The first Grammy Awards (or Gramophone Awards as they were originally called) honoring achievement in the recording industry were held in 1959. And it was a banner year to start passing out those little gold gramophones.
In contention for Record of the Year was Perry Como with one of his three Top 10 singles for the previous year, “Catch a Falling Star,” Peggy Lee with her biggest hit of the rock era, “Fever,” Frank Sinatra crooning “Witchcraft,” and the are-you-kidding entry, “The Chipmunk Song” by David Seville. Taking home the statuette (to Italy) was Domenico Mondugno and the only foreign language recording to ever win the top prize, “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu.” The recording also won Song of the Year against pretty much the same competition.
For Album of the Year, Sinatra put both his 1958 releases in the running (possibly canceling each other out) – the upbeat Come Fly With Me, his first with arranger Billy May, and Only The Lonely, arranged by Nelson Riddle. Ella Fitzgerald placed one of her several songbook albums in the ring, this one dedicated to Irving Berlin. And Van Cliburn, having won the April 1958 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, scored with Tchaikovksy: Concerto No. 1 In B-Flat Minor, Op. 23. Stiff competition but Henry Mancini was up to it, nailing the first of his 20 Grammy Awards with The Music from Peter Gunn.
Sinatra, Fitzgerald, Como and Cliburn all won in other categories, as did Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Count Basie, Andre Previn, and the Champs (Tequila). The head-scratcher Grammy of the year was in the category Best Country and Western Performance, won by the Kingston Trio for “Tom Dooley.” Well, it’s not jazz or classical.
Everybody Loves Saturday Night, Part 1: Elton and Claris Go Fishing
Winter-weary tourists who take the considerable amount of trouble to get to Tortoise Bay are not thrillseekers on a hell-bent search for tropical carpe diem. They are bookish sorts, sun lovers, people who just want to slow down to the lazy tempo that prevails here. What little action there is at Tortoise Bay takes place on Saturday night at the only nightspot, Naughty Nora’s. Nora’s isn’t all that naughty; the guiltiest pleasures are the flying fish sandwiches and rum punches. On Saturday night, the locals come to listen to the vintage jukebox play its unlikely mix of calypso, country and tunes that were popular when Bermuda shorts were still trendy. They come to socialize and to unwind after a week of work.
Some of the tourists also come to Naughty Nora’s on Saturday night to wind themselves up just a bit after a week of lethargy. Given their low-key vacations, it’s understandable that these folks might be a little overwhelmed at finding themselves smack in the middle of an invasion.
“Are you sure this is such a good idea, Claris?”
“This is the smart way to catch fish, Elton,” said Claris with just a touch of superiority. “It’s like that American dude that long time ago invented the assembly line where he could make a lot of cars at once instead of just one at a time. It’s a fishing assembly line, and boy are we gonna get a bunch of them.”
“But it’s dangerous,” moaned Elton. “It’s dynamite. Someone could get themselves hurt. Like us.”
“Not if we know what we’re doing, said Claris, tying the sticks of dynamite into a neat little bundle. “We just float it on out there a ways, it goes bang, and boy it rains fish.”
“Are you sure?” said Elton, skeptical of the raining fish part. “Have you ever done it before?”
“Not exactly,” said Claris. “But I heard about it and got pretty good instructions.”
He put the bundle of dynamite on the little raft and lit the fuse. Elton turned and ran down the beach as fast as he could. Claris, getting a little nervous now himself, pushed the raft out beyond the rocks with a long pole, then turned and ran after Elton.
Estelle Webster was working doggedly on her third rum punch, trying her best to feel comfortable in what she considered somewhat seedy surroundings. Her friend Penelope Goodwill had coaxed her into coming to Naughty Nora’s, saying it was a good chance to see island life up close and for real. Estelle didn’t need up close and for real; she rather liked the styrofoam ambience of a cruise ship, where fresh-scrubbed young men and women followed you around like puppy dogs, taking care of your every need. It was also Penelope who had convinced her to come on an island vacation, saying it would be more of an adventure than a stuffy old cruise ship.
Adventure. Here she sat while Penelope was standing around the jukebox with a bunch of locals, laughing and carrying on like they had known each other forever. Here she sat, enduring the unabashed ogling of a middle-aged hippy who looked very much like he aspired to nothing greater than beachcombing. He and his companion spoke French, although from her limited knowledge of French, it seemed as though they spoke it quite thickly – perhaps the result of the prodigious amounts of red wine they had consumed.
The third rum was better than the first. The drinks were a little warm; she had wanted ice but, upon asking, had been advised that the ice was not made from bottled water. She imagined a lot of people were careful not to drink the water in these places, but forgot about the ice. The filthy Frenchman was staring at her cleavage, once again Penelope’s fault for talking her into wearing a dress cut low enough to get her arrested in a lot of small towns back home.
Penelope walked a little unsteadily back to the table and said: “How you doing?”
“Fine, just fine,” said Estelle.
“You gotta relax, Stel,” said Penelope, waving to the French hippy.
“Don’t do that,” said Estelle. “He’s been staring at me, at my . . . just don’t encourage him. He’s French.”
Penelope suddenly shouted to the other table: “Comment allez vous, monsieur. Je suis Penelope. Elle est Estelle.” She pointed to Estelle.
“Allo,” the man shouted back. “I am Francois. Pleased to know your acquaintance, Penelope. And you, Estelle.” He put his fingertips to his lips. “How you say bien montee, bien carrossee. Et un petit cul mignon. Tu es une allumeuse.”
“What did he say to me?” whispered Estelle.
“Good evening or something,” said Penelope. “Just smile and say merci.”
“God, what if he comes over here,” said Estelle, but upon saying the words she realized that maybe she wouldn’t mind that so much. It was kind of . . . kind of exciting. Maybe this was beginning to become an adventure after all. She raised her glass of rum punch, but before it reached her lips, the windows rattled, the glasses and bottles behind the bar tinkled and Naughty Nora’s itself – floors, tables, chairs, patrons – all trembled as if an earthquake were about to savage the earth beneath their feet. But earthquakes didn’t usually come with a deafening bang, with the sound of something exploding in the night. Estelle’s rum flew out of her hand and sailed through the air all the way to the French hippy’s table, where it landed like a little aftershock. Estelle crawled under her table.
Everybody Loves Saturday Night is one of the 15 stories from Calypso, Stories of the Caribbean, available as an ebook or in a print edition with real pages and everything.