Fred Bronson reports on the chart feats of C.W. McCall, Toby Keith & Willie Nelson, "American Idol" Ruben Studdard & runner-up Clay Aiken, and Metallica.
BREAKER NEWS: In a week when Led Zeppelin, Willie Nelson, and Dobie Gray have No. 1s in Billboard, it shouldn't be a surprise that for the first time since 1976, C.W. McCall is back on top of a Billboard chart.
Think back to the week of Jan. 10, 1976. The No. 1 song on The Billboard Hot 100 was "Convoy," a novelty hit that cashed in on the popularity of Citizen Band (CB) radios. The MGM single was released under the name C.W. McCall, the non-de-plume of advertising executive Bill Fries.
Fries had been working at the Bozell and Jacobs agency in Omaha when he created the character of C.W. McCall for an ad campaign for the Mertz Baking Company of Iowa. The theme song for the company's bread commercial, "Old Home Filler-Up an' Keep-on-a-Truckin' Cafe," was the first McCall single, followed by "Wolf Creek Pass" (No. 40 in 1975) and "Convoy." That No. 1 hit was written by Fries and Chip Davis.
Davis is the founder of the American Gramaphone label and the creative force behind the classical-rock outfit Mannheim Steamroller. That aggregation's latest album, "American Spirit," is co-credited to C.W. McCall, and includes new versions of "Convoy" and "Wolf Creek Pass." The CD is No. 1 for the second week on the Top New Age Albums chart.
'BEER' RUNS ALL THE WAY: The new No. 1 song on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart is "Beer for My Horses" (DreamWorks) by Toby Keith with Willie Nelson. It's the first true duet (with equally interchanging vocals) to reach No. 1 on this survey since Reba McEntire teamed with Brooks & Dunn on "If You See Him/If You See Her" in 1998.
There have been other chart-toppers with double-billed artists since then, but those songs featured harmony vocals from the additionally credited artists.
RUBEN AND CLAY: The impending release of singles by the winner and runner-up of "American Idol" will write new chapters in chart history. "Flying Without Wings" / "Superstar" (J Records) by Ruben Studdard and "This Is the Night" / "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (RCA) by Clay Aiken will be available Tuesday (June 10) at retail.
If Studdard's single reaches No. 1 on the Hot 100, it will be only the second single on the J label to achieve pole position, following Alicia Keys' "Falling."
If Aiken's single reaches the summit, it will be the 60th single on the RCA label to be No. 1 in the rock era. Aiken would become the 11th solo male artist to have a No. 1 hit on the RCA label in the rock era. The last time a solo male artist on RCA was No. 1 on the Hot 100 was exactly 15 years ago this week, when Rick Astley's "Together Forever" spent a lone frame on top.
The other solo male artists on RCA who have had No. 1 hits include Elvis Presley, Perry Como, Neil Sedaka, Lorne Greene, S/Sgt. Barry Sadler, Nilsson, John Denver, David Bowie, and Rick Springfield. Sedaka was a celebrity judge on this season of "American Idol."
METAL GURUS: Metallica has the highest-debuting title of its 14-year chart career on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. "St. Anger" (Elektra) enters at No. 2. It's the first Metallica song to appear on this list since "I Disappear" spent seven weeks at No. 1, starting in June 2000. "I Disappear" was the band's previous highest debut, having opened at No. 5 the week of May 6, 2000.
"St. Anger" is the highest new entry on the Mainstream tally since Van Halen's "Without You" debuted at No. 1 the week of March 7, 1998.