little ol' me at the grammys!!!!

I'm not a big, big follower of awards shows. I know the Academy Awards (Oscars) are all about movies. The Tony Awards recognize Broadway's best. The Emmy's reward TV and big screen achievement, and the Grammy's are handed to those who contribute to the huge, huge, huge world of music in every conceivable style and approach (as versus the CMA's - country music, the Dove Awards - Christian music, the BGMAs - bluegrass music, etc.).

It's not my habit to spend a lot of time watching or guessing who's gonna get the trophy at the awards shows. I have friends who wait to see who wins before they load their Itunes. I tend to buy what I enjoy most. Sometimes and often that includes the "losers."

Beyond the southern gospel music industry's several presentations I've been a part of, I'd never really had much award show experience. I remember being really impressed several years ago when I sat in on the Gospel Music Association's Dove Awards show in Nashville. They did it like the big guys. The sets were slick and everyone stayed pretty much with the script. I was really fascinated with the quick set changes and all of the other distracting things that go on just out of camera range. So this is what happens at a real awards show...

I recently got back from Los Angeles. I went out for the Grammy Awards. It was an enjoyable trip, and a remarkable experience. I'm certainly not used to the star treatment. Of course, even the biggest sensation in Lexington, Kentucky feels like a c-lister in a town like LA where the has beens are huge stars compared to someone like me. But it was fun being recognized so far away from the environment I'm known in.

As soon as I landed at LAX a car arrived to pick me up. My luggage was carried into the downtown hotel where the hospitality manager met me at the door. "Mr. Bishop, we are honored to have you stay with us while you are in Los Angeles." Wonder how he knew my name? "And, by the way, congratulations on your Grammy nomination." He was good. I was feeling famous.

I was rushed past others who were probably standing in that check-in line when my plane touched down an hour ago. It was then announced that my room had been upgraded to the private top floor where I would be "more secure." Who did they think I was? The room was gorgeous, but much more than I needed. And the huge fruit/cheese/crackers/jellies/biscotti and other stuff I'm not sure of basket kept me busy for what could have been hours. Governor Fletcher of Kentucky sent his congratulations. I was honored he was so thoughtful. Governor Schwarzenegger of California also sent a message. Maybe he sent one to everyone who was up for an award.

My friend Amy and I, along with folks from my record company, did what tourists do in southern California. We window shopped on Sunset Boulevard and Rodeo Drive. We went searching for stars. We visited famous Hollywood landmarks, took lots of pictures and tried to guess how much Botox was walking in and out of these stores. Then there was the Grammys...

I've seen the red carpets on TV. It looks pretty crazy. Microphones everywhere and cameras following the stars. People are yelling. Handlers are shunning some red carpet reporters and rewarding others. The highest bidder usually gets the longest interview. There's politics and money in everything.

When I've seen these things from my couch at home I've often wondered why the celebrities are always surrounded by so many people. It was while we were in our ride on our way to the arena that I realized I was surrounded by my own little entourage. Besides Amy and I, we were joined by a handful of folks from my record company. It really did make for a respectable looking celebrity's entourage. When it was our turn to pull up to the carpet I was told that I needed to wait until everyone else got out of the car. Then I would emerge - from the passenger side please - and smile at the cameras.

Once out of the car and on the carpet, the fine folks at the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences assigned us a handler. This would be our navigator of all things red carpet. The handler does not speak to me. Even though I can hear every word she says, the handlers speaks to the publicists who speak to the artists. Seems like a prime opportunity for something to get mis-communicated, but I suppose some celebrities don't like being talked to by the rank-and-file. My handler seemed very sweet. I wish I could've chatted with her.

The carpet was a lot bigger than I expected. It was all under a very long enclosed tent. It was pretty warn in southern California that day, and a controlled environment is important on live TV. We stopped along the way and talked to red carpet correspondents from several of the big celebrity gossip shows and magazines. We spotted several other nominees and had a hard time not acting like star-spotters. (You know, poking each other then pointing, "Look! It's Justin!")

The still photographer's area was the most surreal experience of the day. I was separated from my group and told, through my publicist of course, to stand on a piece of tape that indicated a toe-mark. "Just stand there and smile," she said. There were dozens and dozens of photographers all shouting my name. They were all trying to get the "face-on" shot. Those are worth more money. After about a minute and a half on that piece of tape I was moved down about ten feet to do it again, then again. The flashes were dizzying. The photographers were loud. Maybe the big time stars get used to it. I nearly felt accosted. But wow, it was cool!

The rest of the day was fun and crazy. We saw a really, really cool show in $500 a ticket seats. We mingled among some of today's most recognizable faces and voices. I had a surreal conversation with Tony Bennett, then a discombobulated one with Patrick Swayze. We watched as hundreds of celebrity assistants rushed into the big arena during the commercial breaks to "accommodate" their bosses, then completely disappear when the cameras came back on. They were like ants on a hill.

Being nominated for a Grammy was a real honor for me. The Dove awards and southern gospel music awards my family and I enjoyed through the years were beautiful reminders that our words and melodies are a blessing to others. That's the ultimate sense of ministerial satisfaction. The very unexpected Grammy nomination that came with this last, my first, solo recording was a very satisfying gesture that has encouraged me to give time to my craft, and not be satisfied with anything less than my best attempts to write and perform the best art I can.

By the way, Randy Travis won my Grammy.