1958 Grammy Award - Tequila - First Grammy Award Ever Issued! Plus Nomination Plaque and Rare Awards Dinner Menu!

Published by Robert Lifson on Tagged Uncategorized

Robert Edward Auctions is extremely pleased to present an original Grammy Award for the song Tequila presented to Dave Burgess and The Champs. The award, which is offered as a late addition to the Spring Auction and appears as lot #1527 (click here to visit the auction) has been consigned directly by Dave Burgess. The complete auction description is below. The piece is attracting national media attention, including a New York Daily News article (available here) and an appearance on FOX Business Network (available here).

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Grammy Award issued in 1959 to guitarist Dave Burgess, leader of the rock group The Champs, for the group’s iconic instrumental piece, Tequila. While all Grammy Awards are special and rarely seen at public auction, this particular award is historically all the more significant in that it represents the first Grammy Award ever issued! The Grammy, which is issued by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in recognition of outstanding achievement in the music industry, was first presented on May 4, 1959, at a ceremony held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills (the awards ceremony, as is standard, recognized the performances for the previous year). Over the years the annual Grammy Awards show has evolved into an institution as one of the most spectacular nights in music, and is seen by millions of viewers worldwide. During the first ceremony in 1959, awards were presented in twenty-eight different categories, with Tequila recognized in the category “Best Rhythm and Blues Performance.” To watch Tequila performed live on the Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show, click here.

The offered award, in addition to its significance as the first Grammy, is also notable for its remarkable provenance: It has been consigned directly by Dave Burgess and has been in his sole possession since 1959! It is also accompanied by the nomination plaque for Tequila and the exceedingly rare program from the first Grammy Award ceremony in 1959, both very substantial and significant items in their own right. (Normally an item of this magnitude would be prominently featured in our printed catalog, but the decision to offer it for sale only came to be days after the catalog had been printed). Ideally, Mr. Burgess has included a one-page signed letter of provenance for the Grammy Award, which reads in full:

To Whom it May Concern: I, Dave Burgess was the leader of the rock group known as, THE CHAMPS, best known for our worldwide number one recording of TEQUILA. In the year 1959, I was nominated and received the first Grammy Award ever presented at the first Grammy award show in Hollywood California. This Grammy has been in my personal collection under glass since that time. According to Sony, who now owns the master, Tequila is the number one instrumental of all time. The nomination plaque and the menu/program are also included. I have never heard of another menu/program still in existence. All of the above is absolutely true and I attest to that fact.

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The origin of the instrumental Tequila, and its phenomenal rise to the top of the charts in 1958, is one of the most unlikely stories in music history. In 1957, Dave Burgess was working as a recording artist at Challenge Records (founded by Gene Autry), where he produced a number of singles, both under his given name and under the pseudonym Dave Dupree. He also served as a session guitarist for the company. One afternoon he was trying to come up with a piece to serve as the “B” side for a record he had previously recorded, titled Train to Nowhere, and asked a few of the other session players to help him, including saxophonist Daniel Flores and drummer Glen Alden. In no time at all, Flores (credited under the name Chuck Rio) came up with a latin-rock instrumental that they titled Tequila. Train to Nowhere was released by Challenge in January, 1958, and received little attention until a Cleveland DJ played the “B” side. Soon after, Tequila rose to the top of the US charts, spending five weeks at number one and finishing the year at number eight. With the success of Tequila, the musicians formed an official group called The Champs, which later included Seals and Croft as members. The Champs performed and recorded together for a number of years before disbanding in 1965. Although the group produced a few modest hits, including a follow-up to its hit single in 1960 titled Too Much Tequila, none ever surpassed the enormous success of Tequila, which is today one of the most iconic instrumentals ever recorded. Over the years, Tequila has been featured in countless television shows and movies, not to mention advertisements, and is instantly recognizable to generations of music lovers.

This is the first Grammy Award we have ever offered, and we have only seen a small number at auction over the years. (As one would expect, most performers are reluctant to part with such a prestigious award, and, as is also the case with Oscars, there have been numerous title issues and legal challenges by the Academy to the sale of more recently issued awards, issues which are not present here - at least none that we are aware of as we write this!) Most Grammy Awards are passed down to family members after the passing of the artist. In this case, not only is the award coming directly from the recipient, which is remarkable itself in that it has been cherished for the past 56 years, but we should also note that Mr. Burgess is selling the award only to put the proceeds to a very important and great use: to help with medical bills for a family member.) This Grammy, of course, is the earliest Grammy Award ever offered at public auction. The fact that this Grammy dates from the first year of the award, and was issued for one of the most famous instrumentals in music history, truly distinguishes it as one of the most significant awards in music history, and one that would be equally at home in either the Smithsonian Institute or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Grammy Awards issued to notable performers or for famous songs have always been well received by collectors. In 2004, at Sotheby’s sale of the Johnny Cash estate, three different Grammy Awards presented to Cash sold for $187,200, $84,000, and $72,000, respectively, while in 2003, a Grammy awarded to Simon and Garfunkel for the song Mrs. Robinson, realized $50,528 at auction.

The Grammy Award (4.75 x 4.75 x 6.5 inches) features a representation of a vintage phonograph (complete with horn) resting upon a wood base. The affixed plaque reads “National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences - 1958 Presented to Dave Burgess & The Champs Tequila.” The base displays moderate wear, including a few tiny abrasions. The horn, which is a separate piece that screws into the phonograph, has a stripped and partially broken thread but remains attached as issued. The nomination plaque (8.5 x 10.5 inches) also displays moderate wear, with a few tiny surface marks. The large-format fold-over program/dinner menu (11 x 14.5 inches) features both the dinner selection for the evening, as well as all of the nominations in each of the twenty-eight categories. Burgess has inscribed the interior in blue ink (grading “10″), “All the best/Dave Burgess/’The Champs’.” The program displays a center fold, minor creases, and a few edge tears. Total: 3 items. Reserve $30,000. Estimate (open).

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