Joel Whitburn’s Passion
Joel Whitburn founded his company “Record Research” in 1970. The focus of the project initially was primarily the U.S. record charts, as produced by Billboard. Whitburn’s project has expanded over the years to an almost unimaginable collection of charts guides, which numbers over 200 publications with about 50 of those being currently in print and offered in his current catalog.
I have no idea where Whitburn could possibly find the time, even with a team of researchers, to put together this massive amount of information. It seems he is always on the prowl to dig deeper into the charting of American music.
And to top those efforts off – Whitburn is a world-class collector of vinyl – The following is from his web site:
“Whitburn is an avid collector of phonograph records, with one of the world’s largest collections in his underground vault. His collection includes a copy of nearly every 78-rpm record, 45-rpm single, LP, and compact disc to reach the Billboard charts.”
I have watched a video documentary about the Whitburn project, taking the viewer inside his vaults. You have to see it to believe it.
Following is a basic breakdown of the history of the American charts as presented by Joel Whitburn. The charts never seem to stand still, always evolving in an effort to keep up with the recording market place. It all started off so simply (sort of) with the tracking of sheet music sales, followed by vinyl juke box plays, then store sales and radio plays – but it did not stay simple for long:
The Billboard Pop Charts
A very early chart appearing in the January 34rd, 1942 edition of Billboard
These are among the Billboard Chart listings as of January 1st, 1944 – Notice that “The Harlem Hit Parade” is shown here – a predecessor to the “Race Records” tabulations.
Here is the appearance of the “Honor Roll of Hits” (and other charts) as of June 12th, 1948 in Billboard:
Billboard January 1st, 1955 (with some example music ads – Georgia Gibbs)
Billboard July 16th, 1955 – “Coming Up Strong” Charts
October of 1958 witnessed the arrival of the “Hot 100” charts
Here is the “Hot 100” as it evolved in October of 1958
.This May 1967 “Hot 100” chart reflects a long running classic style for Billboard
Billboard March 24th, 1956 “Best Selling Pop Albums”
Billboard May 25th, 1959 “Top LP’s – Best Selling Monophonic LP’s” & “Best Selling Stereophonic LP’s”
Billboard “Top LP’s” November 25th, 1967 – 200 Positions
“The Billboard 200” 1992 Long Play Charts
The “Race” Billboard Charts
“Race” records was the jargon applied to 78 rpm records and first came into use in the 1920’s. Billboard started using the term in the 1940’s after featuring “The Harlem Hit Parade”. Reportedly, industry journalist Jerry Wexler, who became a force and producer for the Atlantic record family, changed the reference to “rhythm and blues” in about 1949 based on the sensitivity he was intercepting from the black populace. In 1969 a transition to “soul” was accomplished and in 1990 references to “hip hop” were in place.
“Harlem Hit Parade” in Billboard, October 24th, 1942 along with featured artist ads in that edition. R&B performers seldom had advertising taken out in those early days. The “Benny Carter” ad was an exception at the time.
It was February of 1948 and Billboard was now using “Race” in their chart nomenclature. Two examples of issue ads here “Jonnie Johnston, Blue Barron as well as Abbott and Costello.
It is now June of 1949, with Billboard making a switch to “Rhythm ‘n’ Blues” (“Best-Selling” and “Most Played” charts illustrated). Dorothy Carless along with Homer & Jethro and June Carter ads presented.
The year is 1965 (January 1st, 1965) and Billboard is featuring a 40 position “Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles” chart. (Johnny Tillotson & Johnny Nash ads featured).
By July of 1973, Billboard was featuring a full-100 position “Hot Soul Singles” chart. (Smokey Robinson & Isaac Hayes ads featured)
Now in June of 1982, Billboard is featuring the 100 position “Black Singles” chart (Ray Parker Jr., and Cheryl Lynn/Luther Vandross).
And finally in April of 2005 we have the “R&B/Hip Hop” charts (Latin Rap and Toni Braxton featured in ads)
Billboard “Top Selling R&B LP’s” May, 13th, 1967
The Billboard “Folk” and “Country” Charts
The earliest country tracks were referred to as “Folk Records” in this 1944 Billboard chart (Tommy Dorsey, Erskine Hawkins and Smiley Burnette trade ads illustrated)
In the 1956 Billboard had established “C&W” headings for the country charts (Gene Krupa and Billy Ward/Dominos trade ads appearing in this June 30th issue)
In this Billboard October 15th, 1966 charts we have 75 “Hot Country Singles” shown (Key Talent artists shown along with Merle Hagard and Kenny Vernon)
And we have the 100 position “Hot Country Singles” in 1973 (Little David Wilkins and the group Climax illustrated in trade ads)
Billboard “Hot Country Albums” – May 16th, 1964
Specialty Billboard Charts
Billboard 1976 – “Easy Listening Chart”
Billboard Hot 100 Sales & Airplay – 1984 Charts
Billboard Top 40 Radio Monitor & Top 40 Radio Recurrent Monitor 1991 Charts
Billboard “Top Adult Alternative” with “New Age Albums” and “World Music Albums” Charts
Billboard “Album Rock Tracks” and “Modern Rock Tracks” Charts 1993
Billboard “Christian/Gospel” Charts
Billboard “Dance” Charts
Billboard “Digital Songs” Charts
Billboard “Launch Pad Heatseekers” Charts
Billboard Hits of the U.K. Charts
Billboard “Hits of the World” Charts
Billboard “Jazz/Classical/World” Charts
Billboard “Latin” Charts
Billboard “Pop/Adult/Rock” Charts
Billboard “Social/Streaming” Charts
Billboard started featuring holiday songs apart from the regular charts as illustrated on this December 21st, 1963 “Christmas Records” chart displaying singles and long plays