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Alumnus Rickey Minor discusses his experience working backstage for Grammys

UCLA alumnus Rickey Minor is a member of the Recording Academy. He has previously served as bandleader on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and musical director for international tours by Whitney Houston.
(Courtesy of Rickey Minor)

The Grammys

Sunday, Feb. 10

By Landon Goldberg

February 7, 2019 10:42 pm

For 61 years, the Grammy Awards has provided viewers with often unforgettable performances from some of the biggest stars in the music industry.

For many of these iconic Grammy moments, Rickey Minor, a UCLA alumnus and member of the Recording Academy, sat backstage helping to produce what viewers saw on television.

From 2011 to 2013, Minor served as bandleader on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” He has also served as musical director for international tours by Whitney Houston, among others, and has helped to produce musical performances for the Super Bowl, the NAACP Image Awards and the Grammy Awards. The Daily Bruin talked with Minor about his thoughts on what it’s like to be a member of the Academy, recent changes in the awards show and how the landscape of the music industry is evolving.

Daily Bruin: When did you become a member of the Academy and what was it like when you joined?

Rickey Minor: I joined the musician’s union in 1979, and I probably joined the Academy around ’89. Back then, you needed credits to join, and when I had the proper amount of credits, I applied and I got in. I didn’t know what the Academy really stood for until I got in. 1982 was my first time performing at the show with Gladys Knight and the Grammy orchestra. In 1987, I put on Whitney Houston’s performance at the Grammys. After joining, I started getting involved more in the Academy. … I focused on education, outreach and working with the Grammy Museum to pursue its goals.

DB: Since becoming a member of the Academy, what sorts of changes have you noticed in the genres of music and artists nominated over the years?

RM: The Academy now recognizes all forms of music. Award categories have really changed over the years. For example, we went from best male pop artist and best female pop artist to now we have just best pop artist, because it should just be the best performer. The way music has changed, there is now a lot more collaborations where the hook and chorus of a song are sang by different people. In an effort to stay relevant, the show and the categories have to change with how music is changing.

DB: What does the Academy look for when they nominate and vote on artists and music?

RM: The Academy looks for excellence. Did the artist make an impact with their music? Did it resonate? Everyone has their favorites. People are going to vote for their favorite songs over others that might be better because they are their favorites.

DB: How do you personally balance popularity over perceived quality when you vote for the awards?

RM: There is so much content now, who has the time to listen to all of the nominees? With streaming, anyone can put out music pretty easily now. The problem though is that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. There is a lot of bad music released now – you know, poorly produced, poorly sung, just bad-sounding music. The popular music typically is going to be the music with better production, and so it is usually going to sound better. And again, no one can listen to everything that’s put out, and anyone who claims they’ve listened to all the music that’s nominated – I would want to put them to a lie detector test.

DB: How do you think the recent expansion of the General Field categories from five to eight nominees will affect the outcome of these categories?

RM: In general, the people are going to vote for who they vote for. When the votes are tallied, the majority will gravitate to who would have won anyways. They had to expand it. The numbers show it’s changing. The rise in the number of submissions is based on how much great work is being done today.

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Landon Goldberg
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