Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I was flabbergasted to read about when the Grammys avoided rock like the plague.

When their Best Rock & Roll Recording (1962) went to Bent Fabric's "Alley Cat," instead of "The Twist," and the Best Rock & Roll Vocal Group (1965) was the Statler Brothers, I almost busted a gut laughing.

Your examples covered three years, but there must be more to this story.

Also, when did they finally add a separate Rock & Roll category?
—Will Sorensen, Evansville, Ind.

DEAR WILL: The only way to do justice to this topic is to begin at the beginning, 64 years ago:

1958: The Record of the Year was Domenico Modugno's "Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)." Not a bad choice, but "At the Hop" (Danny and the Juniors), a R&R classic, would have been my pick.

The only rock act to win anything was the Champs, though both they and "Tequlia" were improperly categorized. This rock instrumental garnered a Best Rhythm & Blues Performance Grammy.

Perhaps the nominating committee never saw a photo of the Champs.

This R&B award should have gone to "Lonely Teardrops" (Jackie Wilson), and the Champs belonged with Duane Eddy and Link Wray in a category for rock instrumentalists.

However, since '58 was the Academy's first year, let's give them a mulligan.

1959: Record of the Year was Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife," and they got that one right. Still, Darin's tune dominated the record world in 1959, and should have also been Best Male Vocal Performance, instead of "Come Fly with Me" (Frank Sinatra), and Best Performance By a Top 40 Artist, instead of "Midnight Flyer" (Nat King Cole).

Unfortunately, none of the 34 awards that year went to anything considered rock and roll, or teen-oriented. The most important and top-selling genre of the past five years, yet in Grammyville it simply doesn't exist.

1960: "Theme from A Summer Place" (Percy Faith's Orchestra) rightfully claims Record of the Year.

That year's No. 2 hit, "It's Now Or Never" (Elvis Presley) should have been Best Performance on a Pop Single, but that went to "Georgia on My Mind" (Ray Charles), which should have been Best R&B Performance instead of Ray's "Let the Good

Times Roll." This comparatively obscure B-side never even made the R&B charts!

Even with five more categories (39) this year, none include the word "rock." There are 11 different classical and jazz awards, including one with an absurd name used in 1960 and never again: Best Jazz Composition of More Than Five Minutes Duration. They quickly (1961) renamed this category Best Original Jazz Composition.

1961: "Moon River," Henry Mancini's magnum opus, deserved and won Song of the Year. But it was also Record of the Year, a pick that clearly should have gone to Bobby Lewis for "Tossin' and Turnin'."

This is the year the Academy finally added a Best Rock & Roll Recording category, but it's just one of their 40 total Since they missed "Tossin' and Turnin'" for Record of the Year, you'd think it would have been the hands down choice for Best Rock & Roll Recording.

You would think.

Inexplicably, the voters selected "Let's Twist Again," a nice hit for Chubby Checker, but one that barely made the Top 10 — and did not even rank in the Cash Box Top 60 for the year.

"The Twist," the only record to top the charts in two different years, was also among the five biggest hits of 1960, and then the No. 1 hit of 1962, yet never won a Grammy.

In 2000, a mere 40 years after its original release, "The Twist" did receive a Grammy Hall of Fame invitation.

For the next few years, voters continued to demonstrate a serious misunderstanding of what qualified as a Best Rock & Roll Recording:

1962: Winner was "Alley Cat," but should have been "The Twist"

1963: Winner was "Deep Purple" (Nino & April), but should have been "Sugar Shack" (Jimmy Gilmer)

1964: Winner was "Downtown" (Petula Clark), but should have been "I Want to Hold Your Hand" (Beatles)

For 1965, the rock category was expanded to Best Contemporary (R&R) Performance, with separate awards for Single, Male, Female, and Group.

1965 (Single): Winner was "King of the Road" (Roger Miller), but should have been "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (Rolling Stones)

1965 (Male): Winner was "King of the Road" (Roger Miller), but should have been "Like a Rolling Stone" (Bob Dylan)

1965 (Female): Winner was and but should have been "I Know a Place" (Petula Clark)

1965 (Group): Winner was "Flowers on the Wall " (Statler Brothers), but should have been "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (Rolling Stones)

The significant changes for 1966 are Best Contemporary (R&R) Performance for a Single becomes Best Contemporary (R&R) Recording, and, after one year of separation, Males and Females are again combined.

1966 (Recording): "Winchester Cathedral" (New Vaudeville Band), but should have been "I'm a Believer" (Monkees)

1966 (Male or Female Solo): Winner was Paul McCartney for "Eleanor Rigby," which is by a group (Beatles) and is NOT a McCartney solo release. Truly a mindless choice. Should have been "Sunny" (Bobby Hebb)

1966 (Group): Winner was "Monday, Monday" (Mamas & Papas), but should have been "I'm a Believer" (Monkees)

For the next 11 years, neither "Rock" nor "R&R" appeared in any award category, though some R&R was tossed in with the Pop stuff. In 1979, variations of "Best Rock" awards returned for good.

IZ ZAT SO? Here are a couple of interesting streaks when it was all of one and none of the other:

On Billboard's Top 100, for 69 consecutive weeks — Sept. 15, 1956 (Platters, "My Prayer") through Jan. 6, 1958 (Danny and the Juniors, "At the Hop") — not one No. 1 hit was by group.

Then, for 33 straight weeks — Feb. 6 (Petula Clark, "Downtown") through Sept. 24, 1965 (Barry McGuire, "Eve of Destruction") — no solo artists held the No. 1 position.

Jerry Osborne answers as many questions as possible through this column. Write Jerry at: Box 255, Port Townsend, WA 98368 E-mail:   Visit his Web site:  

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