2016: The Year in Charts

Country Legends Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard Team for No. 1 Debut on Top Country Albums Chart

Danny Clinch
Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.

"Django and Jimmie" also gives Haggard his first top 10 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Two country legends arrive in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart (dated June 20) as Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard debut at No. 7 with their new collaborative album Django and Jimmie. It moved 31,000 units in the week ending June 7, according to Nielsen Music. While both artists have been charting for decades, this is first top 10 set for Haggard and the fourth for Nelson. The latter logged his first top 10 in 1982 with the No. 2-peaking Always on My Mind and more recently claimed his second and third top 10s with To All the Girls (No. 9, 2013) and Band of Brothers (No. 5, 2014).

The new album -- named after late genre-spanning guitarist Django Reinhardt and country icon Jimmie Rodgers -- was released through Legacy Recordings on June 2, and is the fifth collaborative set from Nelson and Haggard. They first teamed up on 1983's Pancho & Lefty, and followed that with Walking the Line (with George Jones, 1987), Seashores of Old Mexico (1987) and Last of the Breed (with Ray Price, 2007).

On Top Country Albums, Django and Jimmie starts at No. 1, extending both artists’ illustrious legacies. With 30,000 sold in pure album sales, Haggard claims his 16th No. 1 — the second-most leaders in the chart’s history (behind only George Strait’s 25). Nelson now has 14 No. 1s.

Nelson also notches his second Top Country Albums No. 1 in less than a year, having debuted atop the list with Band of Brothers on July 5, 2014. He last reigned in 1986. Haggard crowns the chart for the first time since Sept. 22, 1984 (with It’s All in the Game). Haggard’s 30-year, nine-month break between No. 1s is second only to Johnny Cash’s nearly 35-year gap between leading sets (1971 to 2006) and passes Nelson’s 28-year, one-month interval that ended with Brothers.

The new album was led by the single “It’s All Going to Pot." The track's music video bowed the same day, via social networks run by TBS' Conan show. (It has so far earned 1.1 million views on Vevo, and another 6.7 million in its Facebook player.) "It's All Going to Pot" debuted and peaked at No. 48 on Hot Country Songs (dated May 9), marking Nelson's first visit to the list since 2010, and Haggard's first since 2006. Each legend has now made the ranking in six consecutive decades, dating to the '60s.

To promote the album, Legacy filmed extensive behind-the-scenes footage of Nelson and Haggard recording the set, which was then later distributed to a number of different outlets, like Rolling Stone, Yahoo! Music, Country Weekly. Nelson did a bevy of TV appearances (including The Daily Show and CBS This Morning) to tout the album as well as his new memoir, It’s a Long Story: My Life. On the radio side of things, Legacy focused on Triple A formats (adult alternative) and public radio stations. Those efforts included a full stream of the album on National Public Radio's (NPR) Web site, a week before its commercial release, as part of NPR's First Listen program.

'Country' Song: In a final country note… On Hot Country Songs (dated June 20), Mo Pitney's "Country" debuts at the chart's No. 50 anchor position and makes history of sorts. Dating to the list's 1958 launch as a multimetric ranking, it's the first entry whose title simply doubles as the genre's name.