If Stevie Wonder couldn't say "thank you" from Africa because of a satellite short circuit, he still made his presence felt by taking four big ones at the recording industry's 19th annual Grammy awards ceremony.

After a year's absence, the blind singer-composer was back to pick up where he left off on Saturday night's two-hour telecast on CBS. His "Songs in the Key of Life" won as the best album of the year. Wonder also took the album prize in 1974 and 1975 and didn't win last year - he didn't have an entry.

Three other miniature golden gramophones went to Wonder for best perfomance by a male pop singer, best performance by a rhythm and blues male singer, and best producer.

The 26-year-old singer, who is on tour in Africa, was to have appeared over a satellite television hookup from Lagos, Nigeria, during the award ceremonies at the Hollywood Palladium. But all that came through was blurry picture with no sound.

Best record of the year went to George Benson, the jazz guitarist, for "This Masquerade." Songwriter Bruce Johnston, a former Beach Boy, won the Grammy song-of-the-year award for his "I Write the Songs."

If Wonder couldn't be heard from Africa, Linda Ronstadt spoke up after she won her secone Grammy as this year's best female pop singer for "Hasten Down the Wind."

"Competition is for race horses, not artists," she said after the ceremonies, showing that she knows her George Bernard Shaw quotations. ". . . It doesn't mean I'm the best. It just means I won."

A different reaction came from Benson, the 30-year-old jazz guitarist, who not only won his first Grammy but then added three others.

"Frantastic, that's the word." he said after receiving Grammy statuettes for record-of-the-year, best pop instrumental for "Breezin'," best rhythm and blues instrumental for "Theme From Good King Bad," and best-engineered recording.

Another top winner was Natalie Cole, daughter of the late Nat King Cole, whose recording of "Sophisticated Lady" was chosen as the best rhythm and blues female performance.

Not everyone can win, and it was only disappointment for Peter Frampton, the young British rock star, who had hopes for his album, "Frampton Comes Alive." He can console himself that he was chosen most popular male star by the recording industry's magazines last year.

Emmylou Harris, a local performer made good, won the best country female vocal performance with "Elite Hotel." And Washington's Starlend Vocal Band won the award for best new artist(s) of the year.

Ella Fitzgerald, at 59. won her eighth Grammy when she took the best jazz vocal performance. And, after 19 nominations without a win. Chicago won three statuettes, including one for best pop group.

The Grammies, vote on by 4,000 members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, covers everything from pop music to classical recordings to film musical scores.