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  Category: Articles » Arts & Entertainment » Music » Article

The Grammy Awards—No Phonys Please

By DA Jack Hayford

The Grammy Awards have been an American music institution for nearly half a century. But what is a "Grammy" anyway?

"Grammy" is short for "Gramophone" and the actual Grammy Awards given out each year are modeled after this prototypical record player.

Notice I didn't call it a prototypical "phonograph." The phonograph and the gramophone, while similar, were different designs. Adding to the confusion, in between the two was a device called the "graphophone."

Thomas A. Edison, the famous American inventor, invented the phonograph (which from the Greek literally means "sound writer") in 1877. But his invention didn't play "records" as most of us think of them. Edison's device played cylinders.

(The graphophone also used cylinders but they were engraved rather than embossed, as specified by Edison's patent.)

It was Emile Berliner's Gramophone, patented ten years later, that played discs, or "records" as they came to be known, and still are to this day, spawning the modern music recording industry.

Perhaps it is for this reason that the founders of the most prestigious American music award chose to name their ultimate prize, the "Grammy."

(I am speculating that the "Phony" would not have been a good choice, except in the case of Milli Vanilli+, and that the "Graphy" may be reserved for National Geographic nature recordings!)

The Grammy Awards are given by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc. which was formed in 1957.

"In the beginning The Recording Academy owed its survival to members who donated long hours to the emerging professional association. A labor of love, the young Academy may not have prevailed had it not been for the dedication of its charter members...The GRAMMYs are the only peer-presented award to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position." —

The first Grammy Awards were held in 1959 in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton. The big winners that year were Domenico Modugno for "Nel Blue Dipinto di Blu (Volare)" which took home Record of the Year and Song of the Year and Henry Mancini for The Music from Peter Gunn which won Album of the Year.

Ella Fitzgerald won for Best Jazz Performance, Individual and The Kingston Trio won for "Tom Dooley" in the Best Country & Western Performance category. (Hmmmm...we thought they were Folk. Oh well, guess they added a category here and there...uh yuh, about a hundred.)

The 49th Grammy Awards will be held on February 11th, 2007 and will air live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on CBS.

+"Milli Vanilli was a pop and dance music ensemble formed by Frank Farian in Germany in 1988 and fronted by Fab Morvan (b. May 14, 1966) and Rob Pilatus (June 8, 1965 – April 2, 1998). The group's debut album achieved high sales internationally and garnered them a Grammy award for Best New Artist in 1990. However, their success turned to infamy when the award was revoked after it was revealed that the purported singers did not actually sing on the record." —Wikipedia
About the Author
DA Jack Hayford is the editor of the popular music reference website, Mr. Hayford is also the Program Director and co-founder of, the online home of the ten-plus-year old Durango Songwriters Expo, a premier annual educational and inspirational event for aspiring songwriters.

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