In One Studio, the Sound of Tinkling Grammys

THE top guns in this year's Grammy Awards include Sting, with six nominations; and Billy Joel and Whitney Houston, each with four. But nobody in the music world can hold a microphone to Ed Germano.

You've probably never heard of Mr. Germano, but he's collected 41 nominations - nearly triple the number of those of the top three artists combined - for tonight's presentation bash at Radio City Music Hall. And get this: He never played a note.

Germano runs The Hit Factory, a premier Manhattan recording facility. Songs that were recorded, mastered, or mixed there have collected this staggering number of nominations.

``We've just been very fortunate,'' Germano said recently, sitting in his office above West 54th Street and alongside the studios where artists from Stevie Wonder to the Rolling Stones make their music. ``I don't know of any other studio that's had 41.''

Three of the album-of-the-year nominations are Hit Factory products: ``Kamakiriad'' by Donald Fagen, ``The Bodyguard'' by Houston, and ``River of Dreams'' by Joel.

Two record-of-the-year nominees - Joel for the single ``River of Dreams'' and Houston for ``I Will Always Love You'' - are out of the Hit Factory.

It's not just veteran acts that seek out Germano's studio. Three new artist nominees - Toni Braxton, Digable Planets, and SWV - cut their teeth and their first albums in The Hit Factory.

Germano's first client was Wonder, who walked into the Hit Factory in 1975 and walked out with the brilliant ``Songs in the Key of Life.'' Good news travels fast in the music business, and The Hit Factory's reputation began to grow.

In the 19 years since, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, and Madonna - along with hundreds of acts from rap to rock to rhythm-and-blues - have worked in Germano's studio.

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