Grammy Awards: The Westport Connections

When Billie Eilish swept the top honors at last night’s Grammy Awards, Westporters — at least, those who are close readers of “06880” — felt a bit of pride.

As reported here in October, the entertainer — whose full name is Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell — lives in LA, with her brother Finneas, and her parents.

But she has local ties. Her father. Patrick O’Connell, grew up at the top of Compo Hill. A 1975 Staples High School graduate, he was an active member of Staples Players.

Billie Eilish and her father, Patrick O’Connell.

Billie won Grammys for Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, Record of the Year and Song of the Year, and was named Best New Artist. She was nominated for — but did not win — Best Pop Solo Performance.

Finneas earned a Grammy as Producer of the Year, Non-Classical. He worked on 10 albums, including his sister’s “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”

They’re not the only winners with a Westport connection. Ranky Tanky — who celebrate the Gullah slave culture that still lives in South Carolina, combining spirituals, poems, children’s songs and lullabies with fresh, jazz-inflected music — won Best Regional Roots Music Album. for “Good Time.”

Ranky Tanky were among the first artists signed by Steve Ruchefsky and Rondi Charleston’s Resilience Music Alliance. Based in Westport, the label empowers musicians who explore, challenge and celebrate the human condition of (you guessed it) resilience.

In 2018, Ranky Tanky played to a packed audience at the Levitt Pavilion.

At the Spoleto Music Festival, Steve Ruchefsky and Rondi Charleston presented Ranky Tanky with plaques commemorating the #1 performance of the first release on the Westporters’ label, Resilience Music Alliance.

In addition there were 2 Westport-ish nominees for Best Children’s Album, though neither won. Daniel Tashian (“I Love Rainy Days”) is the son of Barry and Holly Tashian. He fronted the legendary rock band the Remains; she was a noted singer herself. The couple now live, record and write in Nashville, where Daniel grew up.

Kaitlin McGaw (“The Love”) is part of Alphabet Rockers, which “empowers kids with hip-hop.” Her grandparents are Westporters Ed and Kay See.

Interestingly, the O’Connell, Tashian and See families families all lived on Compo Hill. There must be something in the (Old Mill) water.

Here’s one more local connection to the Grammys — though it’s a stretch.

“Oklahoma!” was nominated for Best Musical Theater Album. The composer lived for many years on Hulls Farm Road in Fairfield, just over the line from Westport’s Long Lots Road.

His name: Richard Rodgers.

I’m sure I missed at least one other Westport tie to last night’s Grammys.

Click here for the full list. If you find someone in any category — jazz, blues, bluegrass, folk, reggae, Christian music, whatever — let us know in the “Comments” below.

15 responses to “Grammy Awards: The Westport Connections

  1. Would Patrick O’Connell be the younger brother of “Jamie” O’Connell? Yes, Compo Hill was quite the hotbed of talent. Add Pamela Sue Martin as one who grew up there as well.

    • are you the bill stay who adopted one of my puppies in 1959

      • May have been…especially if the puppy in question was a mutt which was probably a mix between a golden retriever and spaniel of some kind. We called her “Bridgett.” We lived on Hillspoint Road across the street from what everyone now calls Schlalet’s (sp?) point and “dead man’s curve.” Our family was part of that wonderful mix of people who lived near the beach on Compo Hill, Bluewater Hill, Old Mill, Compo, etc. Great place to grow up!

  2. Yes. Jamie was the oldest; then Andy; Patrick’s the youngest.

  3. Charles Taylor

    I was lucky enough to have Daniel and Barry Tashian on my first record Once Upon ATime in 2003!

  4. Pam was definitely at Coleytown El in my grade (and I think at least part of our Coleytown Jr High years as well). I believe she then lived on or right by Burnham Hill Rd (so, yes, the Compo Hill area at that point).

    • Fred, Pam was Long Lots Junior High all the way!

      • I do know for sure that Pam was in our 6th grade graduation photo from Coleytown El. I have vague recollections of her being around for at least part of junior high but I suppose that could be from memories of Pam perhaps having come to a school dance, bar mitzvah, etc because of ongoing friendships with some Coleytown kids while having moved over to Long Lots.

        In any case, on a related note, Pam has written a fascinating memoir (unpublished as far as I know) that I had the privilege of reading the manuscript of a little while back. If there are any “06880” readers who are literary agents or work for publishers and are looking for a distinctive memoir, you should check it out.

  5. I was waiting for you to say that Lll Nas X won best Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for a song originally called:

    Old Compo Hill Road

  6. Mike Stroetzel

    Hi Dan,
    Mike Stroetzel from the Staples Class of 1970. You may or may not remember me….I played soccer for Staples but was better known as the starter at 2nd base with the baseball team.
    So as for Westport ties to last nights Grammys you may have missed…here is one. My son Joel is in a Metal Band called Killswitch Engage. They formed in 1999 and began practicing at our house shortly thereafter. By 2005 they were nominated for their first Grammy. In 2014 for their second. My wife Debby and I attended them both and and unfortunately they lost both….the last to Ozzy Osbourne. Last night was their third nomination, and for the first time we chose not to travel to LA, but we still had high hopes. They did not win, but we are so proud of the fact that they have been nominated three times. Killswitch changed the face of this genre and have been around the world many many times with names like Iron Maiden, Korn, Disturbed… soundtracks such as Resident Evil, Freddie vs. Jason, songs for the WWE, NASCAR, video games and more. Twenty years and still going strong. Check them out…..Killswitch Engage.

    Enjoy your posts….

    Mike Stroetzel

  7. Lewis Grossman

    If we’re offering attenuated Westport-Grammy connections based on Oklahoma!, don’t forget that Westport’s Bambi Linn danced the “dream ballet” sequence in the movie version of the musical.