Ask Billboard: Who's the Cleveland of the Charts? 23 Acts That Waited to Hit No. 1

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

LeBron James, #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers, photographed on the court in 2015.

In honor of the Cavaliers ending Cleveland's five-decade championship wait, 23 artists who similarly waited to top Billboard charts, for No. 23, LeBron James.

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Hi Gary,

Congrats to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who won their first National Basketball Association title June 19, ending a 52-year professional sports championship drought for the city.

Let's take this opportunity to remember some of the most well-known musicians from Cleveland, shall we?

First, ones that have left us: Henry Mancini, Bobby Womack, Benjamin Orr and Sean Levert.

Mancini, a world-famous conductor, composer and arranger, had two No. 1 Adult Contemporary songs: "Moon River" in 1962 and "Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet," also a No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, in 1969.

Womack scored two Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs toppers: "Woman's Gotta Have It" in 1972 and "Lookin' for a Love" in 1974 (his best showing on the Hot 100, hitting No. 10).

Orr, bassist and vocalist of The Cars, had a No. 1 AC hit as lead singer on the band's 1984 ballad "Drive" (a No. 3 Hot 100 smash, the group's highest-charting hit). As a soloist, Orr scored a No. 2 AC and No. 24 Hot 100 hit with "Stay the Night" in 1987.

Finally, Levert was a part of R&B trio LeVert, which contributed five R&B No. 1s: "(Pop Pop Pop Pop) Goes My Mind" (1986), "Casanova" (1987), "Addicted to You" (1988), "Just Coolin'," featuring Heavy D (1989), and "Baby I'm Ready" (1991). "Casanova" was the act's only top 40 Hot 100 hit, rising to No. 5.

Other Clevelanders that can celebrate the Cavs' historic feat: Eric Carmen and The Raspberries, former Guns N' Roses members Steven Adler and Gilby Clarke, Blues Traveler's John Popper, former B2K member Raz-B, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Kid Cudi, Nine Inch Nails, Tracy Chapman and Benny Mardones.

Cleveland rocks!

Mackenzie (Mac) Scott
Fajardo, Puerto Rico

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Thanks Mac,

Great list. And, if course, a destination that any musician would love to eventually call home is located in Cleveland: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, Cleveland ending its championship drought got me thinking about artists who similarly endured lengthy waits on Billboard charts before reigning like King James himself. In honor of Akron, Ohio, native James, and his uniform number, here are 23 acts that eventually netted noteworthy No. 1s on Billboard charts after long timeouts.

(First, as a Boston Celtics fan, I can only make this tribute in good conscience if I send a certain Dave Loggins classic out to free agent star Kevin Durant ...)

And, tip-off:

1, Nearly 25 years after its first Hot 100 hit, Aerosmith (from Boston!) led the Hot 100 at last with "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," its Diane Warren-penned ballad, in 1998.

2, Taylor Swift first ruled the Hot 100 in 2012 with "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," her 46th entry on the chart. That was a record for the most visits before leading the list, until …

3, … Justin Bieber reigned in his 47th trip to the Hot 100 with "What Do You Mean?" this past September.

4, When "Believe" crowned the Hot 100 in 1999, Cher ended a record break just 10 days shy of 25 years since her last No. 1, 1974's "Dark Lady."

5, Later in 1999, Santana topped the Hot 100 for the first time two days short of 30 years since its first entry, as "Smooth," featuring Rob Thomas, sailed to No. 1.

6, In 2015, James Taylor topped the Billboard 200 for the first time with his album Before This World. His first leader arrived more than 45 years after he first charted on the list with Sweet Baby James (not LeBron) in 1970. He ended the second-longest wait for a first No. 1 album, trailing only …

7, … Tony Bennett, who waited a record 54 years (see, Cleveland? 52 years wasn't so bad!) for his first Billboard 200 No. 1, between the 1957 debut of Tony and his first leader at last, Duets II, in 2011.

8, It's not even funny how long "Weird Al" Yankovic had to wait for his first Billboard 200 topper: Mandatory Fun became his first No. 1 in 2014, more than 31 years after his first entry in 1983.

9, Madonna achieved three No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 in the '80s, but didn't win any championships on the chart in the '90s, peaking as high as No. 2 with five titles during the decade. In 2000, she returned to the top with Music (and has added four more No. 1s since).

10, Rihanna, meanwhile, notched six Billboard 200 top 10s from her 2005 arrival through 2011, climbing as high as No. 2. In 2012, she finally led with Unapologetic. She added her second No. 1, Anti, in February. As for Rihanna's frequent collaborator …

11, … Drake dominated the Hot 100 as a lead artist for the first time on the May 21 chart with "One Dance" (featuring WizKid and Kyla) … his 105th Hot 100 hit, easily marking the most entries logged before an act earned its first No. 1 as a lead on the survey (and the "biggest moment" of Drake's career). Not that Toronto Raptors fan Drake was rooting for James when the Cavaliers played, and beat, the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals …

12, Switching to country, especially since I just saw her perform this song in concert a couple weeks ago, Mary Chapin Carpenter tallied 16 consecutive top 20 hits, including three No. 2-peaking tracks, on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart from her first entry in 1989 through summer 1994. With her 17th, she finally led with "Shut Up and Kiss Me," which remains a live staple for the Americana/folk singer-songwriter extraordinaire.

13, Alabama earned a record-among-groups 32 Hot Country Songs No. 1s in 1980-93, including an unprecedented 21 in-a-row (excluding its No. 35 holiday hit "Christmas in Dixie"). In 2011, the band finally rolled on to its 33rd leader, Brad Paisley's ode to the group, on which it's featured, "Old Alabama."

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14, Selena Gomez first charted on the Pop Songs airplay ranking in February 2010. After four top 10s, including the No. 2 smash "Come & Get It," she earned her first three No. 1s beginning last September: "Good for You" (featuring A$AP Rocky), "Same Old Love" and "Hands to Myself."

15, Old-school sweet success: nearly 10 years after his first Hot 100 appearance, Sammy Davis, Jr. led for three weeks in 1972 with "The Candy Man" (with The Mike Curb Congregation). (Zedd and Aloe Blacc's reinterpretation of the song, titled "Candyman," got a golden ticket to No. 12 on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs in April.)

16, No chart list is complete without a Beatle (or two): In 1988, George Harrison ruled the Hot 100 with "Got My Mind Set on You," his first No. 1 on the chart since 1973's "Give Me Love – (Give Me Peace on Earth)." Playing drums on "Mind"? Fellow Beatle Ringo Starr. The song remains the last Hot 100 No. 1 by a member of the Fab Four.

17, Staying in 1988, Def Leppard waited more than three years to return to the Hot 100 after 1984. Then, the hair band waited until the fifth single from its classic album Hysteria to earn its first Hot 100 No. 1. After the group peaked at Nos. 80, 19, 10 and 2 with the set's first four singles, "Love Bites" led in October 1988.

18, Patience paid off for Enrique Iglesias, who completed the longest climb to the top of the Pop Songs chart (from an artist's first entry), as "Tonight (I'm Lovin' You)" (featuring Ludacris and DJ Frank E) reigned in 2011. Iglesias had first hit the list in 1999 with the No. 4-peaking "Bailamos." His 11-year, seven-month and three-week odyssey bested the ...

19, ... 10-year, five-month and two-week wait between Green Day's first title on Pop Songs, 1994's "Basket Case" (not basketball), and the punk-rockers' first No. 1, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," in 2005.

20, Heart, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 2013, first hit the Hot 100 in 1976. Ten years later, the band scored its first No. 1, "These Dreams." A year later, "Alone" also hit No. 1.

21, This April, Cheap Trick was also enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The group waited nearly 10 years between its 1978 Hot 100 debut and its first No. 1, its 1988 power ballad "The Flame."

22, In January, David Bowie's final studio album, Blackstar, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, giving the late legend his first leader on the chart. The icon had first charted nearly 44 years earlier in 1972 with Hunky Dory.

23, And, as Drake's "One Dance" continues to lead the Hot 100, the song that interrupted its reign for a week and holds at No. 2 this week is Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling!," which became his first No. 1 on the chart since 2007. Will the song return to the top? It's not a slam dunk, but we'll see if it can rebound.


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