The Black Keys, Jay-Z, Kanye win early; Lecrae and Little Big Town win their first Grammys

LOS ANGELES – Considering the diversity of this year's lineup of nominees at the 55th Grammys, it seemed unlikely that any artist would accomplish the Adele-like sweep of last year.

Six artists – Mumford & Sons, Frank Ocean, fun., The Black Keys (including guitarist Dan Auerbach), Jay-Z and Kanye West – each scored six nods.

But the only ones resembling front-runners during the pre-telecast were Ohio’s The Black Keys, who grabbed awards for best rock song (“Lonely Boy”) and best rock album (“El Camino”), as well as one for the group’s Dan Auerbach for producer of the year (non-classical).

Jay-Z and West jumped to an early start, too, when their “N***** in Paris” claimed best rap performance and best rap song.

Heavily praised Drake nabbed best rap album for “Take Care,” besting peers including Nas, Rick Ross and Atlanta’s 2 Chainz, while Usher scored his eighth Grammy award.

During the three-hour pre-telecast, held at the Nokia Theatre, awards were presented in 70 of the 81 categories.

Rihanna, up for three awards, won her first of the night for best short form video for “We Found Love.”

While most of the top-name stars skip the pre-telecast, Taylor Swift, who was slated to open the Grammy Awards at the neighboring Staples Center with a mega-production number, was on hand to pick up the best song written for visual media trophy for “Safe & Sound,” her collaboration with the Civil Wars from “The Hunger Games” soundtrack.

Swift thanked Jennifer Lawrence for, “portraying a character who was so fun to write from the perspective of,” while the Civil Wars’ John Paul White joked, “It’s appropriate that Taylor thanked us because we’ve been carrying her for awhile and it gets tiring.”

The Civil Wars won two Grammys last year.

But, making their Grammy debut were Little Big Town, whose fun-loving “Pontoon” scored best country duo/group performance, their first win among five career nominations.

“When you’re in a category with Taylor Swift, often they’re not going to call your name,” joked the band’s Karen Fairchild – who spent many years in Marietta – backstage.

Atlanta’s Lecrae also won his first Grammy for best gospel album for his groundbreaking “Gravity.” However, the charismatic rapper missed accepting the award because he was detained on the red carpet.

Backstage, he attributed the success of the album to the fact that he’s “unashamedly truthful about my faith. I’m not misogynistic, I’m not killing anybody. I’m a Christian and I stand firm in my beliefs,” Lecrae said, clad in a spiffy white jacket with black lapels.

His plans for celebrating? “I’m gonna find (San Francisco 49ers quarterback) Colin Kaepernick. Colin, you’ve got my number. Call me!”

Atlanta-based songwriter Micah Massey won with Israel Houghton for “Your Presence is Heaven” (best contemporary Christian music song), beating Casting Crowns and Chris Tomlin in the process.

“You’ve been a friend and mentor in so many ways,” Massey told Houghton. “All glory goes to God for this (award).”

This was Massey's first nomination and Houghton's 17th nomination and fifth win.

Massey and Houghton tied in the category with Jonas Myrian and Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord),” which outpaced Casting Crowns in the best gospel/contemporary Christian music performance category.

Casting Crowns was also bested by TobyMac (performing in Atlanta tonight at Winter Jam) for best contemporary Christian music album).

Atlanta’s Steven Lance Ledbetter and Michael Graves, nominated for best historical album for “Opika Pende: Africa at 78 RPM,” lost to The Beach Boys’ “The Smile Sessions.”

Wilson was in attendance at the pre-telecast ceremony and accepted the award in typically blunt style.

“[Composer/songwriter] Van Dyke Parks and I knew we were head of our time when we made this so Capitol released it, and …good!” Wilson said, drawing laughs from the audience.

Later, Wilson said he doubts there will be another Beach Boys reunion and cited “California Girls” as his favorite Beach Boys song.

“Not ‘God Only Knows’?” someone inquired?

“That’s next,” Wilson said with a smile.

Grammy winners are determined by the 12,500 voting members of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. Eligible recordings were released between  Oct. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2012.

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