Awards

New Grammy Airdate Is Just Two Days Before 50th Anniversary of Their First Live Telecast

Paul McCartney
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Paul McCartney and his wife Linda attend the 13th Grammy Awards at the Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles on March 16, 1971.

The host and producer of that first show are no longer with us, but many of the artists who won Grammys that night are.

When the Grammy Awards were postponed last week from Jan. 31 to March 14, the reason was to move the show out of a period where COVID-19 cases are spiking in Los Angeles. The delay puts the show, at least for this year, back to where it was when the Grammys first became a live telecast 50 years ago.

March 14 is just two days before the 50th anniversary of the first live Grammy telecast -- March 16, 1971.

The host (Andy Williams) and producer (Pierre Cossette) of that first show are no longer with us, but many of the artists and others who won Grammys that night are, including Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel, Richard Carpenter of Carpenters, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr of The Beatles, Dionne Warwick, Ray Stevens, The Oak Ridge Boys, Stephen Sondheim and producers Roy Halee, Thomas Z. Shepard and Sesame Street co-creator Joan Cooney.

Simon won seven Grammys that year, which set a new Grammy record which stood for 13 years -- until Michael Jackson swept eight awards at the show in February 1984.

Garfunkel took five awards. (Simon won two songwriting awards for “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which he wrote by himself.)

Halee, S&G’s co-producer and engineer, won three awards. Carpenters, Henry Mancini and producers Shepard, Colin Davis and Erik Smith each won two.

That first show, which featured performances by such artists as The Osmond Brothers, Carpenters, Anne Murray, Aretha Franklin, Warwick, Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, Wanda Jackson, Marty Robbins and Hank Williams Jr., clocked in at a brisk 90 minutes. Don’t expect such brevity this time: This year’s show is expected to run 3.5 hours.

As a bonus, we have some actual jokes that Williams told on that first Grammy telecast. He noted the difficulty in finding a group that would appear to everyone -- leading to his suggestion of The Grand Funk Tabernacle Choir.

He also reminded viewers that John Lennon had appeared nude with Yoko Ono on the cover of their 1968 album Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins and quipped, “The cover proved that John isn’t one of The Lennon Sisters.”

Will the Grammys feature such sparkling wit this time around? Tune in March 14 and find out.

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