The 54th GRAMMY Awards Pre-Telecast presented trophies in nearly 70 categories Sunday afternoon. The Foo Fighters took four GRAMMYs, while Kanye West and electronic act Skrillex won three each. Artists taking the stage to accept awards during the Pre-Telecast included Taylor Swift, Tony Bennett, the Civil Wars, and Tedeschi Trucks Band.
The GRAMMY Pre-Telecast awards presentation event has come into its own in recent years, with the two-and-a-half hour show featuring music performances and high production values, and a slew of artist presenters. Interspersed between the awards that were given out prior to the televised show were performances by the Larry Batiste Orchestra with co-hosts Dave Koz and MC Lyte, a group of soaring female gospel singers (Kim Burrell, Le'Andrea Johnson, Kelly Price, and Tri-I-Tee 5:7), the Rebirth Brass Band and Steve Earle.
Joyce DiDonato brought the audience to its feet when she performed for the full house at the Los Angeles Convention Center, steps away from the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, where the GRAMMY telecast will take place. When DiDonato later accepted her GRAMMY for Best Classical Instrumental Solo for "Diva Divo," she thanked the audience for letting “an opera girl come here.” She then rallied the audience on the topic of music education, reminding the audience that "there's a war on the arts now …We need more musicians in our lives."
Keeping the ceremony moving smoothly were award presenters Brandon Heath, Gerald Clayton, Chick Corea, Arturo O’Farrill, OK Go, Esperanza Spalding and Jimmy Jam.
Excited acceptance speeches were plentiful. Among the highlights was an obviously surprised John Paul White of the Civil Wars who said of the duo's win, "I just lost a bet…" The duo took home two GRAMMYs during the festivities, for Best Folk Album and Best Country Duo/Group Performance Barton Hollow and the track of the same name.
Joy Williams, the other half of the Civil Wars, was beaming backstage. "We dreamed of this, but never got anywhere near it. Our only criteria while making this music was 'How do we feel about it?' and 'Is it something we can be proud of?' So, to make a record that we're both fiercely proud of and to win the GRAMMY is absolute icing on the cake."
One of the evening's most poignant moments came when the late Amy Winehouse's parents joined Bennett onstage to accept the GRAMMY for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for "Body And Soul," from Bennett's Duets II album. When Winehouse's father recalled that he'd asked her if she knew the lyrics to "Body And Soul," he said she'd told him, "Yes, Dad. You've been singing it to me for years."
Paul Epworth was named Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical. The British producer was recognized for his work with GRAMMY veteran Adele as well as up-and-comers Foster The People.
"This is my third GRAMMY, so I shouldn’t be as excited as I am," said newly anointed GRAMMY Producer Of The Year, Classical, Judith Sherman. "But I had the best year of my life, recording-wise. … When they were listing the nominees, I was gripping my husband's hand. He's a violinist. I wonder if he’ll be able to play tomorrow.
Electronic music producer Skrillex sat in the front row, perhaps anticipating his fortunate night with three wins surrounding his Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites album. Raising a shiny gold GRAMMY statue above his head, Skrillex gushed in disbelief that only a year ago he'd been living illegally in a warehouse space in downtown Los Angeles, recording in his bedroom. "This is the most surreal moment of my life," he said of his new status as GRAMMY winner. "It means a lot, not just for me, but for the whole electronic community." He was asked backstage what he planned to do with his trophy. "When I get an apartment, I'll figure that out," he said. "I'm in a hotel now. I fly to Europe tomorrow, so I don't know where it's going to go."
Booker T. Jones, frontman for the legendary Stax Records house band Booker T. & The M.G.'s, won Best Pop Instrumental Album for The Road From Memphis. It was his third GRAMMY win. In 2007, he and his band were bestowed with a Lifetime Achievement Award recipients by The Recording Academy. "I'm just gratified and exhilarated," he said after accepting his award. "I was able to express myself in a way that I'd hadn't ever before on this album."
Trey Parker, half of the creative team (along with Matt Stone) for the raucous animated television series “South Park” brought home a Best Musical Theater Album GRAMMY for his work as co-producer, co-composer and co-lyricist on The Book Of Mormon, his Tony-winning stageplay. "I'm feeling really really good," he said backstage. "I'm just glad we didn't lose. I would've been so bummed out."
Swift accepted her two Pre-Telecast wins with her charming sense of awestruck youth. And the Foo Fighters came out with increasing mock exasperation after what seemed like four nearly consecutive wins.
It all was a great prelude to Music's Biggest Night.
(With additional reporting by Bruce Britt.)