Country music has interesting history with Grammys

Video: HEAR THE recording of Tom Dooley that won The Kingston Trio the first-ever presented Best of Country & Western Performance Grammy Award


Rock music usually dominates the annual Grammy Awards ceremony these days, but do you know that there wasn't a Grammy given for a rock music recording until the fourth year of presentations?

And do you know that sole rock award presented in 1962 went to a South Carolina native?

Who was that rocker? None other than Spring Gully (near Georgetown) native Ernest Evans.

You probably know him better as Chubby Checker. He won the first Best Rock & Roll Recording Grammy for his 1961-released single Let's Twist Again .

You can find out any Grammy Award winners you want by going to the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences' official site,, scrolling down to "Past Winners Search" and searching the database by recording, artist or year presented.

Various sources, including the academy's official site and author Henry Schipper in his book Broken Record: The Inside Story of the Grammy Awards , contend that the Grammy Awards (named after the early music player Gramophone) came about when some recording executives became worried about the explosive success of rock 'n' roll in the late 1950s and wanted to bring attention to what they considered "quality" music.

The early Grammy voters were conservative music fans, so consequently the first Grammys presented May 4, 1959, in the Grand Ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel went to middle-of-the-road 1958-released recordings in 28 categories.

The top Record of the Year honor for best single recording in 1958 went to a song to which few Americans even knew the words: Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (also known as Volare ) recorded by Domenico Modugno, who also won the Song of the Year Grammy (which goes to the songwriter) since he also wrote his hit ballad.

Band leader and composer Henry Mancini won the Album of The Year Grammy for The Music From Peter Gunn .

Mancini later would win a Grammy Award in 1962 for Record of the Year for Moon River (about an actual Georgia tributary near Savannah) which he co-wrote with Georgia native Johnny Mercer.

Also at that first Grammy ceremony honoring recordings released in 1958, Ella Fitzgerald won Best Vocal Performance-Female for her album Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Irving Berlin Song Book and Perry Como won the Best Vocal Performance-Male award for his single Catch A Falling Star .

The first Grammy presented in 1958 for Best Country & Western Performance was neither country nor western but rather a folk music recording called Tom Dooley , which was about the scheduled hanging of a man. It was recorded by The Kingston Trio (then consisting of David Guard, Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane).

Best Country & Western Performance Grammys subsequently went to Johnny Horton for his 1959 single The Battle of New Orleans , Marty Robbins for his 1960 single El Paso , Jimmy Dean for his 1961 single Big Bad John , Burl Ives for his 1962 single Funny Way of Laughin' and Bobby Bare for his 1963 single Detroit City.

The National Academy of Recording of Arts & Sciences finally gave more attention to country music recordings and artists by expanding the sole Best Country & Western Performance category to include four other categories.

That resulted in Roger Miller -- at the 1965 ceremony honoring 1964-released recordings -- sweeping four of the five country Grammy categories with his self-composed comedy song Dang Me with its repeated line "They ought to take a rope and hang me."

Miller would take home Grammys that night for Best Country & Western Single, Best Country & Western Album (Dang Me/Chug-A-Lug ), Best Country & Western Vocal Performance-Male and Best Country & Western Song.

The only one of the five country music awards he did not take home was for Best Country & Western Performance-Female, which was won by Grand Ole Opry star Dottie West for her ballad Here Comes My Baby (Back Again) , which she also wrote.

Over the years, I've been privileged to interview that very first female country Grammy Award winner and The Kingston Trio, who won the very first "country & western" Grammy; Miller, who became the first country artist to win multiple Grammys in the same year; and also Chubby Checker, the first to win a rock music Grammy.

I've seen many actual Grammy Awards up close behind glass cases in various museums, but the only Grammy Award I've ever held was the Best Country Vocal Performance-Female one that Lynn Anderson won for her 1971 single Rose Garden .

That Grammy was in her Nashville, Tenn., house and, interestingly, the horn speaker part had somehow become separated, and she was planning to have the trophy repaired or replaced.

Speaking of female Grammy Award winners, guess which one has won more Grammys than any other female artist? Barbra Streisand? Ella Fitzgerald? Beyoncé? Celine Dion? Judy Garland?

You're not even close if you named any of those.

The winningest female is none other than bluegrass artist Alison Krauss, who has taken home an amazing 26 Grammy Awards!

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has earned the most (60) with classical music conductor George Solti being the single person with the most Grammys (31) followed by producer, writer and musician Quincy Jones (27).

The band to win the most Grammys is U2 with 22.

And if all of that isn't surprising, guess where the Grammy trophies are made? They reportedly are assembled by hand by Billings Artworks in Ridgway, Colo.

Now that's certainly an interesting trivia item for the next party, civic club gathering, concert or church social you attend.

Tune in

THE 53RD GRAMMY Awards ceremony will be telecast by CBS (WRDW) beginning at 8 p.m. Sunday from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

HOMETOWN FAVORITE Lady Antebellum's Need You Now has nominations for Song, Record and Album of the Year, Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals, Best Country Song and Best Country Album. For a list of nominees, see