The band Living Colour was presented the first award for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1990. From 1992 to 1994 the award was presented as the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocal. As of 2011, the bands Foo Fighters, Living Colour, and The Smashing Pumpkins share the record for the most wins, with two each. American artists have been presented with the award more than any other nationality, though it has been presented to musicians or groups originating from Australia twice and from the United Kingdom once. Alice in Chains holds the record for the most nominations without a win, with eight.
The award was discontinued in 2012 due to a major overhaul of Grammy categories. After 2012, quality hard rock performances were shifted to the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance category. However, in 2014, the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance category was split, returning the stand-alone Best Metal Performance category and recognizing quality hard rock performances in the Best Rock Performance category. According to the Recording Academy, "It was determined that metal has a very distinctive sound, and hard rock more closely aligns with rock and can exist comfortably as one end of the rock spectrum."