The Very First Grammy Awards ► Musical Appreciation
Domenico Modugno singing his big hit “Nel blu dipinto di blu”

Dateline May 4, 1959 – The very first Grammy Awards are presented to a diverse group of artists and genres for the music of 1958. I thought it might be instructive to take a look back and see what was on The Hit Parade 55 years ago.

There’s no denying that the BIG winner of the night, with both Record of the Year AND Song of the Year, was Domenico Modugno. Let’s hear a round of applause for Domenico Modugno!

Who the hell is that? Oh, c’mon. You know his huge hit tune “Nel blu dipinto di blu.” It was on everyone’s lips in 1958. No? Does this remind you?

How’d you like that interpretive dance near the end? Don’t tell me you skipped that part. Ed Sullivan knew how to pick ’em.

Domenico wasn’t the only one who walked away with a Grammy. Henry Mancini picked up Album of the Year for The Music of Peter Gunn. Everybody sing-a-long:

It was also a very big night for Alvin and the Chipmunks. They also garnered two Grammys, taking home the prize for both Best Children’s Recording AND Best Comedy Recording:

But Domenico and Alvin weren’t the only double award winners that night. Ella Fitzgerald took home two different awards for two different LPs. The Best Jazz Performace by an Individual Grammy award went to Ella for The Duke Ellington Songbook.:

That cut is not from the Ellington songbook LP, but it’s one of my faves from a live performance of Ella with Duke Ellington in Japan. Ella won another Grammy that night in the Pop music category of Best Vocal Performance for her interpretation of the Irving Berlin Songbook:

One of my favourite shows, The Music Man, won for Best Original Cast LP. While it’s cheating to use the 1962 movie version, that’s the one I know best. And since it’s one of my favourite musicals, here are 3 of my fave tunes from it, and the re-release trailer.

With songs like Perry Como’s “Catch A Falling Star” or “That Old Black Magic” by Keely Smith and Louis Prima also grabbing Grammys, there wasn’t a lot of youth culture represented. The only thing resembling Rock and Roll was this song by The Champs, who took home the Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance.



About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.

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