The Grammys had their origin in the Hollywood Walk of Fame project in the 1950s. As the recording executives chosen for the Walk of Fame committee worked at compiling a list of important recording industry people who might qualify for a Walk of Fame star, they realised there were many more people who were leaders in their business who would never earn a star on Hollywood Boulevard. The music executives decided to rectify this by creating an award given by their industry similar to the Oscars and the Emmys. This was the beginning of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. After it was decided to create such an award, there was still a question of what to call it; one working title was the Eddie, to honour the inventor of the phonograph, Thomas Edison. They finally settled on using the name of the invention of Emile Berliner, the gramophone, for the awards, which were first given for the year 1958.
The first award ceremony was held simultaneously in two locations on May 4, 1959 - Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills California, and Park Sheraton Hotel in New York City,and 28 Grammys were awarded. The number of awards given grew and fluctuated over the years with categories added and removed, at one time reaching over 100. The second Grammy Awards, also held in 1959, was the first ceremony to be televised, but the ceremony was not aired live until the 13th Annual Grammy Awards in 1971.
The gold-plated trophies, each depicting a gilded gramophone, are made and assembled by hand by Billings Artworks in Ridgway, Colorado. In 1990 the original Grammy design was revamped, changing the traditional soft lead for a stronger alloy less prone to damage, making the trophy bigger and grander. Billings developed a zinc alloy named grammium, which is trademarked. The trophies with the recipient's name engraved on them are not available until after the award announcements, so "stunt" trophies are re-used each year for the broadcast.
By February 2009, 7,578 Grammy trophies had been awarded.
- Album of the Year is awarded to the performer and the production team of a full album. Record of the Year is awarded to the performer and the production team of a single song. Song of the Year is awarded to the writer(s)/composer(s) of a single song. Best New Artist is awarded to a promising breakthrough performer who releases, during the Eligibility Year, the first recording that establishes the public identity of that artist (which is not necessarily their first proper release). The only two artists to win all four of these awards are Christopher Cross, who won all four in 1980, and Adele, who won the Best New Artist award in 2009 and the other three in 2012.
Other awards are given for performance and production in specific genres, as well as for other contributions such as artwork and video. Special awards are given for longer-lasting contributions to the music industry.
Because of the large number of award categories (78 in 2012, 81 in 2013 and 82 in 2014), and the desire to feature several performances by various artists, only the ones with the most popular interest - typically about 10 to 12, including the four General Field categories and one or two categories in the most popular music genres (i.e. pop, rock, country, rap) - are presented directly at the televised award ceremony. The many other Grammy trophies are presented in a pre-telecast 'Premiere Ceremony' earlier in the afternoon before the Grammy Awards telecast.