In my job as music editor at KeepMedia, I've been thumbing through lots of pre-Grammy PR and commentary (mostly speculation on who will win), which has reminded me of the time I went to the Grammies (1997). I was actually up for a couple (sorta three): Country Instrumental (for a track from a Bill Monroe tribute album recorded with Chris Thile, Vassar Clements, Richard Greene, and Todd Phillips) and Bluegrass Album (Tim O'Brien's "Red On Blonde," which Tim said he considered a band album, even though the Grammies and his record company didn't). The Monroe tribute album was also up for Bluegrass Album, but I only played on a couple tracks, and didn't really consider it "my" nomination.
It was a very strange affair, starting with the act of picking up my tickets. February in NYC, right? I had all day to wander the city (Anne was flying in on the redeye later that night), after which I went by the big, fancy hotel that was hosting the celebrations to pick them up. There was a line, of course, and everyone there other than me was a flunky picking up their boss's tickets. I had a backpack and was wearing hiking boots and a winter jacket, definitely way out of place, and they were very amused when I said that I was actually the person whose name was on the tickets. The woman asked "Oh, are you nominated?"--obviously, no music mogul would dress like that in NY--and wished me luck.
The party the night before was a trip, but kinda boring. I met Pete Seeger, and the Grammy prez at the time, Michael Green (you know the guy who used to get up every year and make the serious, dull speech?) shook my hand. The music in the ballroom was the band from the "Late, Late Show"--hip lounge music. Well not really hip, just covers cranked out by famous musicians.
Our awards were, of course, given out during the afternoon (pre-tel) show. It was spot-the-famous-musician time on the floor of Madison Square Garden. Let's see, Beck walked by at one point (he wasn't quite so famous then), and I got to see both Cassandra Wilson and Pete Seeger literally sprint to the stage so they could give an acceptance speech (the officials were very adamant that any winner who wanted to say anything had to get to the stage pronto). Hillary Clinton won a "spoken word" award, and was promptly escorted out by Secret Service.
I didn't win (the Bill Monroe tribute won for Bluegrass Album), but Shawn Colvin was one of the presenters for Country Instrumental, and Anne was very excited to hear my name come out of Shawn's mouth. (I was too, I guess, I mean, yeah, of course I was. Probably the last time that'll happen.) I actually thought we might have had a chance, because of Vassar, and since Todd and I were the only ones of the five of us in attendance, I would have actually been able to do the acceptance speech thang. But of course, Chet Atkins was also nominated, so . . . need you ask?
After the pre-tel we took our seats up in the nosebleed section and watched the main show. Anne and I sat with Mollie O'Brien and her husband Rich Moore, and word from Mollie was that the women's room was insane. I must admit I saw more cleavage and blonde hair at that show than in any other place I've ever been. Lots of dolled up dates--probably there with the music biz guys who are the only ones who actually buy tickets, which are too expensive for non-star musicians, who only show up when nominated.)
After the show we took the subway to a big shebang at the aforementioned hotel. We wandered in and out of rooms, sat and had a drink at the piano bar (McCoy Tyner, ignored by most everyone, except the four bluegrass musicians in the room), and went home almost early--2 am. Definitely worth it though.
And though I didn't get a little statue (there were probably 40 musicians on the Monroe tribute), Todd did eventually make up T-shirts that said "I was on the bluegrass album of the year, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."