plaques for going No. 1 – but never quite like the one he received on Thursday from his Nashville recording company.
His honor: peeing on the Warner Music building back when he was a college student.
The story begins two years ago when Eldredge revealed to PEOPLE that he used to take regular whizzes on a Warner wall while walking to a downtown karaoke bar.
He and a buddy at nearby Belmont University would “have a couple drinks at the dorm,” he told PEOPLE in February 2015 during a nostalgic night revisiting Nashville’s karaoke bars. “We’d walk all the way down Music Row. I’d stop to take a leak on the side of the Warner building. We’d stop at the same building. It’s huge and there are easy places to hide, and now” – he added, as if the irony might be lost – “I’m signed with them.”
Eldredge’s relief work soon became legend at Warner Music, and CEO John Esposito (who signed the singer) finally decided it needed to be immortalized. He and Warner’s chief marketing officer, Peter Strickland, surprised Eldredge with the small plaque affixed just at the height that would have been his original target.
After the 31-year-old singer concluded a fan event at the Warner complex Thursday morning, Esposito and Strickland ushered the unsuspecting artist out the headquarters’ side entrance where about a dozen Warner staff were waiting to witness the moment.
Eldredge recognized the location immediately and let out a hearty laugh. “I know what’s happening now!” he exclaimed – though he couldn’t have been too sure. After all, the small bronze plaque was artfully hidden behind artificial ivy.
“We thought this story was amazing,” Esposito announced. “We felt like not only you had to mark your spot, but we had to mark it, as well. You have to unveil it.”
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Eldredge then was handed a golden rake, which he used to ceremoniously pull away the ivy, revealing the plaque that reads, “Brett Eldredge Left His Mark Here in March of 2007.”
“That’s awesome!” Eldredge said. “Wow. That’s awesome!”
Throwing himself into the spirit of the occasion, he happily posed for pictures, first facing cameras and then turning his back to strike his original, history-making stance.
Warner’s imposing, angular structure was exclusively his comfort stop of choice, Eldredge told PEOPLE. “I always thought this was the coolest-looking building in the world,” he said, “[and] … oh, people make music here. This is why I moved here. But I always had to pee at this point, and so I was like, oh, I’m gonna leave my mark … and I left my mark, and now I’ve got a plaque here 10 years later.”
At the morning event where he introduced fans to music from his upcoming album, Eldredge actually received his first plaque of the day – a gold record for selling a half-million copies of his 2015 album Illinois.
But the small (shall we say “wee”?) plaque “might be even cooler,” he allowed.
And he wondered aloud if it might start a trend. Could new artists follow in his footsteps? Maybe – but Eldredge knew nothing would take away from his honor.
“I’m the first,” he said with a satisfied smile.