GRAMMY SPOTLIGHT: “Godfather of Black Music” Clarence Avant to be honored at Clive Davis’ annual Pre-GRAMMY gala

The annual gala is the hottest ticket in town.

Clarence Avant
Getty Images

It’s GRAMMY week in Los Angeles and that means Tinseltown is flooded with the music industry’s biggest stars. While there are tons of events, concerts, and parties to get to, the hottest ticket in town is always Clive Davis‘ annual Pre-Grammy gala at the historic Beverly Hilton.

The super exclusive, star-studded event features a red carpet, cocktail hour, and sit-down dinner as well as special performances and a presentation to honor industry luminaries through the Recording Academy’s GRAMMY Salute To Industry Icons Award.

This year’s event will honor the “Godfather of Black Music,” Clarence Avant as the 2019  for his groundbreaking contributions to the music industry. Past recipients include Herb Alpert & Jerry Moss, Irving Azoff, Martin Bandier, Sir Richard Branson, Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter, Clive Davis, Ahmet Ertegun, David Geffen, Berry Gordy, Lucian Grainge, Debra L. Lee, Doug Morris, Mo Ostin, and Antonio “L.A.” Reid.

“We are incredibly excited to honor Clarence Avant with this year’s GRAMMY Salute to Industry Icons Award,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy. “His pioneering work in the industry has redefined what it means to be a leader and opened countless doors for musicians from all backgrounds.”

Known as the Godfather of Black Music, Clarence Avant is one of the most influential figures in the entertainment industry. Avant began his incredible career as a manager in Teddy P’s Lounge in Newark, New Jersey, during the 1950s, which led to him managing the careers of some of the most talented musicians during that time, including Sarah Vaughn, Freda Payne, Jimmy Smith, and Lalo Schifrin. Avant later worked at Venture Records and eventually started his own label, Sussex Records, which housed artists such as Bill Withers and guitarist Dennis Coffey. In 1976, he launched Tabu Productions, where artists such as the S.O.S Band, Alexander O’Neal, Cherrelle, and many more built their reputations. Avant continued on the artist management side as well, working with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Kenneth “Babyface Edmonds,” and L.A. Reid. With more than 50 years in the business, the esteemed entrepreneur has been celebrated in various publications and by respected industry insiders. He has also received many professional accolades and awards, including a Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award, an NAACP Image Awards Hall Of Fame Award, a BET Honors Entrepreneur Award, and many more. In 2008, the Recording Academy awarded Avant its Trustees Award.

“For several decades Clarence Avant has been the quintessential adviser to almost every successful African-American music executive and artist,” said Clive Davis, co-host of the Pre-GRAMMY Gala. “He defined the term master mentor and definitely has played a vital role in music history.”

GRAMMY SPOTLIGHT: First-time nominee, MAJOR. reveals the formula for the perfect love song

TheGrio caught up with the man behind the magic, Branden Chapman, Executive in Charge of Production & Chief Business Development Officer for the Recording Academy, to find out what goes in to pulling off this incredible event.

“Clive and I co-produce the event and we collaborate throughout the year. We talk about specific ones that are breaking through or an album that is being released and we will discuss creative ideas as early as summer and we really start discussing the show in late October or early November,” says Chapmen. “Unlike the Grammy Awards, this show is not dependent on nominations so we don’t have to wait for the nominees to be announced before we start planning the show. It is very labor intensive. Clive and I speak multiple times a day about booking the acts, selecting the songs they will be singing, and creating the rundown. There are many moving parts including the sit-down dinner, the cocktail reception, and the red carpet.”

Another thing that makes this event so exciting is the fact that the details remain under wraps until showtime.  

“One of my favorite things about working on this event and working with Clive Davis is that he has always made it an unwritten policy to not announce anything ahead of time. Not only is the anticipation one of the reasons this is the most exciting event for an artist to attend, but ultimately, everybody gets to witness the show at the same time without knowing who will be taking the stage next,” he explains. “We actually don’t talk about the menu, the special guests, or the artists that will be onstage. The only element that is really announced before the event begins is who our Industry Icon is.”

GRAMMY SPOTLIGHT: Courtney B. Vance on his Grammy nomination & road to EGOT (Exclusive)

While stars usually have their pick of events they can attend, only a select few nab an invite for the Pre-GRAMMY gala each year. 

“Aside from a few tables that we reserve for senior managers, our sponsors, and our board of trustees members, the entire guest list is curated and hand-picked by Clive Davis and his team,” says Chapman. “The year in music has some impact on who will be getting an invitation and he definitely has people he would love to invite year after year, but he takes great pride in curating the event. There aren’t many events where you may have someone like Nancy Pelosi sitting next to Fetty Wap.” 

TheGrio will be on deck at the Recording Academyand Clive Davis’ 2019 Pre-GRAMMY Gala on Saturday, February 9 and we can’t wait to die you all the details of what’s sure to be a memorable, music-filled night.