When the Grammys Got It Wrong

Five of the Recording Academy’s most egregious Southern snubs

The Grammy Awards turn sixty on Sunday night, returning to New York City for the first time since 2003 after fifteen years in Los Angeles. For the past decade or so, the folks at the Recording Academy (the group in charge of the awards) have steadily eschewed televising award announcements in favor of live performances. And while that may lead to once-in-a-lifetime collaborations—look for the combo of Eric Church, Maren Morris, and Brothers Osborne to bring the crowd to tears as they honor the victims of last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas—it also means that many awards featuring G&G favorites are doled out in the pre-telecast.

This year, the Alabama Shakes, Allison Krauss, and Glen Campbell tangle in the Best American Roots Performance category while other heavyweights such as Gregg Allman and Jason Isbell go head-to-head in the Best Americana Album and Best American Roots Song. None of which we’ll see on TV. In any other year, Isbell wins going away, but Grammy voters are a sentimental bunch and it would be shocking if the late, great Allman didn’t get a posthumous win for his final album Southern Blood.

Photo: Nigel Parry; David McClister; Peter Yang

2018 Grammy nominees Jason Isbell; Brittney Howard of the Alabama Shakes; Gregg Allman.

The Grammys are dubbed “Music’s Greatest Night,” but for many years the awards have been “Music’s Biggest Joke.” It’s easy sport to rail on the Grammys for being out of touch, but early on they outright ignored rock & roll (the Rolling Stones didn’t receive their first nomination until 1978 for Some Girls), and the Academy has rarely had the stomach to reward R&B and rap artists in the top categories of Best Album, Song, and Record (see Adele besting Houston-born Beyoncé last year). With that in mind, here are five more of the Grammys most shocking snubs of Southern-based artists.

Allman Brothers Band

While Gregg Allman may come away with two trophies this year, it is almost beyond comprehension that the Allman Brothers Band has only won ONE award (and that was for a 1995 version of the instrumental “Jessica”). Their classics At Fillmore East and Eat a Peach barely registered, but not nominating 1973’s Brothers and Sisters for anything is the most egregious miss. The Grammys like to reward commercial success as much as critical acclaim and the album spent five weeks atop the charts, fueled by the band’s only hit, “Ramblin’ Man.” They did finally receive a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, the Recording Academy’s belated make-good. 

Widespread Panic

Jam bands have been all but ignored by Grammy voters, with the Grateful Dead, Phish, and Athens, Georgia stalwarts Widespread Panic only receiving one nomination between them (the Dead got the 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award). But type “Widespread Panic” into the Grammy website’s search function and up pops a big fat zero. And while it’s true that Panic is best served live, the Grammys often reward non-studio work, with Tony Bennett and Eric Clapton each winning Album of the Year trophies for their MTV Unplugged records. Couldn’t 2002’s Live in the Classic City have gotten some love? 

Bo Diddley

Grammy voters love them some blues, but only if it’s B. B., Buddy, or Muddy singing them (28 wins and 55 nominations between the trio). Bo Diddley was an oddball talent with a clear delineation from more mainstream blues artists. He also wasn’t as commercially successful, which didn’t help his cause, given only two nominations (no wins), but garnering a lone Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998.

John Prine and the Indigo Girls

John Prine, one of Nashville’s most influential songwriters, and Georgia duo Indigo Girls were each nominated for Best New Artist in 1973 and 1990, respectively. Prine—and the Eagles—lost out to twee-folkers America. Let that sink in. But poor Amy Ray and Emily Sailers. Despite the hit “Closer to Fine” off their platinum self-titled second record, the Indigo Girls lost out to, drumroll please, Milli Vanilli. The German cheese-pop duo was stripped of its award months later after it came to light that they didn’t actually sing on their album. And given that the year’s other nominees, Neneh Cherry, Soul II Soul, and Tone Loc, would likely have split the votes of the R&B/rap contingent, it’s more than plausible that the Girls could have come out on top.