AP Was There: The first Grammy awards
The music industry’s Grammy Awards made its debut on May 4, 1959, 30 years after the Academy Awards handed out its first Oscar honoring the best in movies.
The initial Grammy celebration was bicoastal, with events in Los Angeles and New York. A total of 28 awards were handed out, the fewest categories ever and a fraction of the 91 being handed out Sunday.
Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack buddies, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., donned black tie for the festivities held in the Beverly Hilton’s grand ballroom. Sinatra only took home one gramophone trophy after getting a leading six nominations, for art direction, not singing. His “Only the Lonely” won best album cover.
What follows is The Associated Press’ dispatch from the inaugural event. Its a reflection of the times:
ITALIAN TOP WINNER OF ‘GRAMMY’ AWARDS
By Bob Thomas
HOLLYWOOD, May 5 (AP) — The newly formed Recording academy has given its top award to an Italian, Domenico Modugno, for his “Volare.”
His Decca record was hailed the best of 1959 at the first annual Grammy awards Monday night. The star-filled audience at the Beverly Hilton seemed surprised but pleased at the academy’s gesture of international good will.
“Volare” was also named best big song of the year.
Multiple honors went to Californian, Ross Bagdasarian, the Fresno lad whose raucous “Chipmunk Song” was named best comedy performance, best children’s recording and best engineered record.
Double wins were scored by Ella Fitzgerald, who was named best female vocal performer (“Irving Berlin Song Book”) and cited for the best jazz performance (“Ella Sings Duke Ellington.”)
Count Basie won two awards of his “Basie” album as best jazz group performance and dance band performance. Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn” also got two awards as best arrangement and album of the year.
Durable Perry Como was handed the best male vocal performance award for his “Catch a Falling Star.”
In the younger set, the Champs’ “Tequila” won for rhythm and blues performance. The Kingston Trio’s “Tom Dooley” scored in the country and Western category.
Van Cliburn was a winner among the long-hairs for his Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 as best classical instrumental performance (Concerto-Scale).
The top Broadway and movie albums were “The Music Man” and “Gigli.”
Other awards Included:
Vocal group or chorus — Louis Prima, Keely Smith “That Old Black Magic”; orchestra performance — “The Best of the Stan Freeberg Shows,” classical instrumental performance (not concerto-scale) — “Segovia Golden Jubilee.”
The fledging academy numbers 700 for the record industry’s leaders and artists. The name Grammy came from the design of the statuettes awarded by the academy.