Legendary producer Billy Sherrill gets the last laugh on his dear friend and fellow Country Music Hall of Fame honoree George Jones, as "He Stopped Loving Her Today" soars back onto Hot Country Songs, some 33 years after Jones bet Sherrill that the song wouldn't be a big hit.
Jones thought the song too maudlin for commercial success at the time, but Sherrill was convinced that they'd just finished recording a smash hit. Even after the "Loving" became Jones' 10th No. 1 single (July 5, 1980), won a Grammy Award and was named the Country Music Assn. single of the year, it was just an early chapter in the ongoing history of the recording that's often cited as the greatest country song of all time.
Powered by sales and streaming activity following his April 26 death, the song's legacy expands, as "Loving" re-enters Hot Country Songs at No. 21. Under the chart's present rules, older songs with renewed activity are allowed to re-enter when they gain enough traction to rank inside the upper half of the 50-position list. The return grants Jones his best rank on the list since "A Few Ole Country Boys," with Randy Travis, peaked at No. 8 in October 1990. It's Jones' best solo rank since he took an affectionate cover of Johnny Horton's 1956 classic "I'm a One Woman Man" to No. 5 in March 1989.
Widely considered to be Jones' signature song - no small feat for an artist with 166 charted singles and 97 entries on Billboard' Top Country Albums - "Loving" opens at No. 15 on Country Digital Songs with 34,000 sold, up from 1,000 the week before, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and at No. 9 on Country Streaming Songs with 783,000 streams, according to Nielsen BDS.
A total of seven Jones albums dot Top Country Albums, while 16 Biggest Hits enters the Billboard 200 at No. 42 (9,000 copies sold), marking his best-ever rank on the latter list.
A closer look at Jones' storied life and career is included in the May 11 Billboard magazine, which arrives tomorrow (May 3).
STEVENS STARTS: Second-season winner of Fox's "The X Factor" Tate Stevens nabs the Hot Shot Debut at No. 4 on Top Country Albums with his self-titled debut set, which sells 17,000, according to SoundScan.
High atop the tally, Blake Shelton logs a third week at No. 1 with Based on a True Story..., which becomes his first set to spend more than two weeks at the summit. He previously spent a pair of frames at No. 1 with Red River Blue two years ago.
TWO AT ONE: On Country Airplay, Thompson Square claims its second leader with "If I Didn't Have You," which steps 2-1 in its 28th week. The husband-and-wife duo (Keifer and Shawna Thompson) first topped the BDS-driven chart with "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not," which reached No. 1 in its 36th week on the April 9, 2011, list. In between chart-toppers, the pair took "I Got You" to No. 8 in December 2011 and "Glass" to No. 15 last summer.
"If," which has sold 545,000 downloads to date, is the lead single from the couple's second album Just Feels Good, which opened at No. 4 on Top Country Albums last month.
Thompson Square is the reigning CMA and Academy of Country Music (ACM) vocal duo of the year.
'SUMMER' HIT: Brad Paisley celebrates his 30th top 10 on Country Airplay, as "Beat This Summer" flies 13-10 in its ninth chart week. Since his first week inside the tier in November 1999 with "He Didn't Have to Be," Paisley boasts the third-most top 10s, outpaced only by Kenny Chesney (37) and Tim McGraw (31). All but three of Paisley's 33 single releases, dating to his debut with "Who Needs Pictures" in 1999, have reached the region.
Paisley claims the ninth-most top 10s in the BDS-fueled Country Airplay chart's 23-year history, a list led by George Strait (61). Alan Jackson places second with 51 top 10s, followed by McGraw (49), Chesney (45), Toby Keith (42), Brooks & Dunn (41), Reba McEntire (36), Garth Brooks (34) and, below Paisley, Clint Black (28).