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Fox 11 Archives: A Grammy In The Family

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It was 55 years ago this week that the first Grammy Awards were announced, for recordings released during 1958.  The recording industry and the Grammys have changed a lot since then.  Originally there were 28 categories honored in that May ceremony.  Today, the show takes place in January and there are 43 categories, including several that didn't even exist in the 1950s.  In 1958 who could have predicted there would be rap, metal and alternative music?  Certainly not my uncle, who, as a member of the Hollywood String Quartet, received the first Grammy for best classical chamber music performance.

Uncle Al was a violist who spent 25 years as a studio musician at 20th Century-Fox, during Hollywood's golden era, when every major studio had a staff orchestra.  Many of the top players at the studios also had extensive careers as session musicians.  In addition to his studio job, my uncle played on hit recordings by Frank Sinatra, Nat Cole, Bobby Darin and others.  He even worked on a Mothers of Invention album.  It wasn't until after Uncle Al died that I learned about his Frank Zappa gig.  I would have liked to have asked him about that.

Here's a little Grammy trivia that most people don't know.  It's the story of how the Grammy got its name.  Satirist Stan Freberg, a founding member of the Recording Academy, says the award originally was to be called the "Eddie," after Thomas Edison, the inventor of the phonograph.  Instead, Freberg insisted on the name "Grammy" -- short for gramophone -- and he prevailed.  By the way, Freberg won a Grammy that first year as well.

Several years ago a musician friend of mine put out a Grammy-winning album.  It didn't win for the music or for his performance, but for the cover art.  My son has designed covers for two recent punk albums, and while I thought the artwork on both was terrific, they didn't win Grammys.  Maybe next time.

I've included some pics of my uncle's Grammy history, including a shot of the winning album and a couple of congratulatory ads from the record label that appeared in trade magazines.  One thing about recorded music that hasn't changed since 1958: classical music remains a very small segment of the market.  But a Grammy is a Grammy, no matter what the category.
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