Friday, May 4, 2012

The first Grammys were held: May 4, 1959

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Frank Sinatra once described Elvis Presley, the man who in 1959 was responsible for nearly half the sales at RCA, as a “deplorable, a rancid-smelling aphrodisiac.” TO Apparently the Grammys agreed with Ol’ Blue Eyes. In 28 categories, Sinatra was nominated the most – 12 times. Elvis and his fellow rock musicians, received no nominations. As Variety magazine said, the complete absence of any rock titles was “a demonstrative brushoff to the prevailing trend in the pop field.” TO

The Grammy Awards were established in 1958 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The “Grammy” nickname is short for gramophone. The awards focused on “artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence instead of album sales or chart position.” LF “The award itself is a gold gramophone, symbolic of the first home record players, on a black base.” LF

525 people from the music industry attended that first ceremony on May 4, 1959 at a banquet ceremony at Los Angeles’ Beverly Hilton Hotel. Shockingly, there was no music on the program. The event was not televised. Paul Weston, the Grammy president, was still lining up presenters during dinner.

700 people filled out ballots. While prognasticators assumed Sinatra would be the big winner of the night, he was nearly shut out, only winning Best Album Cover for Only the Lonely. Instead, the night’s top honors went largely to non-rock-oriented pop titles. Domenico Modugno’s “Volare” won Record and Song of the Year. Henry Mancini’s television soundtrack The Music from Peter Gunn, which had topped the LP chart for 10 weeks, took the prize for Album of the Year. Mancini would become a Grammy regular, winning a total of 20 awards before his death in 1994.


Some of the other winners of the night included Ella Fitzgerald (Best Female Vocal Performance, Best Individual Jazz Performance) and Count Basie (Best Performance by a Dance Band, Best Jazz Performance Group). Despite Grammy leaders claim that the awards were about “artistic merit,” they handed out three awards to The Chipmunks. Check out a full list of the first year’s winners here.

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