Krauss, others with C-U ties up for Grammys

Krauss, others with C-U ties up for Grammys

Year after year Champaign native/bluegrass superstar Alison Krauss snags a Grammy Award nomination – and she usually wins.

Among female musical artists, she ranks No. 1 at Grammy wins; among all musical artists, No. 3. She has 26 of them altogether, winning as a solo artist, producer or collaborator with Union Station.

It's beyond time for Champaign to name a street after this out-of-this-world talent.

This time around her Grammy nomination is in the category of best classical crossover album for Yo-Yo Ma's "Songs of Joy and Peace."

On the holiday album the world's most famous cellist collaborates with some of the world's most famous musicians, among them Krauss, soprano Renee Fleming and jazz vocalist Diana Krall.

This column, though, is about others with C-U ties who are up for Grammy Awards, which will be handed out on Jan. 31.

Champaign resident Nathan Gunn, our beloved man in tights, is up for a Grammy for best opera recording for "Britten: Billy Budd." On it Gunn sings the title role, his signature one.

If "Britten: Billy Budd" wins, Grammy statuettes would go to the conductor, album producers and principal soloists, chief among them Gunn, also a father of five and University of Illinois voice professor.

This is the first time he's received a Grammy nod for an opera recording. He sang on an early Robert Shaw album that won a Grammy, in 1996.

I caught up with Gunn by phone on Thursday; he was with his 7-year-old son, Nicholas, in Los Angeles, where Nathan is performing as Figaro in the Los Angeles Opera production of "Barber of Seville." (An Opera News critic called Gunn the audience favorite and wrote that he brings to the role "unmistakable star power.")

On Thursday, Gunn spoke with me while having hamburgers at a burger joint in L.A. after having just played golf with Nicholas.

"I beat Dad," the younger Gunn said in the background.

Nathan Gunn hasn't decided yet whether he will attend the Grammy ceremony. He will be singing in New York at the time.

"We'll see," he said. "I think we have a pretty good chance, though. I think it's a great recording. We'll keep our fingers crossed."

In the Grammys' more obscure category of best historical album, as well as of best album liner notes, one of the nominees is "Sophie Tucker: Origins of the Red Hot Mama, 1910-1922," a compilation produced by Champaign-based Archeophone Records.

Archeophone, owned by Meagan Hennessey and Richard Martin, has released 47 CDs of early sound recordings, digitally transferring the music from wax cylinders and 78 r.p.m. discs. So far Archeophone has received four Grammy nominations for best historical album and best liner notes. Its release, "Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1891-1922," won in 2006 for best historical album.

Also up for a 2010 Grammy nomination, for arranging the title track on jazz vocalist Kurt Elling's eighth Grammy-nominated album, "Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman," is Urbana native and jazz pianist Laurence Hobgood. This is his second Grammy nod for arranging.

Gunn told me he wished more people in C-U were aware of all the talent here.

"For such a small community it's amazing," he said.

Readers, let me know whether I left out of this 2010 Grammy nomination wrap-up others with C-U ties.

Pilot picked up

CBS recently purchased a half-hour comedy pilot, "Mike and Molly," written by Mark Roberts, who grew up in Urbana and Tolono. Roberts and Chuck Lorre are its executive producers.

As of my deadline, Roberts hadn't replied to my e-mail asking whether the title was inspired by the downtown Champaign bar, Mike 'N Molly's. But we assume it is.

One entertainment outlet described the pilot as "a multi-camera laffer about a couple who have difficulties with overeating." The two meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting.

Sounds like a Roberts premise!

Lorre and Roberts also are behind the CBS hit comedy series, "Two and a Half Men." Roberts' own plays have premiered at Station Theatre in Urbana and recently his "Rantoul and Die" was produced at Lillian Theatre in Hollywood.

In the movies

Former Champaign resident Caroline O'Neill appears in several scenes as a flower girl in the new George Clooney Golden Globe-nominated movie, "Up in the Air."

Last year O'Neill, now 10, made an impressive turn as a key character in The Builders' Association's "Continuous City," which had its world premiere at Krannert Center. She also traveled with that show. Caroline and her parents, Brent and Tammi, now live in Edwardsville.

You can reach News-Gazette staff writer Melissa Merli at 351-5367 or via e-mail at