Unlike a few weeks later, when none of the Beatles would show up to accept their Oscar for best film score, at the 13th Grammy Awards — held March 16, 1971 — there was indeed a member of the Fab Four in the house. Way in the back of the house.
Presenting the award for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special was none other than a not necessarily sober John Wayne (who was pretty funny with Andy Williams in the intro to the award). Safe to say there was no Beatles connection.
In fact, the award wasn’t given to the Beatles at all, but to the individual composers.
How the other three Beatles — who lost the case Paul brought against them to formally split up the band four days earlier — reacted to the McCartneys taking their awards for an album he was so dismissive of would have been interesting to see, to put it mildly.
Paul kept his thanks as brief as they could be with a “thank you, good night.”
The awards show itself seemed like a fun watch.
Here’s a rundown, via Film Threat by way of the Internet Archive (update January 2018: It doesn’t look like this link works anymore, but it did back in 2012 when I first saw this).
Speaking of acceptance speeches, no one said anything beyond a mere thanks. Even the most dramatic audience response of the night, which accompanied the surprise appearance of Paul McCartney (with his wife Linda) to accept the Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special Award, was capped by McCartney saying a mere “Thank you!” before disappearing from the show. (Herb Alpert, a guest presenter, deviated from the script to offer a sincere word of praise for McCartney’s attendance at the broadcast.)
But for the rest of the show, “The 13th Annual Grammy Awards” was fascinating for its sheer strangeness. Some of the presenters were having a seriously off-night: Lynn Anderson was sporting a large chin brace (she never explained why, only joking that she was trying “to keep my chin up), Nancy Sinatra boasted of having the flu, John Wayne (who announced the award McCartney accepted) appeared to have indulged in a few too many drinks and was visibly bobbing and weaving, Brook Benton and Glen Campbell could not see the distant TelePrompter during their respective podium turns and needed Williams to help read the nominations out loud, and Zsa Zsa Gabor (introduced by Williams as being “beautiful and talented”) flustered co-presenter Bob Newhart (for the comedy recording award) by the ad-libbed suggestion he was fathering children out of wedlock.
The following is an excerpt from the “Variety” book entitled “The Grammy’s” by Thomas O’Neil….
“Bridge [may have] swept the top honours”, wrote the L.A. Times, “but it was ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, in a rare public appearance, who created the most excitement” at the ceremony. “Though the event was strictly black tie, McCartney strolled in wearing a blue suit, red flower shirt and open at the neck, and white tennis shoes.”
Like Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles broke up in 1970 but still had a bounty of nominations (six) for their farewell LP, Let It Be. They won only one award — for Best Original Score written for a Motion Picture or TV Special – after losing Record and Song of the Year nods (in a close contest, according to the Washington Post) to “Bridge.” But “there were shrieks of surprise” from the audience when the winner of the best film score was announced, the Times reported. “With Linda at his side, McCartney raced up to the podium to accept the award from actor John Wayne, saying only, ‘Thank you.'”
Variety columnist Army Archerd added, “Paul McCartney kept his word, returned to the press tent after the awards — and, as expected, had to plough his way thru a mob to reach his car with (expectant) wife Linda. McCartney, informally attired (would you believe sneakers?), admitted, ‘I didn’t know whether they’d let me in.'”
Interesting side note: During the presentation, Wayne said the nominees were John, Paul and George — and he in fact handed Paul three awards. But as history tells, Ringo should have also received some hardware.