Usher got the 47th GRAMMYS off to a great start by picking up three awards before the show officially started.

The hip-hop hunk was still making his way up the red carpet at the Staples Center in Los Angeles when he heard he was a triple winner.

Usher claimed the Best R+B Contemporary Album (CONFESSIONS), Best R+B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals (MY BOO) and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (Yeah?!) when the pre-awards got underway three hours before the start of the show.

America's Grammy bosses at the Recording Academy decided to kick the award announcements off early in a bid to get through some of the 107 prizes on offer.

Usher wasn't the only early winner - Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Jay-Z, U2 and Ray Charles were also among the first honourees.

Rapper West, who led the pack with 10 Grammy nominations, was one of the first big winners when his JESUS WALKS track claimed the Best Rap Song.

Like her My Boo collaborator Usher, Keys was a triple winner - she claimed Best R+B Song (YOU DON'T KNOW MY NAME), Best Female R+B Performance (IF I AIN'T GOT YOU) and Best R+B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals (My Boo).

Meanwhile, retired rapper JAY-Z was celebrating at the first Grammys he's ever attended by picking up the Best Rap Solo Performance prize for 99 PROBLEMS.

Late great Ray Charles was also a big early winner - his posthumously released duets album, GENIUS LOVES COMPANY, which was nominated for seven Grammys, picked up its first awards of the night for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical and Best Surround Sound Album.

Then, his Gladys Knight duet, HEAVEN HELP US, picked up the Best Gospel Performance award. Charles also won the award for Best Pop Vocal Collaboration for HERE WE GO AGAIN, his duet with Norah Jones.

Other early winners included the Black Eyed Peas (Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group for LET'S GET IT STARTED), Norah Jones (Best Female Performance for Sunrise), John Mayer (Best Male Performance for DAUGHTERS).

U2 were also pre-show winners - their Vertigo hit earned them an early video prize in the Best Short Form Music Video category.

14/02/2005 02:41