( Reuters ) - Kanye West and Amy Winehouse, the two leading Grammy nominees and perhaps the night's most compelling storylines, were among the early winners Sunday, taking three and two trophies respectively in the pre-telecast ceremony.
West won best rap solo performance for "Stronger," best rap song for "Good Life" and best rap performance by a duo or group for his collaboration with Common on "Southside." Winehouse won best pop vocal album for "Back to Black" and best female pop vocal.Bruce Springsteen garnered three Grammys, including best rock song for "Radio Nowhere." Other early winners included the White Stripes, Justin Timberlake and Mary J. Blige, who both had two each; Carrie Underwood, the Foo Fighters, Herbie Hancock and even Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama for best spoken-word album.
Though the pre-telecast ceremony, where most of the Grammys' 110 categories are doled out, is usually low on star-wattage, there were several big names on hand to accept their Grammys, including Underwood, the Foos, and Brad Paisley.
"You couldn't keep me from actually getting this myself - it's not the same when someone else gets this on your behalf," said Underwood, who ran to the stage to accept her trophy for best female country vocal performance for her revenge anthem "Before He Cheats."
West was the night's leading nominee with eight nods: He has a history, good or bad, of creating memorable awards show moments. But Winehouse - who wasn't even able to attend - threatened to upstage him and everyone else on Grammy night.
The troubled singer-songwriter was up for six awards, including album of the year for "Back to Black." She was due to perform via satellite from her native Britain, where she is being treated in a rehabilitation center for substance abuse.
In the days leading up to the ceremony, suspense was building whether the 24-year-old, whose personal life has fallen apart over the past year as her career blossomed, would be at the ceremony in any form.
She was initially rejected for a U.S. work visa this week, but Grammy producers arranged for her to perform via telecast. Soon afterward, the U.S. government reversed itself and approved Winehouse, but it was too late in the week at that point to make the cross-continental trek.
The retro-soul singer's top-selling American debut is not only up for album of the year, but song and record of the year for her autobiographical, sassy hit "Rehab," about her refusal to undergo treatment. Though the album was a critical and commercial breakthrough for her, her personal troubles, which made regular tabloid headlines, threatened to overshadow her music.
In any other year, it would likely be West who would be the main story line going into Grammy week. He, too, is up for album of the year for "Graduation," the best-selling debut of last year with almost one million copies sold in the first week alone. This is West's third album and the third time he has been nominated for album of the year.
While he has won a handful of Grammys, they have been in the rap categories, where the bulk of his nominations are this year as well. West has provided stirring awards-show performances, but has also been known to go on a tirade when he has not won what he thought he deserved, perhaps most notably at last year's MTV Video Music Awards.
Late last year, he suffered a traumatic loss when his mother and manager Donda West died after complications from plastic surgery. West, whose mother was often with him at awards ceremonies, was expected to perform a song in tribute to her on Sunday's broadcast.
Besides West and Winehouse, the other album of the year contenders were the Foo Fighters' "Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace," Vince Gill's "These Days," and Herbie Hancock's "River: The Joni Letters."
For record of the year, Winehouse's "Rehab" is competing against Beyonce's "Irreplaceable," Rihanna's "Umbrella," "The Pretender" by the Foo Fighters and Justin Timberlake's "What Goes Around ... Comes Around."
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Grammys.