The prestigious Grammy Awards did not exist before 1958. Both the Oscars and the Emmys had been in existence since 1929 and 1949 respectively. In 1958, the Gramaphone Awards had their first ceremony. Oddly enough, it was the construction of the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the 1950’s which spurred a renewed interest in celebrating the contributions of the country’s talented musicians, composers and songwriters.
The first Grammy Awards only had 28 categories. The most obvious categories that were not represented were the not yet invented genres of music such as Rap, Rock, Indy, New Age, Reggae, World Music, Musical Theatre, and Gospel. Gospel music had not yet been recorded and sold as it is now. In the 50’s it was sung in churches, homes, etc. but it was not marketed as a consumer item as it is today. The two pop artists that received awards were Ella Fitzgerald and Perry Como for best female and male vocal performances. The record and song of the year were both won by Domenico Modugno for “Volare”. The album of the year was the theme song for “Peter Gunn”, the private eye television series that aired from 1958 to 1960. It was composed by Henry Mancini.
The 1958 Grammy Awards were presented on May 4th, 1959 at two locations on either side of the country, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, and the Park Sheraton Hotel in New York City. With only 28 categories from which to make award selections, the ceremony was significantly shorter than it is today. Today, there are over 84 categories of music to be awarded. Since its inception, the Grammy Awards have added additional genres of music and further expanded the awards categories from simply best solo performance to now include best duo/group performance and a full range of best subcategories within each genre. Instead, of their being one category of best song for the full year, now there are as many categories for best song and best album as there are genres. So now, every genre has a best song and a best album awarded: R&B, Rap, Rock, Pop, Gospel Contemporary Christian Music, and American Roots.
If you’re curious, you’re probably wondering who is choosing the winners of the Grammy Awards. The winners are selected by the Recording Academy, otherwise known as the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). In the 1950’s when the Hollywood Walk of Fame was conceived by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, music industry executives were asked to contribute names from the music industry to be included in the recognition along the Walk. They elected a group to select the musicians to be honored. That group consisted of the following people:
Jesses Kaye from MGM Records
Lloyd Dunne and Richard Jones from Capitol Records
Sonny Burke and Milt Gabler from Decca Records
Dennis Farnon from RCA Records
Axel Stordahl, Paul Weston, and Doris Day (the only woman) from Columbia Records
Realizing many music stars would never be recognized along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, that same group of Music Industry leaders started the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) and began the Gramaphone Awards that later morphed into the Grammy Awards.
Today, in order to cast a vote for the Grammy Winners, you must be a Recording Academy member. Members are music industry professionals: vocalists, songwriters, engineers, producers, or one of the many music professionals joining NARAS. To qualify for membership, you must have creative or technical credits on at least six commercially released tracks of music or 12 digital albums. Also, to be a voting member, you must be in good standing having paid your annual dues of $100. As of 2019, Billboard.com estimated that 12,000 of the Academy’s 21,000 eligible members had cast ballots for the Grammy Awards.
The Grammys are only 64 years old and they are continuously changing to embrace the newest trends in music. As the world’s cultures evolve, so will its appreciation for sound and music as we know it. So, it stands to reason that the next trends will be different from what we know and now love. They may be what many call strange and unrecognizable as music, but times change and so do our tastes. The future is just that, the future. Just like Rock & Roll and Rap grew on us and became quite acceptable sounds, so will the sounds of tomorrow and so will the excitement for the Grammy Awards that celebrate those new sounds.