Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: You have provided a lot of interesting information about the Grammy Awards, but I believe the story of how and where it all began is an untold story. Until now that is.

As the son of bandleader Les Brown, I was there for the birth of the Grammy Awards, which took place circa-1957 in the living room of our home (1455 Monaco Drive, Pacific Palisades, California).

I was only 16 or 17 then, but I remember this particular meeting very well.

Our guests on that day were Paul Weston and Sonny Burke.

Burke, my dad's closest friend, was the A&R chief at Decca Records, and Weston was the head of A&R for Capitol Records.

By then, both of these men had already become giants in all phases of the recording industry.

Paul Weston was, as most know, married to Jo Stafford. But I don't recall seeing her there that day.

Paul and Sonny had been kicking around the idea of forming an association for the recording industry similar to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and to reward recording excellence with an trophy similar to the Oscar given at the Academy Awards event.

They then brought my dad into the group, as well as George Simon, a New York publisher who ran Metronome (Modern Music and Its Makers) magazine.

These four got the ball rolling right away, with my father becoming the first president of the West Coast Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, a position he held for many years.

One of their first goals was to get some type of awards show on television, again following the blueprint of the Academy Awards.

Though renowned in the recording industry, neither Paul nor Sonny had the TV connections to get this off the ground. Neither knew how they were ever going to get this new program televised.

Fortunately, the solution stood in front of them, in the person of Les Brown.

For many years, dad conducted the orchestra on the Bob Hope Show on NBC, so naturally he presented the idea for a music awards show to NBC first.

The network liked the proposal, but felt kicking it off with some big name stars would be essential. They told dad that if he could get Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, or Frank Sinatra as guest stars, then they would schedule the program.

Dad called each man, recruiting not just one but all three. Bob, Bing, and Frank appeared on the show. Dad also assumed the role of music director, and Pierre Cossette signed on as executive producer — a position he held until 2005.

Many folks today do not realize how different the awards and the broadcast were in the beginning. Getting everything accomplished required two separate events.

First would be a dinner gathering at one of the hotel ballrooms, where the Grammy winners for the previous year's recordings would be announced.

These days, the winners are not known until the envelopes are opened, and awards presented, on live TV.

Before 1971 the televised show was titled “The Best on Record,” produced in a variety show format in which some of the winners in the different categories performed their music.

Beginning in 1972, with the 14th Annual Grammy Awards, the format changed to pretty much what we now see.

Now you know the rest of the story!
—Les Brown Jr., Branson, Mo.

DEAR LES: This is an important account which, thanks to you, is now a documented slice of entertainment history.

Speaking of entertainment, let me applaud the masterful job you've done since taking over Les Brown's Band of Renown, in 2000.

I'm pleased to see you still criss-cross the country performing Big Band concerts, often accompanied by pair of lovely singing sirens: Deana Martin and Jana King Evans.

We invite readers to visit your site for more information.

IZ ZAT SO? Les Brown Jr. is world famous for leading the Band of Renown, as conductor, singer, and host.

Not as well known is how in the 1960s, then an actor, Les could be seen in many of that decade's most memorable prime time TV programs.

Just a few of the shows Brown's lengthy resume are: My Three Sons (1962-'63); Gilligan's Island (1965); Gunsmoke (1965); The Patty Duke Show (1966); F Troop (1966); 12 O'clock High (1966); The Lucille Ball Show (1967); Green Acres (1967); Police Story (1967); and Lassie (1967).

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