From Rockford to the Grammys: Who played where

The Grammy Awards ceremony this year paid tribute to some of the best in the entertainment industry and, incidentally, some of these officialized stars have passed through our “little big city” on their way to the awards. Well, maybe not literally en route, but at least eight of the awarded performers have played the Rockford scene sometime in their career—and perhaps that means a little bit of our fair city was taken to the Grammys in the winners’ memories.

The Pat Metheny Group, which performed via Charlotte’s Web sometime in the late ’70s, won the award for best Contemporary Jazz Album, Speaking of Now. Metheny has been around for a long time, introducing new creative concepts to contemporary jazz, and deserves the recognition.

Folk artists (Eric) Tingstad and (Nancy) Rumbel walked away with the Grammy for New Age Album for their latest release, Acoustic Garden. This duo has played the Web at least three times, including most recently last fall at Memorial Hall. They’re hard working and probably the best in their arena of synthesizer-accentuated music.

Emilio Navaira, snagging the Tejano Album Grammy, performed at Davis Park during the Fiesta Hispana in July 2002. That’s fairly recent—from Rockford to the Grammys…hmmm?

Ralph Stanley was co-awarded best Bluegrass Album with Jim Lauderdale and The Clinch Mountain Boys. He, too, played the Web sometime in the last 30 years.

Doc Watson, another three-time Charlotte’s Web feature, won the Traditional Folk Album Grammy with David Holt (who never played Rockford, so who cares?) for their album Legacy. The Blind Boys of Alabama, who played the Charlotte’s Web stage at On The Waterfront in 1996 and an area show at Beloit College this past January, also received a Grammy for Traditional Soul Gospel Album, Higher Ground.

B.B. King, who performed a sold-out concert at the MetroCentre in 2001, won two Grammys for his rendition of “Auld Lang Syne,” and recent album, A Christmas of Hope. What with the Pepsi™ and diabetic supply commercials, constant sold-out arenas and the Grammys, who knew the King would have time to stop by Rockford?

Johnny Cash, who played the MetroCentre in the mid-’80s with his wife June Carter-Cash, won for Male Vocal Performance for his song, “Give My Love to Rose.” Maybe Cash doesn’t remember his Rock-town visit, but the people who were there still do. Jeff Helberg, a local resident who attended the performance noted: “I love Johnny Cash. He did a great job in Rockford, and recording for almost 50 years, his musical work ethic is virtually unmatched. I own dozens of his albums in all four forms; they’re excellent and, of course, unique in their blend of blues, rock, folk, gospel and country.” If the man in black thinks this town is good enough for him, then maybe the MetroCentre could expand a little beyond Cher.

Now just because they’re a Grammy winner doesn’t necessarily mean they’re really all that good, but it does mean one thing—the artist is officially recognized by the world as having a great recording/producing/managing crew that knows how to make them famous. If stopping in Rockford is part of that journey to fame, then other artists should keep that in mind.

Norah Jones, who has covered front pages of pop-culture magazines and stolen most of the awards for her album Come Away With Me and song, “Don’t Know Why,” has not come around these parts yet, though. But, Ravi Shankar’s illustrious daughter might make her way to Rockford in the future, as long as she doesn’t reach Aretha Franklin’s diva status, of course (who did NOT, by the way, win a Grammy this year ). Nonetheless, this town should be proud to be a regular host to some of the stars in the mainstream industry, as well as the birthplace of some of today’s best underground groups and rising stars.

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