I became the senior music producer for "Entertainment Tonight" in 1984, but prior to that I went to my very first GRAMMY Awards in 1983 as the music researcher for ET. At that time, there was no red carpet. The stars arrived in their limos, waved to the cameras and photographers and disappeared into the building. I remember there only being a handful of crews back then: ET, MTV, CNN, and some local stations.
As a television producer for music, I have covered the GRAMMY Awards for 28 consecutive years. I have most likely covered the GRAMMYs more than any other television producer. Throughout those 28 years, I watched the awards show evolve into the massive production it is today. I was an early proponent of the GRAMMY Awards initiating red-carpet-style arrivals, similar to what the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes were doing, in order to be competitive. I told them I thought things that happened on the red carpet were often the most visually interesting, and that has certainly turned out to be the case.
Over the years there have been so many wild and crazy moments for me. I remember having to chase down Phil Collins in 1986 when he won Album Of The Year for No Jacket Required, following him through the backstage labyrinth to get an interview. He was a tough one to catch but we finally got him on camera.
I will never forget in 1995 when my ET crew was backstage talking to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That was the year the great Tony Bennett made his huge comeback, winning Album Of The Year for his MTV Unplugged. Mr. Bennett was waiting patiently to talk to us after the Chili Peppers finished their interview. I asked him politely if he minded waiting and he smiled at me and said, "Of course not, I'm a big fan." That's when I thought to myself how awesome would it be if Tony Bennett walked into the middle of the Peppers' interview! Well, he agreed and I'll always remember the look on those guys' faces when he walked out and joined them on camera and told them he was a big fan. There is no better television than when you can bring two big artists together and capture that moment. Tony Bennett and the Red Hot Chili Peppers has to be one that goes down in the books!
The highlight for me though had to be getting Tina Turner and Beyoncé together in their dressing rooms at the 50th Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2008 for one of the all-time ET exclusives! Capturing a moment with a legend and a legend-to-be in such a private, intimate setting, is truly what GRAMMY magic is all about!
I loved it so much when the GRAMMYs would alternate the awards show back and forth between Los Angeles and New York. The competitive spirit between the two cities to put on the best possible show created such a sense of excitement. The shows took on such different looks and attitudes as each city made the awards their own. L.A. has become GRAMMY central over the past years, but the buzz the Big Apple gave the show was infectious! I would love to see the two cities trade off again.
Now, as I head into my 28th year of covering the GRAMMY Awards, I am still excited to see what the night will bring. When they say this is Music's Biggest Night, they're not kidding! Anything can happen…and often does, when you least expect it! That's what makes the GRAMMYs the best awards show in the business!
(Clay Smith is the senior supervising producer of "The Insider" and "Entertainment Tonight," where he's worked since 1982. Smith produced the first national television segments for GRAMMY winners Garth Brooks, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, among many others. In 1995 he was honored with the prestigious Media Achievement Award by the Country Music Association in recognition of his excellence in country music coverage.)