Last year's Grammy telecast offered sensational television -- from Adele to the Beach Boys to moving Whitney Houston tributes.
And this year We won't know for sure until it happens, Sunday on CBS. This is a telecast that goes through constant changes, right up to showtime. Here's the story I sent to papers; a separate one will list details:
By MIKE HUGHES
The Grammy awards are coming Sunday,
with the usual stockpile of big-time, big-voice types.
Divas? The show starts with Taylor
Swift and later has Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Alicia Keys,
Miranda Lambert and Rihanna. One tribute will include 24-year-old
Brittany Howard (of Alabama Shakes) and 73-year-old Mavis Staples.
Guys range from newcomers – Frank
Ocean, Bruno Mars, Miguel – to Elton John. Producer Ken Ehrlich
recalled telling Nate Ruess (lead-singer of Fun) the list. “It was
just amazing to watch his eyes get wider with each name that I
Yes, Fun will perform. So will the
other best-album nominees – Ocean, Jack White, The Black Keys and
Mumford & Sons. That's part of the show's policy of much music,
interrupted briefly by awards. “We have three hours of
entertainment, just one song after another,” Ehrlich said.
But don't take any plans too seriously.
Things change, acts are added, links are made. Last year's show –
which will be recalled in a CBS documentary, the night before the
Grammys – brought examples:
– Two days before that show, Paul
McCartney changed his mind about the closing number. Instead of
“1985,” he wanted to do the finale from the Beatles' “Abbey
Road” album. He promptly rounded up new bandmates – Dave Grohl of
Foo Fighters, Joe Walsh of The Eagles and Bruce Springsteen.
– And one day before the show,
Whitney Houston was found dead at 48.
“The first thing that came to mind
was I felt for Whitney and her family,” said Grammys host LL Cool
J. “And after that, I immediately called Ken and just started
Ehrlich had already phoned Jennifer
Hudson. “I called her within a half-hour,” he said.
He wanted her to sing “I Will Always
Love You” in a style he calls “very empty,” with sparse
backing. “She broke down in rehearsal and couldn't get through it,”
he said, but triumphed during the show.
There would also be a Houston clip, but
LL Cool J wanted one thing more: “I thought, 'I don't have the
personal wisdom or creativity to tell millions of people what to feel
right now,” so he suggested a prayer. “I'm grateful that we did
In some previous years, there was no
one in his position. “We did not have a host for the Grammys for a
number of years (and) we were fine,” said Neil Portnow, head of the
academy that runs the awards.
But for the 2012 show, CBS had wanted
LL Cool J to host. “The fact that (he) became available was really
a gift to us,” Portnow said.
Here was someone who had won two
Grammys (best rap solo performance) long before he became a star of
CBS' “NCIS: Los Angeles.” People believe him when he talka about
music and about Houston; they believed him when he prayed.
In a show stuffed with music, even the
memorial section is involved . “We kind of invented the idea of a
musical salute,” Ehrlich said. This year, the music of the late
Levon Helm will be performed by Staples, Hamilton, Zac Brown and
Mumford & Sons.
Another key death in the past year was
Dick Clark, at 82. Ironically, he was a perpetual Grammy rival.
ABC had the first two Grammy telecasts,
then lost interest in 1973, when the show was moving to Nashville.
CBS grabbed it and has had decades of ratings hits. ABC's solution
was to have Clark create the American Music Awards; bitterness –
and at least one lawsuit – followed.
Ehrlich says he always got along with
Clark. “I rented office space from him, when I first moved” to
Los Angeles in 1976. Four years later, he became the Grammys producer
and they kept in contact. “After our shows, we would send each
other letters – favorable, usually.”
In 1990, the Emmys gave a Trustees
Award to its nemesis. On Sunday, it will add a memorial nod.