Mirabal won for best album in the Native American music category for "Johnny Whitehorse: Totemic Flute Chants," a CD he recorded to fulfill a recording contract with Boulder's Silver Wave Records.
"At the time, the record label didn't have the funds to support a large contemporary album with a full band," Mirabal said in a telephone interview from Taos.
"Out of frustration, I said, 'What do I need to do, change my name to Johnny Whitehorse?' "
The record company bought the ruse, even though they knew Whitehorse was Mirabal's nom de plume.
Grammy officials told Mirabal they lacked enough native membership for a contemporary category. In a letter to Mirabal manager Andrew Flack, senior awards director Bill Freimuth said the current description covers only recordings containing "substantial traditional elements."