Will Long-Overdue Grammys Come Their Way at Last?

"I'll be an old troubadour when I'm gone," George Strait sings on "Troubadour." But will he be old and Grammy-less? The "king of country" and overdue veterans AC/DC, Judas Priest, James Moody, Rush and Neil Young are all in the running to score their first Grammy on Feb. 8. USA TODAY's Edna Gundersen takes stock with handicap assists from Grammy prognosticator Paul Grein, Yahoo's Chart Watch columnist.


Why they're overdue: The Aussie band, formed in 1973, is among heavy metal's most revered acts — admired by critics, worshiped by fans and slavishly imitated by countless copycats. Since Nielsen SoundScan began tabulating sales in 1991, AC/DC has sold 29.3 million albums, eclipsed only by The Beatles. Their latest, "Black Ice," a Wal-Mart exclusive, has sold nearly 2 million copies since its October release.

Win or lose? "Everyone knows AC/DC had a big comeback this year, but I don't see how they can get past Coldplay and Radiohead, who are both up for album of the year," Grein says.

Overlooked: Grammy should have recognized 1976's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," 1979's "Highway to Hell" and 1980's "Back in Black," still among the most potent weapons in metal's vast arsenal.

Judas Priest

Why they're overdue: Knocking around since 1969, the band brought British heavy metal to prominence in the '70s, popularized the twin-guitar attack and inspired speedier strains of the genre while building a solid fan base that survived trends from disco to hair bands.

Win or lose? Priest's only shot is in hard rock. "There's no front-runner and no laggards," Grein says. They're unlikely to beat Metallica, "the Grammy-approved metal act."

Overlooked: 1979's "Hell Bent for Leather," a punishing cyclone of vocal aggression and guitar mayhem, and 1980's "British Steel," a more accessible, precision attack, mark the peak of Priest's powers. Both enjoyed critical and commercial success while shaping a new generation of headbanger titans that included Metallica.

James Moody

Why he's overdue: Sax and flute master James Moody has been a revered jazz fixture for 60 years, starting with his 1949 recording of I'm in the Mood for Love. He made marks in genres from be-bop to big band, whether in collaboration with Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Lionel Hampton or as an agile bandleader.

Win or lose?: The fact that Moody and Terence Blanchard are up for solos on the same track "has got to hurt both their chances," Grein says. "Pat Metheny or Gary Burton and Chick Corea are the strongest here."

Overlooked: On 1972's "Never Again," Moody sticks to tenor sax and swings hard with a crack band on such sublime tracks as "St. Thomas" and "Freedom Jazz Dance." He plays sax and flute superbly on 1963's "Great Day," a collection of standards and accessible originals.


Why they're overdue: While not a favorite of critics, the Canadian power trio impressed legions of fans and peers with its virtuosic musicianship and heady prog-rock arrangements. With little radio support, Rush racked up tall sales and handsome box-office receipts.

Win or lose?: "I wouldn't bet against Metallica," Grein says, noting that Nine Inch Nails, who twice won in metal, is a lesser threat, along with Dweezil Zappa, whose dad collected two trophies. "That dooms Rush. I don't see how the band can beat those three."

Overlooked:"Tom Sawyer" from 1981's "Moving Pictures," remains inescapable on classic rock radio. "Freewill" is the highlight of 1980's colossus "Permanent Waves." And 1982's adventurous "Signals" found the band moving from sci-fi to the scarier themes of real life.

George Strait

Why he's overdue: Strait's rise in the '80s resurrected traditional country and honky-tonk, seeding a new generation. He's amassed a staggering number of hits, holding the record for the most No. 1s on Billboard's hot country songs chart. With 37 gold, 32 platinum and 13 multiplatinum albums, he's the 11th top-selling artist of all time.

Win or lose?: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss will crush his duet shots, but Strait is a shoo-in for country album. "It was a No. 1 pop album," Grein says. Strait also may take country vocal, "though Brad Paisley is at the peak of his career."

Overlooked: 1982's "Strait From the Heart" sums up his strengths in slow-burning two-steps, honky-tonk tunes and barrelhouse struts. The pure country of 1989's "Beyond the Blue Neon" underscored his virtuosity.

Neil Young

Why he's overdue: He has been a consistent influence and force in music since he burst to prominence with Buffalo Springfield in the mid-'60s. Prolific, restless, inventive and fearlessly independent, Young roamed from rock and folk to rockabilly, country and electronica while waves of fresh recruits followed him down each new trail.

Win or lose?: Though he's ripe for a makeup win, Young will lose to the beloved ex-Beatle, "who's doing a song every voter knows," Grein says. "John Mayer is a Grammy magnet, and Springsteen is always popular."

Overlooked: His deep catalog of classic hits and idiosyncratic wonders includes 1969's guitar-saturated "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere," 1972's emotional "Harvest," 1979's bold "Rust Never Sleeps," 1989's seething "Freedom" and 1990's uplifting "Ragged Glory."