It’s Grammy Time

And now for something completely different—

As you may know, our album, Happy, by the Isham Jones Rainbo Orchestra is up for two Grammy Awards: Best Historical Album and Best Album Notes. We get asked a lot by well-wishers if we are actually planning on attending the awards show. The answer is: yes, of course! It’s great fun and not to be missed.

Other questions surround the organization of the various events, so we thought we’d share with you some of what goes on “behind the curtain,” as it were. First of all, this entire week is filled with special events in Los Angeles sponsored by the Recording Academy, including the “Legacy Concert” this Thursday and the “MusiCares” celebration on Friday (honoring Bob Dylan). These events are part of the Academy’s community outreach efforts; MusiCares supports musicians in need, for instance.

Saturday is when the official nominee events begin. On Saturday afternoon, nominees attend the Special Merit Awards Ceremony, which honors recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award, the Trustees Award, and the Technical Grammy Award. This year’s Lifetime Achievement honorees include the Bee Gees, Pierre Boulez, Buddy Guy, George Harrison, Flaco Jiménez, Louvin Brothers, and Wayne Shorter. Trustees Award recipients include Richard Perry, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, and George Wein. Receiving the Technical Grammy Award is Ray Kurzweil. Short tribute films are shown, and many of the honorees and/or their families are in attendance to accept the awards. It’s a fabulous little ceremony at which you get a deep sense of history.

After the ceremony comes the Nominees Reception, where nominees receive a beautiful Tiffany-made medal and have their photographs taken. There’s also great food, great music, and the chance to socialize with peers and legends. Of the times we’ve gone out for the show weekend, everybody has always said that this was their favorite part. It’s intimate and a one-of-a-kind experience. We really enjoy taking family as our special guests.

On Sunday is the main event, but what many people don’t realize is that there are *two* parts: the pre-televised Grammy Premiere Ceremony and the televised Grammy Awards Show. At the earlier event, which starts at 12:30 local time (PST) and is held at the Nokia Theater in downtown L.A., all but about ten of the 83 total awards will be given out. All the “geek” awards like our categories of Historical Album and Album Notes, along with the package design awards, are usually given out early in the proceedings. But many of the more recognizable awards are also handed out, so there will be no shortage of star attraction. Musicians across all genres serve as hosts, nominees for each category are announced (as in the televised show), and the envelope is opened.

All winners in attendance come (quickly) to the stage, accept their award, and give a brief speech. Then they are whisked through a press line, photographed, interviewed, etc. So, some 70 or more awards are announced in this way during the three-hour ceremony. (And there used to be a lot more categories—it got as high as 110 or 112 total a few years ago before the awards were restructured.) The pre-tel event started streaming live in 2008, and the technical aspects of the stream have gotten better every year. You can watch it this Sunday, Feb. 8th, starting at 12:30 PST at grammy.com.

After the pre-tel, everyone moves over to the Staples Center for a 5:00 beginning to the televised concert. It’s a three-hour show (roughly), and what looks impressive on your screen at home is pretty massive in person. There are a lot of moving parts to the spectacle, but CBS has been airing the show for decades now and they’ve got it down to a science. It’s also very LOUD (audio engineers, bring your ear plugs!).

Now, what we’ve always found curious (watching at home or in person) was the relative dearth of awards given out in the televised show. It’s about ten or twelve, or only 12-14%, of the total field, so the rest of the show is performances—some amazing ones, for sure—and tributes. It always seemed, watching as teenagers in the 1980s, that the show used to give out a lot more awards during the broadcast. Well, that’s true and not true. We recently acquired the program to the 25th Grammy Awards, held in 1985, and 49 of the 62 total awards were presented in the pre-tel ceremony—meaning only THIRTEEN were delivered live on-air. What was different back then was that the lifetime and other special merit awards were given out during the show. We’d get to see short tribute films and hear about the recipients’ achievements, and then the honoree would come up and make a speech. That chews up a lot of time (we personally loved it)—now the Academy does a brief piece recognizing all the honorees from the previous night’s ceremony.

After the show comes the official Celebration Party with food, drinks, and lots of live music (Jessie J, Arturo Sandoval, and Gloria Gaynor this year) for nominees, winners, and their parties from 8:00 until around midnight. It’s a long day but a lot of fun and rewarding. You meet fascinating people and return to work reinvigorated and ready to tackle the next big audio project! Wish us luck; see you in a week!

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