Remember these #1 songs?

Jul 1950Mona LisaNat "King" Cole
Dec 1950The Tennessee WaltzPatti Page
Apr 1951How High The MoonLes Paul and Mary Ford
Nov 1951Cold, Cold HeartTony Bennett
Mar 1952Wheel of FortuneKay Starr
Dec 1952I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa ClausJimmy Boyd
Jan 1953Don't Let the Stars Get in Your EyesPerry Como
Nov 1953Rags to RichesTony Bennett
Feb 1954Secret LoveDoris Day
Aug 1954Sh-BoomThe Crew-Cuts
Sep 1955The Yellow Rose of TexasMitch Miller
Nov 1955Sixteen TonsTennessee Ernie Ford

Billboard magazine has been the bible of the music industry since the first charts were published in 1951. In the beginning, songs were rated by retail sales, in what was then the heyday of vinyl. 78 rpm disks, made of a brittle material and covered in shellac, were still being sold, but quickly becoming less popular.

The origins of Billboard go back to 1894 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Titled Billboard Advertising, the trade publication was published for the bill posting industry. Over the years, The Billboard included coverage of the amusement business, movies, radio, television, and of course, the music business.

Charting the Music Industry

The Billboard’s 10th anniversary issue cover.

With the development of the jukebox industry during the 1930s, The Billboard began publishing music charts. Originally, there were only three genre-specific charts: Pop, Rhythm & Blues, and Country & Western.

Billboard, published its first music hit parade on January 4, 1936; its first record chart was calculated on July 20, 1940. Billboard first published weekly music charts in 1940, there were sales charts and there were airplay charts. These separate charts became the “Hot 100” on  August 4, 1958.

Before the Billboard Hot 100 chart was established in August 1958, Billboard used to publish several weekly charts. Throughout most of the 1950s, the magazine published the following three charts to measure a song’s popularity:

  • Best Sellers in Stores – ranked the biggest selling singles in retail stores, as reported by merchants surveyed throughout the country.
  • Most Played by Disk Jockeys – ranked the most played songs on United States radio stations, as reported by radio disc jockeys and radio stations.
  • Most Played in Jukeboxes – ranked the most played songs in jukeboxes across the United States. At that time, this chart used to be one of the most important channels for measuring the popularity of a song among the younger generation of listeners, as many US radio stations resisted adding rock and roll music to their playlists for many years.

Every Number One Song

Billboard publishes a complete list of its rated records on its website. You can browse the charts from 1950 to present here.


*Portions of this article were sourced from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply.