The 10th Annual GRAMMY Awards were notable on many levels, and not simply because this award year marked the first decade of GRAMMY history. This was also, for instance, a wide-ranging year of winners in which the formerly scandalous rocker Elvis Presley won Best Sacred Performance for his How Great Thou Art album, Republican Illinois Senator Everett M. Dirksen won Best Spoken Word, Documentary Or Drama Recording (Gallant Men), while veteran horror movie great Boris Karloff received the GRAMMY for Best Recording For Children for what has become the holiday perennial Dr. Seuss: How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
With comedian Stan Freberg emceeing the Los Angeles dinner awards announcement that preceded “The Best On Record” show, the 10th GRAMMY Awards would also prove a suitably high-flying year for the vocal group the 5th Dimension who achieved impressive upward mobility by taking home no less than four GRAMMYs for their rendition of Jimmy Webb’s “Up, Up And Away”—Record Of The Year, Best Performance By A Vocal Group, Best Contemporary Single and Best Contemporary Group Performance (Vocal Or Instrumental)—while Webb’s song itself was named Song Of The Year. As if that wasn’t enough for Webb, the Johnny Mann Singers’ rendition of “Up, Up And Away” also took the GRAMMY for Best Performance By A Chorus.
This year would also prove the scant degrees of separation and the broad connections between musical genres.
Webb was also responsible for “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” for which Glen Campbell won Best Vocal Performance, Male, and Best Contemporary Male Solo Vocal Performance. And Campbell’s winning ways didn’t end there as his version of John Hartford’s “Gentle On My Mind” was named Best Country & Western Recording, and Best Country & Western Solo Vocal Performance, Male. Spreading the “Gentle” love further, the GRAMMYs for Best Folk Performance and Best Country & Western Song were bestowed on Hartford himself.
Future Glen Campbell duet partner Bobbie Gentry also enjoyed an exceedingly warm welcome to the GRAMMYs, winning Best Vocal Performance, Female, and Best Contemporary Female Solo Vocal Performance for her startling and cryptic story song “Ode To Billie Joe,” as well as the GRAMMY for Best New Artist. The awards presentations were made at dinners in four cities this year: Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville and New York, with performers ranging from Woody Herman and Ramsey Lewis to Joe Tex and the Mothers Of Invention.
Some group by the name of the Beatles, meanwhile, did fairly fabulously themselves—winning the GRAMMYs for Album Of The Year and Best Contemporary Album for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band—a certified Summer of Love classic that was also recognized with the awards for Best Engineered Recording—Non-Classical for Geoff Emerick and Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts, for art directors Peter Blake and Jann Haworth.
The GRAMMYs’ 10th anniversary was duly noted on NBC’s Timex-sponsored “The Best On Record: The GRAMMY Awards Show” (as it was now officially known) when Glen Campbell, Bobbie Gentry, Chet Atkins and Jack Jones performed a medley of past Song Of The Year winners. This was one highlight in a show in which the outstanding performances ranged from an astounding, soulful rendition of “Dead End Street” by Lou Rawls, winner of the Best R&B Solo Vocal Performance, Male, GRAMMY, and a filmed appearance (taken from a United Nations human rights benefit concert) featuring Yehudi Menuhin and Ravi Shankar’s West Meets East, which won for Best Chamber Music Performance.
The show continued to reveal the GRAMMYs’ willingness to take some chances, featuring soon-to-become GRAMMY semi-regular Tommy Smothers, then under fire for comments about the Vietnam War and other topics on his own show. In introducing Glen Campbell, Smothers suggested Campbell had won “Best Male Performance,” a comment he finished with a wink and a nod.
This was also the year on “The Best On Record” show when the always-helpful Andy Williams (future host of the first live GRAMMY telecast) tried to sum up what the GRAMMY meant to artists. “These are the GRAMMYs,” Williams explained. “Herb Alpert uses them for earrings. Henry Mancini uses them for doorstops. The Beatles paid off their guru with four or five.” Then referencing his own failure to win a GRAMMY, Williams noted, “LBJ is proudest of me—I haven’t taken any gold out of circulation.” Yet Williams made a more serious point when he went on to say of the GRAMMY, “This is the Oscar, the Emmy, the Tony of the recording industry.” Indeed, that was exactly the luster the GRAMMY had now taken on.