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Billings Artworks :: Telluride Tech Festival Award

 success fail Apr APR Jul 23 2009 2010 2011 51 captures 18 Sep 2007 - 16 Jun 2018 About this capture COLLECTED BY Organization: Alexa Crawls Starting in 1996, Alexa Internet has been donating their crawl data to the Internet Archive. Flowing in every day, these data are added to the Wayback Machine after an embargo period. Collection: alexa_web_2010 this data is currently not publicly accessible. TIMESTAMPS Grammy Award The making of a Grammy Annie Award John Wooden Award Telluride Tech Festival NHRA Award Caring for your award The Convoy Duck

At the Grammy's

John and John Billings

John and Allison Krauss

John gets a smooch from Bonnie Raitt

Billings Artworks creates the Convoy Duck and many awards

About Billings Artworks

John Billings has many Grammys, but has won nary a one!

Sporting a mustache, soul patch and ponytail under his cowboy hat, the "Grammy Dude", as he's affectionately known around town, seems to work twenty-four hours a day. Fortunately it's work he loves, crafting awards presented for excellence in music recording and performing. A modest and unassuming man, in spite of all the glitz and glamour that surrounds the music industry, John starts his usual fourteen-hour days in his art and recording studio at 6:00 AM . He crafts the trophies himself with the help of his son "Little John", his brother Don, and longtime friend, Jim Spear .

With no time clock to punch John also manages to fit in where he can the production of CDs for local musicians Daryl Trehal ("Colorado Cowgirl") and Harry Harpoon ("Sorry I Missed You"), joining in himself on bass or drums. And, too, steals time away from his workshop to walk a short distance down to the Uncompaghre River , where fishing for supper offers a distinct change of pace - trout or salmon, worth the wandering away from work he loves but that never quite quits.

In the studio table after table overflows with pieces and parts as John and crew work to handcraft the miniature gramophones. The process, intricate and time consuming; each horn made from spun brass; each cabinet, tone arm and base cast from a custom alloy called grammium. After many hours of filing, grinding, buffing, polishing - and sweat, the awards receive their multi-layered finishing coats of black lacquer on the bases, and the eye-catching gold plating on the signature replica of the gramophone.

"We are not a factory. Here is where we put our hearts and souls into what we do", John says.

But business is business and corporate America is always in the market for a faster and cheaper way. Tradition doesn't matter much to the bottom-line bean counters, but to John this endeavor isn't about dollars. "We're still doing things the old way." Only the second individual in the Grammy's forty-nine years of existence to have the exclusive right to make a Grammy, John faithfully continues a hand-crafted tradition that is a source of deep meaning in his life.

In addition to the Grammy, Billings Artworks makes the "John Wooden Award" for the NCAA Player of the Year in collegiate basketball, and the "Annie Award", honoring the best in the world of animation.


John Billings grew up in Van Nuys , California , just two doors down from the original Grammy man and master mold-maker, Bob Graves. As Graves ' health was failing, he approached John with the proposition to become his apprentice, to in fact learn the art and craft for the purpose of passing on his trade. In 1976 John began that apprenticeship. After Bob's death in 1983 John purchased the "business" from Bob's widow, Mary. In 1991 John redesigned the original miniature (lead with brass plating on a walnut base - a rather fragile trophy), to what is now the stunningly eye-catching, world -renowned icon for the best in musical artistry. 2006 marks thirty years of Grammy making for John.

The trophies one sees on the television broadcast of the awards show are actually what are known as "stunt" Grammys. They are spit and polished year after year and sent out to the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for presentation during the show. But as the winners are not known until the opening of the envelopes, the winners' trophies remain in wait in John's studio. The brass plates are then engraved with names, category, and affixed to the bases, following which each Grammy is nestled into custom foam molds, boxed and hand-delivered to the Academy by John.

It's close to a two thousand mile round-trip. Stopping only for breakfast and a nap in Barstow at his sister's on his way out, he returns as soon as courteous and possible to Ridgway, where, rounding a bend in the road just north of the Ridgway Reservoir he catches his first view of the 14,000 foot peaks in the Sneffels' Range dead ahead - and in the telling says that sometimes he just wants to cry when he sees that sight.

"To be able to do something that honors people is so fulfilling. I don't need the spotlight. This comes from the heart." And to be able to return to the community of friends and family in a magical place on the planet is the reward for him that is obviously worth all the efforts he puts into the awards he spends his days working to perfect.

The tradition, the legacy in fact, will be handed down to his son, "Little John", just as Bob Graves handed it down to John. "Little John" has spent the better part of two decades as an apprentice and participant, starting with sitting in the shop watching John, to taking on the grueling task of casting molten metal, and finally to the repetitive but critical tedium of hand-work on all the parts. He brings to Billings Artworks the next generation of innovation and technology savvy, having already acquired a reverence for the continuity and tradition of excellence.

Perhaps it will pass on even once more to his grandson Jakob. John smiles thinking about the prospect.

Copyright 2006 | Billings Artworks | Ridgway, Colorado | 970.626.3860 |
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