1959 Grammy Winners

2nd Annual GRAMMY Awards (1959)

The first thing you should know about the 2nd Annual GRAMMY Awards is that they weren’t actually “annual” at all. In fact, this awards presentation marked the only time in GRAMMY history that two awards presentations were ever made in one year, with both the 1st and 2nd GRAMMYs falling in 1959. Call it a slightly embarrassing case of premature validation.

The 2nd GRAMMYs did, however, mark another first: the first GRAMMYs to be presented on television as a taped “NBC Sunday Showcase,” which aired on November 29, 1959. Hosted by Meredith Willson—who wrote the Broadway show “The Music Man”—the television program offered performances by classical pianist Van Cliburn, comedian Shelley Berman, Nat "King" Cole, Bobby Darin, folk singer Jimmy Driftwood, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, trumpeter Jonah Jones, the Kingston Trio and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Say this for the GRAMMYs—it always had range.

The award winners themselves were announced at private dinner ceremonies held in Los Angeles and New York. Following the awards presentations, the audience watched the broadcast of the first GRAMMY special. With the ’60s about to get underway and the times about to start a-changing, Darin and Frank Sinatra emerged as the big winners. Darin was named Best New Artist of 1959—the first winner in that category—and he also won Record of the Year with his timeless version of “Mack the Knife.” Sinatra took Album of the Year for Come Dance with Me and Best Vocal Performance, Male, for its title track (which also won Billy May a GRAMMY for Best Arrangement).

Other winners included Jonah Jones’ Best Jazz Performance, Group, award for his very ’50s album I Dig Chicks, poet Carl Sandburg for narrating A Lincoln Portrait, and the iconic Ethel Merman for Best Broadway Show Album for Gypsy, which tied with Gwen Verdon for Redhead.

For all that, even in its earliest TV incarnation, there was never a shortage of critics both willing and able to take their shots at the young if not innocent GRAMMY show. Writing in the New York World Telegram, Harriet Von Horne noted, “But…the pandering to the primitive, uninformed taste that mars so much of TV fare, was on view here…Here was a costly show, brilliantly produced…and it had the whole range of music to choose from. So we had a reading by Shelley Berman instead of Carl Sandburg. We had the clanging, twanging Kingston Trio when we might have had Ethel Merman…”

Others were more understanding, even supportive. Variety said, “GRAMMY Makes Good In TV Bow” in a front page banner headline, and The Hollywood Reporter announced “GRAMMY Telecast Cut Above Average Award Programs.”

Through the good, the bad and the ugly, there would be many more cuts and many more kudos in the years to come.

Record Of The Year
 
winner
Bobby Darin
Mack The Knife
Album Of The Year
 
winner
Frank Sinatra
Come Dance With Me
Song Of The Year
 
winner
The Battle Of New Orleans

Jimmy Driftwood, songwriter (Jimmy Driftwood)

Best Vocal Performance, Female
 
winner
Ella Fitzgerald
But Not For Me
Best Vocal Performance, Male
 
winner
Frank Sinatra
Come Dance With Me
Best Performance By A Dance Band
 
winner
Duke Ellington
Anatomy Of A Murder
Best Performance By An Orchestra
 
winner
André Previn
Like Young

David Rose And His Orchestra With Andre Previn

Best Performance By A Vocal Group Or Chorus
 
winner
Battle Hymn Of The Republic

(Mormon Tabernacle Choir)

Best Jazz Performance - Soloist
 
winner
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Swings Lightly
Best Jazz Performance - Group
 
winner
Jonah Jones
I Dig Chicks
Best Classical Performance - Orchestra
 
winner
Debussy: Images For Orchestra

(Boston Symphony Orchestra)

Best Classical Performance - Chamber Music (Including Chamber Orchestra)
 
winner
Beethoven: Sonatas No. 21 In C (Waldstein) And No. 18 In E Flat
Best Classical Performance - Concerto Or Instrumental Soloist (With Full Orchestral Accompaniment)
 
winner
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3

Van Cliburn, artist (Symphony Of The Air Orchestra)

Best Classical Performance - Opera Cast Or Choral
 
winner
Mozart: The Marriage Of Figaro

Erich Leinsdorf, conductor

Best Classical Performance - Concerto Or Instrumental Soloist (Other Than Full Orchestral Accompaniment)
 
winner
Beethoven: Sonatas No. 21 In C (Waldstein) And No. 18 In E Flat
Best Classical Performance - Vocal Soloist (With Or Without Orchestra)
 
winner
Bjoerling In Opera
Best Musical Composition First Recorded And Released In 1959 (More Than 5 Minutes Duration)
 
winner
Duke Ellington
Anatomy Of A Murder

Duke Ellington, composer (Duke Ellington)

Best Sound Track Album - Background Score From A Motion Picture Or Television
 
winner
Duke Ellington
Anatomy Of A Murder

Duke Ellington, composer (Duke Ellington)

Best Sound Track Album, Original Cast - Motion Picture Or Television
 
winner
Porgy And Bess

(Various Artists)

Best Broadway Show Album
 
winner
Gypsy

Ethel Merman (Ethel Merman And Broadway Show Cast)

winner
Redhead

Gwen Verdon (Gwen Verdon, Richard Kiley, Leonard Stone, Doris Rich, Cynthia Latham, Joy Nichols, Bob Dixon, Pat Ferrier)

Best Comedy Performance - Spoken Word
 
winner
Inside Shelley Berman
Best Comedy Performance - Musical
 
winner
The Battle Of Kookamonga
Best Performance - Documentary Or Spoken Word (Other Than Comedy)
 
winner
A Lincoln Portrait
Best Performance By A "Top 40" Artist
 
winner
Nat "King" Cole
Midnight Flyer
Best Country & Western Performance
 
winner
The Battle Of New Orleans
Best Rhythm & Blues Performance
 
winner
Dinah Washington
What A Diff'rence A Day Makes
Best Performance - Folk
 
winner
The Kingston Trio At Large
Best Recording For Children
 
winner
Peter And The Wolf

Peter Ustinov (Herbert von Karajan, cond.)

Best Arrangement
 
winner
Come Dance With Me

Billy May, arranger (Frank Sinatra)

Best Engineering Contribution - Classical Recording
 
winner
Victory At Sea, Vol. I

Lewis W. Layton, engineer (Robert Russell Bennett, conductor)

Best Engineering Contribution - Novelty Recording
 
winner
Alvin's Harmonica

Ted (Theodore) Keep, engineer (David Seville)

Best Engineering Contribution - Other Than Classical Or Novelty
 
winner
Belafonte At Carnegie Hall

Robert Simpson, engineer (Harry Belafonte)

Best Album Cover
 
winner
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5

Robert M. Jones, art director (Howard Mitchell, conductor)

Best New Artist Of 1959
 
winner
Bobby Darin