Grammys 2021: Fast Facts Every Music Fan Needs to Know

The 63rd annual Grammy Awards finally kicks off tonight, Sunday, March 14, giving the entire music industry its time to shine. The ceremony will primarily take place at the Los Angeles Convention Center with the Staples Center, where the show is usually held, as a backdrop. There will be no audience, but a handful of nominees are still performing their nominated hits during the show.

The Grammys are handed out by the Recording Academy and are considered to be on the same level as the Oscars. They are the "G" in EGOT, after all, alongside the Emmys, which honor television, and the Tonys, which honor Broadway. Like all of these awards shows, there is plenty of controversies this year and dozens of artists who hope to join a long list of past winners. With that in mind, buckle up for a Grammys History 101 lesson.

How to watch the 2021 Grammys

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Trevor Noah is hosting the 2021 Grammys. (Photo: CBS Photo Archive / Contributor, Getty)
  • What: 63rd Annual Grammy Awards
  • Date: Sunday, March 14, 2021
  • Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
  • Location: Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles, California
  • TV: CBS
  • Online Stream: Paramount+ (click here for a free trial)

When was the first awards ceremony?

The first Grammy Awards took place on May 4, 1959. Like the Academy Awards, the first ceremony was a dinner. It was held at the Grand Ballroom at the Beverly Hilton, with a similar ceremony simultaneously held in New York City. The audience included such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Gene Autry, Johnny Mercer, Andre Previn, and Henry Mancini. Ironically, the Chairman of the Board's only Grammy win that night came as art director for his Only The Lonely album cover.

"The GRAMMY Awards were a formal event from the beginning and very much in keeping with the times," Christine Farnon, who helped arrange the first Grammys and became the Recording Academy's Executive Vice President, said. "As I recall, no one objected to dressing black-tie back then, though like so much else, that would change eventually."

Who was the host?

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Comedian Mort Sahl in 1963. He was the first Grammys host. (Photo: Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

The first host Grammys host was comedian Mort Sahl, who is still with us at age 93. Sahl set the precedent for comedians to host the show, although it would not be until Jerry Lewis hosted in 1966 that another would do so. For a time, the Recording Academy hired singers to host, with Andy Williams, John Denver, Kenny Rogers, and Paul Simon all taking turns before Billy Crystal took over in 1987. Alicia Keys hosted the previous two ceremonies, but The Daily Show anchor Trevor Noah is hosting this year.

Who were the first winners?

While the Grammys have seen countless changes to the awards over the years, the top three awards have been the same since day one. During the first Grammys, Henry Mancini's The Music From Peter Gunn won Album of the Year. Domenico Modugno's "Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu (Volare)" won both Song of the Year for songwriters Modungo and Franco Migliacci and Record of the Year. Song of the Year goes to the songwriters while Record of the Year recognizes the recording. Beginning in 2013, the recipients of the Recording of the Year award now include the artist, producer, recording engineer, mixing engineer, and mastering engineer.

Last year, the Big Three awards went to a single artist, Billie Eilish. Her single "Bad Guy" won Record and Song of the Year. Her debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? won the Album of the Year. Eilish also won Best New Artist.

Why is it called the Grammys?

Grammys 2021 who hosting awards this year
(Photo: Brian Ach / Stringer, Getty)

While the name "Oscar" might be up for debate, the origin of the Grammy name is straightforward. The award was originally known as the Gramophone Award, then simply nicknamed Grammys in honor of Emie Berliner, who invented the vertical-cut flat disc record and founded the U.S. Gramophone Company. The award is in the shape of a gilded gramophone and each award is made by hand by Billings Artworks in Colorado.

Who has received the most Grammys to date?

The most-awarded musician is the late conductor Georg Solti, who was the music director for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1969 to 1991. He won 31 competitive Grammy Awards out of 74 nominations. He also received the first Grammy Trustees Award in 1967 and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996. Producer Quincy Jones comes in third with 28 wins. Alison Krauss is the most-awarded female artist with 27, including 14 with Union Station. Beyonce is the seventh-most awarded musician with 24 and could add to that total thanks to her nine nominations this year.

Who has been the most nominated artist?

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Jay Z and his wife Beyonce are two of the most-nominated artists. (Photo: Kevin Mazur / Contributor, Getty)
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Quincy Jones and rapper Jay Z are the most-nominated artists with 80 Grammy nominations each. Jay Z's total includes three as a member of The Carters alongside Beyonce. Speaking of Beyonce, she and Paul McCartney are tied for second-most with 79 each. Beyonce's total includes three as a member of The Carters and 13 as a member of Destiny's Child. McCartney was nominated 41 times as a member of The Beatles.

Which artist has never won a Grammy?

Like every group that hands out awards, the Recording Academy has missed some big names. Dozens of legends never won a Grammy. This group includes Rock 'n' Roll architect Chuck Berry, country music superstar Kenny Chesney, rock groups Journey, Queen, and The Ramones, Jimi Hendrix, reggae icon Bob Marley, and Run DMC. Indian musician Zubin Mehta holds the record for the most nominations without a win with 18. Snoop Dogg comes in second with 17, while Brian McKnight has 16 nominations without a win. Strangely enough, Paul McCartney still holds the record for most nominations in a single night without winning. He earned nine nominations in 1966 but didn't win a single award.

The big Weeknd controversy

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The Weeknd. (Photo: Getty / Mike Ehrmann)

Every year sees snubs, but the 2021 Grammys' snubs were more shocking than most years'. The Weeknd's After Hours was among the most acclaimed albums of 2020 and his single "Bright Lights" was one of the year's biggest hits, but The Weeknd received zero nominations. In November, he called the Recording Academy "corrupt." Earlier this month, he said he would no longer allow his record label to submit his music to the Recording Academy because of the secretive and anonymous expert committees that make the final decisions on nominations for several categories.