I apparently enjoyed watching the Grammys last night a lot more than others, but sometimes I’m easy to please.
I first went to the Grammy awards in the early 1970s, when I was new in town and happy to be part of the scene, to arrive in a limo and walk on a red carpet, even if nobody knew or cared who I was, particularly me. It was held at the Shrine Auditorium then, and much more intimate than it is now. The after-party was at the Ambassador Hotel, and my wife and I got to dance to Count Basie and his band, and I remember than much more than who won that year.
Then, a few years ago, we played on the show with Neil. It was at Staples, and they rushed us in and out, on and off, and my only real memory is of looking out at the audience and seeing Paul McCartney sitting in the front section looking at me (how could he look at anything else?) and thinking that was cool. Further, deponent sayeth naught.
I loved the opening of last night’s show, and enjoyed more of the performances than I expected.
My biggest memory jolt came from seeing Diana Ross celebrating her 75th birthday. I flashed back to a recording session I did in 1981.
By then, I’d been touring for five years, and my sessions had declined, so I was happy to be recording, particularly for an artist I’d never worked with before, Lionel Richie. I figured I was there because the arranger was the late Gene Page, a wonderful and talented gentleman who seemed to like the way I played ballads, and called me frequently for sessions with Motown artists that I might otherwise never have had the chance to work with.
When we finished a final take after a few hours, I dawdled on the way out, stopping in the control room before leaving, where the folks in charge were playing the song loudly on big monitors and holding a phone up to the speakers. That’s what you did in those days, before digital hookups made the process far more efficient.
The song was “Endless Love,” and they were playing it for Diana Ross in New York, determining whether it was in the best key for her, since she would be singing along with the track. Apparently it was.
There’s a Wikipedia entry about the song that lists different personnel than those in the studio that day (except for drummer Ed Greene, who was always on Gene’s dates), so perhaps there’s more to the story than I know, but I know what I saw, heard. and played back then.
It was great to hear Diana last night, still killing it in her distinctive way.