GRAMMY Flashback: The Year Without A Best New Artist

They got the "Boot".

Two of the acts that got the “Boot”.

Welcome to GRAMMY Week! This week, from Monday to Friday, you’ll be treated to some special GRAMMY related topics, from the past to the present, all leading up to the music’s biggest night on Sunday at 8PM eastern on CBS. Let’s dive into today’s post…

As you’re probably aware, Best New Artist is one of the big four categories presented on the night, first given out in 1959 to Bobby Darin. The award’s been presented to some performers that have gone on to illustrious careers: The Beatles, The Carpenters, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Maroon 5 and more. The award also cursed more than a few acts it was given to: Bobbie GentryThe Starland Vocal Band, Rickie Lee Jones, Marc Cohn, Arrested Development, and others. Oh, let’s not forget Milli Vanilli, whose win was taken away after it was revealed that the two men weren’t singing their own records. Oops. Yet, what happens when the Award isn’t awarded to anyone at all even when there was plenty of new talent out there? Then, you get the 1967 GRAMMY Awards.

For some reason that’s still unclear to this day, no Best New Artist was appointed at the 1967 ceremony, which reflected the music of 1966. I figure I could highlight some of the acts that released their first big singles during that year and would’ve been eligible for the Award. Then, you can decide who should have been the big winner. I have my pick(s). The 1966 GRAMMY Awards had seven nominees for Best New Artist; I’ll limit my category to five, as is the standard today. And, the nominees are…

NANCY SINATRA
The daughter of the iconic Frank Sinatra had a big year in 1966. After a failed single in “So Long, Babe”, Sinatra went to the top of the Hot 100 with “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”, which became her signature song. Written by Lee Hazlewood, it spent one week at #1. It also led Sinatra to three other top-40 singles during the year, including “Sugar Town” (#5) and “How Does That Grab You, Darlin’?” (#7). Her father won Best Album for A Man And His Music and Record Of The Year for “Strangers In The Night” at the 1967 GRAMMY Awards… who’s to say she couldn’t have followed him?

PERCY SLEDGE
The R&B singer from Alabama crooned his way to the #1 spot on the Hot 100 in May 1966 with “When A Man Loves A Woman”. It spent two weeks at the top. He managed two other top-20 hits during the year, both of which hit the top ten on the R&B chart. He wouldn’t have been the strongest choice to win, but with a big debut single, he could have swayed some of the voters to go his way. (He ultimately wouldn’t hit the top ten on the Hot 100 again, though he came close with the #11 “Take Time To Know Her” in 1968.)

SIMON & GARFUNKEL
This duo of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel spent years under an assortment of names trying to hit the big time, but it wasn’t until 1965 that a song from their album released the year prior, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., began receiving airplay at a few markets. Officially released in the fall, “The Sound Of Silence” spent two weeks at #1 in January 1966. The band went onto release four other top-40 hits during 1966, including the #3 “I Am A Rock” and “Homeward Bound” (#5). The duo garnered several GRAMMY Awards for later hits like 1968’s “Mrs. Robinson” and 1970’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. Was it to make up for the lack of a Best New Artist win? They certainly would’ve been a huge act in the hunt for it had there been a category that year.

THE ASSOCIATION
Another of the big vocal groups out of California, they first the Hot 100 in 1966 with “Along Comes Mary” (#7) with a lead vocal by Jim Yester. However, it was a song sung and written by vocalist Terry Kirkman that took the band to #1 for three weeks in September: “Cherish”. Both releases can be found on And Then… Along Comes The Association, which made the top 5 on the Billboard 200 album chart. If the voters on the panel wanted a more traditional-sounding act to win the Award, the baroque pop flavor of their material may have worked out for them.

THE MAMAS & THE PAPAS
In terms of success in 1966, this group had the biggest and most consistent pack of singles during the year. The quintet out of New York City took the charts by storm, first with a #4 hit, the classic “Calfornia Dreamin'”. That record was followed by three other consecutive top-5 singles: “Monday, Monday” (#1 for three weeks), “I Saw Her Again” (#5) and “Words Of Love” (#5). Up to that point, a mixed group of men and woman had never won the Award. Could the band have achieved that feat before The Carpenters took it at the 1971 ceremony? Might have happened “for all we know”.

Other acts to make their debut that year that might have been nominated:
Neil Diamond: his first big top ten, “Cherry Cherry”, may have come too late in the year to get him a nomination. Plus, he’s only received two nominations total and both have been for movie soundtracks.
The Rascals: had a big #1 in “Good Lovin'”, but their other 1966 singles weren’t big successes. They continued to make the top 40 until 1969.

So, who do you think would’ve won it all? I’d say Nancy Sinatra and Simon & Garfunkel had the best chance of getting it, the former based on name and the latter based on how the Academy lavished them with Awards at future ceremonies. How about you? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel. Stay tuned for more GRAMMY posts as the week continues!

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Filed under Charts/Trade Papers, GRAMMY Awards, Playlists, Retro

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