Billboard debuted its 'Hot 100' chart 62 years ago today, redefining music popularity: Here are the first top 10
At a time when radio stations were still resisting rock and roll music, Billboard cut to the heart of the youth and helped usher in a new way for songs to chart
The Billboard Hot 100, a weekly publication from Billboard magazine that reveals chart rankings of songs based on physical and digital sales, radio play, and online streaming, is widely regarded as the music industry's standard record chart in the United States. The chart premiered on August 4, 1958, bringing together previous charts for different genres under one unified metric, eventually discontinuing other charts such as the Best Sellers In Stores chart after the Hot 100 became the sole standard for measuring a song's popularity.
Before the Hot 100's eventual takeover, Billboard's Honor Roll of Hits, established in 1945, was the leading chart for assessing popularity, determining rankings based on record and sheet sales, disk jockey, and jukebox performances all determined by a weekly nationwide survey. By 1955, rock music was dominating the music scene, and Billboard had essentially helped develop a connection with younger audiences during a time when radio stations were still resistant to the idea of playing rock and roll music. Billboard published The Top 100 for the first time in 1955, bringing together sales, airplay, and jukebox activity for the first time and developing a new points system that gave more weight to sales than radio airplay, and paving the way for the Hot 100.
The last record to hit number one on the earlier charts was Pérez Prado's 'Patricia', which would later go on to chart again on the newly premiered Hot 100 during its first week. The first number-one song on the Billboard Hot 100, however, was Ricky Nelson's 'Poor Little Fool'. These were the first ten songs that featured in the list when Billboard Hot 100 debuted:
Ricky Nelson — 'Poor Little Fool'
Written by Sharon Sheeley and first recorded by Nelson in 1958, this rock and roll track was all the rage when it dropped. Sheeley, only 15 when she wrote the track, based it on her disappointment following her short-lived dalliance with Don Everly of The Everly Brothers. She was encouraged to pen the track after she met Elvis Presley, and it turned out to be the right decision since the song went on to peak at number 1 on August 4, remaining on the Hot 100 for 6 weeks. Interestingly enough, Sheeley knew she wanted Nelson on the track, and sought him out by faking her car breaking down in from of his house. When he came to her aid, she sprung the song on him, and, after he slowed the tempo down a bit, he recorded the hit track.
Pérez Prado — 'Patricia'
While 'Patricia' was a popular track on its own, it was the instrumental version from Prado's orchestra that turned out to be a bigger hit, ascending to number one on the Billboard Jockeys and Top 100 charts and peaking at number two on the Hot 100. Aside from being covered several times over and featured in everything from movies and television shows, including 'The Simpsons', to advertisements and beyond, Prado himself eventually released a new stereo recording of the song in 1960 and then re-recorded a twist version in 1962 that caused the song to chart once more in the US.
Bobby Darin — 'Splish Splash'
This novelty rock song was co-written by Bobby Darin along with DJ Murray the K after the latter took a bet that Darin would not be able to pen a song that began with the words "Splish Splash, I was takin' a bath", which were lyrics suggested by Murray's mother. Not only did Darin prove him wrong, but he also wrote a song that would go on to chart on the Hot 100, peaking at number 3.
The song also wound up being Darin's first hit, propelling his career, and placing him on the map. Darin would later claim in a 1967 interview with Pop Chronicles that he was so happy about finally having his first hit that it cleared his skin up.
Elvis Presley — 'Hard Headed Woman'
Naturally, the King of Rock and Roll also landed a spot on the first Hot 100, with his track 'Hard Headed Woman' peaking at number 4 during the first week. The American 12-bar blues song was penned by African-American songwriter Claude Demetrius and was recorded by Presley for the soundtrack to his 1958 motion picture, 'King Creole'. The song earned spots on several other charts as well and became the first rock and roll single to earn the RIAA designation of Gold Record.
Kalin Twins — 'When'
Penned by Jack Reardon and Paul Evans and originally published in 1958, this song's success came with the version recorded by The Kalin Twins. The song topped the UK Singles Chart for five weeks and landed at number 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100. It even charted in France, spending 18 weeks at number one, and the Netherlands, where it charted for 30 weeks and occupied the number one spot for 5 weeks.
Duane Eddy — 'Rebel 'Rouser'
This song was most notably featured in the 1994 movie 'Forrest Gump' starring Tom Hanks, but prior to that, the song was a hit single in 1958. A rock and roll instrumental track recorded by Eddy, the song appeared on his 'Have 'Twangy' Guitar Will Travel' album and charted at number 6 on the Hot 100, in addition to landing on other Billboard charts as well. While many have claimed the song's tune was based on 'When the Saints Go Marching In', Eddy himself shot down those claims and clarified that it was actually loosely inspired by an old folk song titled 'Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet' by Tennessee Ernie Ford.
The Coasters — 'Yakety Yak'
Written, produced, and arranged by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for the Coasters, 'Yakety Yak' would go on to be quite the hit, spending seven weeks at the top of the R&B charts in addition to landing the number one spot on the Top 100 pop list, before peaking at number seven on the Hot 100. This was one of a string of chart-topping singles from The Coasters between 1857 and 1959 that allowed them to dominate the charts and establish themselves as one of the biggest performing acts to emerge from the rock and roll era.
Jack Scott — 'My True Love'
Scott's 'My True Love' found its way onto the Billboard Hot 100 during its first week, but it hit its peak of number three a little later on August 18, going on to stay on the charts for a whole 6 weeks. The song eventually became Scott's first Gold Record. Additionally, 'Leroy', the B-side of the record, hit number 25 on the Hot 100 as well.
The Johnny Otis Show — 'Willie and the Hand Jive'
'Willie and the Hand Jive' was originally released as a single in 1958 by Otis, hitting number 9 on the Hot 100. Its Bo Diddley beat, partly inspired by music sung by a chain gang that Otis happened to hear while on tour, as well as its lyrics which centered around a man who found fame thanks to a dance he did with his hands, both contributed to the song's popularity. Some, however, thought the song was actually about masturbation, a claim Otis strongly denied.
Peggy Lee — 'Fever'
Originally penned by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell (under the pseudonym John Davenport), 'Fever' was recorded by American R&B singer Little Willie John for his 1956 debut album of the same name and released as a single the same year. The song topped the Billboard R&B Best Sellers and peaked at number 24 on the Billboard pop chart. Lee's version of the track, which included rewritten lyrics from Lee that were uncredited, would go on to be the most widely known, eventually becoming her signature song. It charted worldwide and was additionally nominated in three categories at the 1st Annual Grammy Awards in 1959. It spent three weeks on the Hot 100, peaking at number 8 on August 25.