History of the GRAMMY Awards

History of Grammy Awards

GRAMMY Awards History and Fun Facts

The GRAMMY Awards are the most prestigious music award show featured each year. The GRAMMYs are presented by The Recording Academy and recognize musicians of every age and every genre.


When did The GRAMMY Awards start?

The GRAMMY Awards, which began as The Gramophone Awards, first took place in 1958. At that time, The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, and The Emmy Awards both recognized the leading artists in film and television, but no such musical equivalent existed. Following the Hollywood Walk of Fame project, which began in the 1950s, a renewed interest in music and the recording industry led to the creation of The GRAMMY Awards as a way to honor the music industry’s most talented composers, songwriters, and musicians.  

FUN FACT: The Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee hosts the only GRAMMY Museum Gallery.


How many GRAMMY awards are awarded each year?

Each year, an award is given in dozens of categories. TV viewers often see the most well-known artists receiving awards, but there are actually dozens more that are not shown live on screen. The number of categories and GRAMMYs awarded each year has fluctuated as more categories have been added and some have been retired. The very first GRAMMY Awards event included just 28 categories, while in 2019, there were 84 categories presented, including awards for the following genres:

  • Pop
  • Rock
  • Dance / Electronic
  • Contemporary Instrumental
  • Alternative
  • R&B
  • Rap
  • Country
  • New Age
  • Jazz
  • Gospel / Contemporary Christian
  • Latin
  • American Roots
  • Reggae
  • World Music
  • Children’s
  • Spoken Word
  • Comedy
  • Classical
  • Composing
  • Musical Theatre

There are also categories awarded each year which encompass all genres and musical types. These include:

  • Best New Artist
  • Song of the Year
  • Album of the Year
  • Record of the Year

FUN FACT: Only two artists have ever won all 4 of these awards: Christopher Cross and Adele.

In addition, well-known recording artists who have made an impact on the music industry are also recognized each year through various awards for philanthropy and education as well as through innovations in music and sound. These awards include:

Lifetime Hall of Fame Award

The Lifetime Hall of Fame Award is given to an artist who has made an outstanding impact on the music industry as a whole. In 2019, this award was given to Black Sabbath, Julio Iglesias, and other artists. Other well-known artists who have received the Lifetime Hall of Fame Award at the annual GRAMMY Awards include:

  • Bing Crosby (1963)
  • Frank Sinatra (1965)
  • Ella Fitzgerald (1967)
  • The Rolling Stones (1986)
  • Ray Charles (1987)
  • B.B. King (1987)
  • Hank Williams (1987)
  • Bob Dylan (1991)
  • John Lennon (1991)
  • Jimi Hendrix (1992)
  • Aretha Franklin (1994)
  • Johnny Cash (1999)
  • Willie Nelson (2000)
  • Jerry Lee Lewis (2005)
  • Led Zeppelin (2005)
  • The Doors (2007)
  • Dolly Parton (2011)
  • The Beatles (2014)
  • Neil Diamond (2018)
  • Queen (2018)
  • Tina Turner (2018)
  • Emmylou Harris (2018)

GRAMMY Hall of Fame Award

The GRAMMY Hall of Fame Award recognizes significant musical compositions and songs by well-known artists. If there’s a song you’re familiar with from decades past, chances are it’s received the GRAMMY Hall of Fame Award. The award is given by a vote of special committee members comprised of music industry professionals and historians who have recognized thousands of works of many famous recording artists, including:

  • “Always on My Mind” by Willie Nelson
  • “At Last” by Etta James
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
  • “Boom Boom” by John Lee Hooker
  • “California Dreamin’” by The Mamas & the Papas
  • “Dream On” by Aerosmith
  • “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • “Georgia on My Mind” by Ray Charles
  • “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys
  • “Hotel California” by The Eagles
  • “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley
  • “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones
  • “I Get Around” by The Beach Boys
  • “I’ve Got the World on a String” by Frank Sinatra
  • “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley
  • “Jolene” by Dolly Parton
  • “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan
  • “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffet
  • “Mr. Tambourine Man” by Bob Dylan
  • “My Way’ by Frank Sinatra
  • “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson
  • “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones
  • “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • “Purple Rain” by Prince
  • “Respect” by Aretha Franklin
  • “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash
  • “Shout” by The Isley Brothers
  • “Sitting On the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding
  • “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver
  • “The Thrill is Gone” by B.B. King
  • “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith
  • “We Will Rock You” by Queen
  • “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks


GRAMMY Trustees Award

The GRAMMY Trustees Award is given to artists and individuals who have made significant contributions, both monetary and otherwise, to the world of music. Some of the most notable recipients of the GRAMMY Trustees Award include:

  • Steve Jobs
  • Les Paul
  • Sam Phillips
  • Dick Clark
  • Walt Disney
  • The Beatles
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Quincy Jones

MusiCares Person of the Year Award

The MusiCares Person of the Year Award is presented by MusiCares, The Recording Academy’s charitable organization. The MusiCares Person of the Year Award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a willingness and desire to work with various charitable endeavors. Many of these individuals have donated millions to various charitable organizations over their careers, and some have also been instrumental in creating their own charities and initiatives. Award winners include:

  • David Crosby (1991)
  • Bonnie Raitt (1992)
  • Natalie Cole (1993)
  • Gloria Estefan (1994)
  • Tony Bennett (1995)
  • Quincy Jones (1996)
  • Phil Collins (1997)
  • Luciano Pavarotti (1998)
  • Stevie Wonder (1999)
  • Elton John (2000)
  • Paul Simon (2001)
  • Billy Joel (2002)
  • Bono (2003)
  • Sting (2004)
  • Brian Wilson (2005)
  • James Taylor (2006)
  • Don Henley (2007)
  • Aretha Franklin (2008)
  • Neil Diamond (2009)
  • Neil Young (2010)
  • Barbara Streisand (2011)
  • Paul McCartney (2012)
  • Bruce Springsteen (2013)
  • Carole King (2014)
  • Bob Dylan (2015)
  • Lionel Ritchie (2016)
  • Tom Petty (2017)
  • Fleetwood Mac (2018)
  • Dolly Parton (2019)


Who has won the most GRAMMYs?

Conductor Sir Georg Solti has an impressive 31 GRAMMY Awards, while recording artist Alison Krauss follows closely behind with 27 and U2 leads the list of the most GRAMMYs won by a group at 22.

Sir Georg Solti

In addition to winning an astounding number of GRAMMYs, Sir Georg Solti also led a colorful life as a Hungarian-born composer whose career included various roles with world-renowned opera companies in Paris, London, Frankfurt, and Munich as well as the long-held position of music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

FUN FACT: Sir Georg Solti was one of the first conductors to become well-known through records and radio. Throughout his career, he recorded a total of more than 250 compositions, many of which were produced by RCA.

During his time in Hungary in the 1930s, Solti was forced to flee as the Nazi Party rose to power. While Solti’s Jewish heritage prevented him from holding the position of conductor during the 1930s, he enjoyed success after the war in Hungary, Frankfurt, and other areas of Eastern Europe.


Where are The GRAMMY Awards held?

The GRAMMY Awards have been held at various locations over the last few decades, including:

  • The Staples Center in Los Angeles
  • Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles
  • Madison Square Garden in New York City
  • Radio City Music Hall in New York City
  • Tennessee Theatre in Nashville

Who has hosted the most GRAMMY Awards?

As of 2019, singer Andy Williams has hosted the most GRAMMY Awards (7), with John Denver hosting 6 years and LL Cool J hosting 5. The GRAMMY Awards have been hosted by various music and entertainment icons over the years, including:

  • Alicia Keys (2019)
  • James Corden (2017-18)
  • LL Cool J (2012-16)
  • Queen Latifah (2005)
  • Jon Stewart (2001-02)
  • Rosie O’Donnell (1999-00)
  • Kelsey Grammar (1998)
  • Ellen DeGeneres (1996-97)
  • Paul Reiser (1995)
  • Whoopi Goldberg (1992)
  • Garry Shandling (1990-91, 1993-94)
  • Billy Crystal (1987-89)
  • Kenny Rogers (1980, 1986)
  • John Denver (1978-79, 1982-85)
  • Paul Simon (1981)
  • Andy Williams (1971-77)
  • Jerry Lewis (1966)
  • Frank Sinatra (1963)
  • Meredith Wilson (1959)
  • Mort Sahl (1958)

Many GRAMMY Awards have also been without a host, relying on celebrities to present the nominees and reveal award winners. Years without a host include:

  • 1961
  • 1962
  • 1964
  • 1965
  • 1967
  • 1968
  • 1969
  • 1970
  • 2003
  • 2004
  • 2006
  • 2007
  • 2008
  • 2009
  • 2010
  • 2011

Who votes in The GRAMMY Awards?

The process of voting for GRAMMY Award nominees includes hundreds of music experts in various genres. The first step in the process involves recording studios and Recording Academy members submitting their entries for consideration.

FUN FACT: Only members in good standing who have paid their yearly dues are able to vote in The GRAMMY Awards.

Once a panel of experts have screened each of these entries for eligibility (production year, appropriate genre or category, etc.), the entries are then voted on in a ballot by Recording Academy members. Members are only able to vote in categories they have the most expertise in as well as the four main categories:

  • Best New Artist
  • Song of the Year
  • Album of the Year
  • Record of the Year

These ballots are then sent to an independent accounting firm who tallies the votes and provides a list of final nominations to be considered by the national review committee.

FUN FACT: Independent accounting firm Deloitte tallies the votes for The GRAMMY Awards.

Final nominees are then voted on by Academy members, and the votes are once again tallied by an independent accounting firm. The results are sealed in envelopes which are not revealed until the award ceremony.


How is a GRAMMY award made?

Each GRAMMY is created by hand using a material called grammium, a zinc alloy composition created by Billings Artworks in Ridgway, Colorado. Each year, awards are created and engraved with the name of winners following the ceremony. Because the awards are not distributed until after the award show, props are used during filming each year.


GRAMMY Award Exhibit at The Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville, TN

Want to learn more about the history of the GRAMMYs? At The Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville, you can visit the interactive GRAMMY Museum Gallery to learn more about past award shows, past GRAMMY Award winners, and past GRAMMY Award nominees.

Fun Things to Do in Nashville

Guests of the GRAMMY Museum Gallery at The Musicians Hall of Fame also have the opportunity to experience a live recording studio and learn more about the process involved in creating a GRAMMY Award-winning album or song. Kids and adults of all ages can enjoy a variety of musical instruments and experiment with a real mixing board or provide backup vocals for Ray Charles in a sound studio.Beac

Alex Hawker

Alex Hawker

Hey. I’m Alex. I've been living in and writing about Nashville for over a decade now, and I'm excited to share all I've learned! Learn more about me here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

401 Gay Street, Nashville

Tennessee 37219


(615) 244-3263

Contact Us


© 2024 Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

may 15-18, 2024

John Lennon's guitar on display at the Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum

For the first time in America, only on display May 15-18.