BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
NEW YORK – There were several prominent firsts for Georgia artists during the “Premiere Ceremony” at the 60th annual Grammy Awards, when trophies for 75 of the 84 categories were distributed a few hours before the telecast.
The Atlanta hard rock mainstay, Mastodon, scored its inaugural Grammy with “Sultan’s Curse” in best metal performance.
Backstage, drummer Brann Dailor, guitarist Bill Kelliher and bassist Troy Sanders, cradled their Grammy gold (guitarist Brent Hinds wasn’t feeling well, Dailor said, and didn’t make the trip).
The award is “huge for us and for heavy metal,” Dailor said. “It’s one of the greatest genres with some of the most talented and skilled musicians playing it.”
Dailor also credited Atlanta fans for the band’s 18 years of success.
“Our first show had hundreds of people and they came out to support us from the time we were playing the Parasite House to the Fox Theatre,” he said.
Childish Gambino – aka Stone Mountain native Donald Glover – also nabbed his first Grammy of the night (and his career) with best traditional R&B performance for “Redbone.”
The singer/rapper/actor earned five Grammy nominations this year.
Little Big Town, which also maintains Georgia ties, earned an award for best country duo/group performance for “Better Man,” in a category that included Zac Brown Band and Lady Antebellum.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit bested the late Gregg Allman in two categories in which they shared a nomination – best American roots song (“If We Were Vampires”) and best Americana album (“The Nashville Sound”).
Backstage, a respectful Isbell said Allman’s influence was “huge on me…Some of the first music I learned to play were Allman Brothers records.”
He also noted that his wife, Amanda Shires, opened for Allman in recent years, even when she was pregnant with their daughter in 2015.
“(Gregg) put his hand on her stomach and said, ‘It’s going to be a girl, and I’ve never been wrong before,” Isbell said.
In the early round of awards, Kendrick Lamar, who is nominated for seven awards, nabbed three for his song, “Humble” (best music video, best rap performance and best rap song). Also scoring an early trifecta was Bruno Mars with best R&B performance and best R&B song (“That’s What I Like”) and best R&B album (“24K Magic”).
Jay-Z, nominated for a leading eight Grammys, had not won any before the live telecast.
Also during the pre-show, The Rolling Stones scooped up only the third Grammy of their historic career with a win for “Blue & Lonesome” (best traditional blues album).
Posthumous awards were bestowed upon Leonard Cohen (best rock performance for “You Want it Darker”) and Carrie Fisher (best spoken word album for “The Princess Diarist”).
Country superstar Reba McEntire, who sported a white rose in an effort to preach the Golden Rule – “Let’s treat each other like we want to be treated…let’s just treat people kindly,” she said – delivered one of the most affecting speeches of the ceremony after winning for best roots gospel album (“Sing it Now: Songs of Faith & Hope”).
“I’m a country artist, but I’ve been singing these songs all my life and it’s so great to get those songs on an album. Our job in the entertainment business is to heal hearts and to help other people. Music is so healing. I love my job and I’m so grateful to get to do it.”