Fred Bronson reports on the chart feats of Peggy March and Beth.

STILL FOLLOWING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS: In 1956, Elvis Presley's double-sided single "Don't Be Cruel" \ "Hound Dog" set a record by remaining No. 1 for 11 weeks. That was the longest-running No. 1 single in the rock era until 1992, when Boyz II Men remained in pole position for 13 weeks with "End of the Road." In 1964, the Beatles made the biggest jump to No. 1 when "Can't Buy Me Love" zoomed 27-1. That record stood for 38 years, until Kelly Clarkson rocketed 52-1 with "A Moment Like This."

The point is that eventually, even the hardiest records are broken. But as of this week, one artist has held a record on the Hot 100 for 40 years, and it doesn't look like it will be broken soon. On the Hot 100 dated April 27, 1963, a new singer named Little Peggy March moved 3-1 with her first chart entry, "I Will Follow Him."

It wasn't her first single. RCA had released "Little Me," a cover of the title song from the Broadway play starring Sid Caesar. It failed to chart. But then her second single transformed her from an unknown student from Lansdale, Pa., to an overnight teen queen. She was 15 years and one month old when "I Will Follow Him" went to No. 1, making her the youngest female to ever have a No. 1 song on the Hot 100, a record that stands to this day.

It was just less than three years earlier that the previous record had been set. Brenda Lee was 15 years and 7 months old when "I'm Sorry" went to No. 1 in July 1960. There have been other teenaged girls with No. 1 songs since "I Will Follow Him," but everyone from Lesley Gore to Debbie Gibson and beyond has been older than March when they topped the singles chart.

The closest anyone has come to breaking Peggy's record was when Monica had her first hit. She was 14 years and eight months old when "Don't Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)" peaked at No. 2. That single spent three weeks in second place; if it had been able to overcome Bryan Adams' "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" or TLC's "Waterfalls," Monica would have taken Peggy's record away from her.

To mark the 40th anniversary of "I Will Follow Him" moving to No. 1, "Chart Beat" caught up with Peggy March to find out how she feels about her Hot 100 achievement.

CHART BEAT: Are you surprised that after 40 years, you still hold the record for being the youngest female singer to have a No. 1 song?

PEGGY MARCH: I am surprised that the record still stands. A lot of singers in the '60s were teenagers; I was just the youngest. However, today the singers keep getting younger and younger. Having a No. 1 is an achievement which I am thankful for, so I was gifted with that, as well as being the youngest female to do so.

CB: All chart records fall eventually, and at some point in the future, a young girl who is 14 or even younger will top the Hot 100. How do you feel about that possibility?

PM: I imagine that one day my record will be broken, and I will hand over the crown, so to speak. I would love to be a part of the celebration when and if it happens.

CB: Will you do anything special to mark the anniversary of your first chart-topping hit?

PM: "I Will Follow Him" went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart on the 27th of April in 1963. This year on the 27th of April I'll be on stage at the Tropicana in Atlantic City {N.J.]. I'll be the opening act for Don Rickles. A great number of my family and friends will be there.

CB: "I Will Follow Him" was sung by Whoopi Goldberg and a whole lot of nuns in the movie "Sister Act." How has that impacted on the song's popularity?

PM: The younger audience who know the song, but could not remember who recorded it of course, relate it to "Sister Act." When they hear me sing it, and hear me relate my story about that time in music, they are surprised and impressed.

Peggy MarchCB: Do you remember what you thought of the song the first time you heard it?

PM: I remember so well walking into Hugo and Luigi's office, my producers, and seeing the song on their desk. I took it home so I could rehearse singing it. My sister Linda remembers me complaining that it was too repetitious! I did like it though and liked singing it, and I believe it's the repetition that gives it a great hook.

CB: What did it mean to a 15-year old girl to have the No. 1 song in the country?

PM: I was so concerned with all the Latin tests and math tests I was studying for that the thought of having a No. 1 record was not really on my mind. But hearing it played on the radio was very surrealistic. Listening to it week after week go up the charts was also exciting, but I believe the kids at school had a harder time separating the girl from the recording artist than I did. I wanted my life to go on as usual. I just had an unusual job!

CB: Have you had the chance to lend support or give advice to any other young female singers?

PM: I did meet Tiffany, on the Gary Collins show in Los Angeles. She was having trouble with her manager/guardian at the time -- very similar to the problems I had. She fared better than I did, but we had a brief conversation about being so young in this business.

CB: Any idea how many times you have sung "I Will Follow Him" in the last 40 years?

PM: I don't know how many times I have sung "I Will Follow Him," but suffice it to say a lot and in different languages as well. I never tire of it; it has become part of me, as corny as that sounds. Even when I am hoarse from hours of recording or have a cold and every other song is difficult I can always sing "I Will Follow Him." The song has made me a part of a business that is only a dream for many people. It is a legacy, and I am a part of history, and it proves that dreams can come true.

CB: You spent many years living in Germany, where you are a recording star as well as a television star. When you returned home to the U.S., were you concerned about your career?

PM: I was so worried after I made the decision to come back to the States that I would not be working, that the '60s nostalgia was over with, and quite simply that I would not have a job. My husband Arnie and I came back in June 1999, and I haven't stopped working. I have been with other great acts from that era as well as doing a show with just women [Lesley Gore and Shirley Alston-Reeves from the Shirelles], "The Legendary Ladies of Rock and Roll," and now opening for Don Rickles in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. I am now sure that there are a lot of other kinds of venues waiting for me, and I am looking forward to all of it.

EUROVISIONS: "Dime" (Vale Music) by Beth is the second entry in this year's Eurovision Song Contest to reach No. 1 in its home country. "Dime" debuts at No. 1 on the singles chart in Spain. Last week, the duo known as Fame was on top in Sweden with "Give Me Your Love" (M&L).

Beth and Fame have something else in common: Beth was a contestant on the second season of the popular Spanish TV series, "Operacion Triunfo." Both members of Fame were competitors in the Swedish version of that same series, "Fame Academy."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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