Hot 100 Turns 60! The Ten Most Interesting Songs on 1958's First-Ever Chart (Critic's Picks)

Sixty years ago this week, Billboard launched the first-ever Billboard Hot 100: a consolidated, all-genre, multi-metric singles chart that continues to be the industry standard for measuring the biggest songs in the U.S> each week.

In the six decades since, the chart has gone on to document the reigns of the biggest artists and songs in all of popular music, with records and benchmarks being set by the eternal likes of The Beatles, The Supremes, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Mariah Carey, and other superstars on through Drake in 2018. 

What about that first-ever Hot 100 chart on Aug. 4, 1958, though? Who and what appeared on that first draft? Plenty of big names, of course, many with songs that have endured as pop classics over the years to come, The Coasters' "Yakkety Yak" (No. 7), Peggy Lee's "Fever" (No. 10), Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace" (No. 31), The Everly Brothers' "All I Have to Do Is Dream" (No. 49) and Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" (No. 80) all among them.

But also present: a handful of historical curiosities, buried gems, then-contemporary hits that would seem unimaginable today, even some songs that even those around for the chart 60 years ago probably haven't thought about since 1958. Here, we dive deep into the first-ever Hot 100 to find the 10 most interesting songs from a 2018 vantage point -- some of which have aged more noticeably than others, but all are worth three minutes of your time as we flashback to a critical week in Billboard history. 

Ricky Nelson, "Poor Little Fool" (No. 1)

It might not be as familiar to modern audiences as other Ricky Nelson hits like the Pulp Fiction-featured "Lonesome Town," the rock-name-dropping "Garden Party" or the oldies radio standard "Travelin' Man," but the singer's heartbroken acoustic jaunt "Poor Little Fool" does have the historic distinction of being the Hot 100's first-ever No. 1. Though the song is relatively straightforward for late-'50s pop-rock, its backstory is fascinating: The song was penned by then-teenage songwriter Sharon Sheeley, who told Nelson that the song had originally been written by her godfather for Elvis Presley for fear of not being taken seriously as a young girl. Nelson was irate when he found out the truth, but by that point, the song was already climbing the charts.

(The first-ever Hot 100 No. 2 hit, by the way? "Patricia" by Perez Prado and His Orchestra -- a fiery mambo instrumental you might either recognize from its use in the classic 1960 Federico Fellini film La Dolce Vita, or as the theme song to HBO's '90s late-night series Real Sex, depending.)

Jody Reynolds, "Endless Sleep" (No. 17)

Few songwriting trends were more pervasive in the pre-British Invasion rock era than the teen tragedy anthem, most often featuring a young singer lamenting the unexpected death of a loved one, exemplified by such later Hot 100-toppers as Mark Dinning's "Teen Angel" and The Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack." One of the songs credited for kicking off the trend was "Endless Sleep," a "Heartbreak Hotel"-inspired swaying ballad featuring the Colorado rocker Reynolds being beckoned to the titular state by his girl -- from the bottom of the sea, where she's headed after a lovers' quarrel.

Unlike most of the songs it later inspired, however, this one has a happy ending -- a twist demanded by the song's publisher, Herb Montel -- Reynolds jumps in the water after her, and the song closes with him boasting, "I saved my baby from an endless sleep." 

The Olympics, "Western Movies" (No. 23)

Difficult in 2018 to imagine a time when westerns were so popular on TV and in the movies that a doo-wop outfit could have a top 10 hit about a girl being too preoccupied with the genre to spend time with the group, but such was the case with The Olympics 60 years ago. The quintet complains about being unable to pry its baby away from the television, painting her as almost sociopathically obsessed -- when lead singer Walter Ward calls her to moan that "half my head was gone" after being in the head with a brick; she thanks him for reminding him it's time to tune into Maverick. The song went on to peak at No. 8 on the Hot 100, but paved the way for a single that reached No. 1 30 years later: The Escape Club's "Wild Wild West," which even opens with similar-sounding gunshot effects. 

The Poni-Tails, "Born Too Late" (No. 26)

The golden age of the girl group wouldn't really kick off in earnest for another couple years, but The Poni-Tails were an all-female trio from Ohio that scored a top 10 hit in 1958 with the sweetly harmonized "Born Too Late." Written by Charles Strouse (composer of Bye Bye Birdie and other musicals) and Fred Tobias, the song's subject -- of young girls wishing to be older so they could start dating already -- feels minorly cringeworthy in 2018, though not necessarily when compared to songs that approach the same topic from the other perspective, like future '60s smashes for Steve Lawrence and Gary Puckett & The Union Gap.

The Rinky-Dinks, "Early in the Morning" (No. 52)

As was much more common back in the late-'50s than it is today, the rave-up "Early in the Morning" appeared on the first Hot 100 in two separate versions, the higher of which (No. 41) came from early rock legend Buddy Holly. The more interesting one, though, was courtesy of the Rinky-Dinks -- an alias of rising star Bobby Darin, who'd originally released the song through Brunswick Records under the name "The Ding-Dongs," before the label was forced to turn the masters over to Darin's original label ATCO, which re-released it under the new name. Though Darin would soon become best known as a crooner on pop standards like "Mack the Knife" and "Beyond the Sea," the relatively unpolished "Early in the Morning" showcases his bonafides as an early rock star, as well.  

Bobby Day, "Over and Over" (No. 60)

This wasn't Texas R&B singer Bobby Day's biggest hit, even on the original Hot 100 -- that'd be "Rockin' Robin" (originally titled "Rock-In Robin"), No. 35 on that week's listing, eventually hitting No. 2 that October (and then peaking in the runner-up spot again 14 years later with a version by Michael Jackson). But the song's B-side, the party-starting "Over and Over," appeared at No. 60 on the inaugural Hot 100 -- eventually reaching a No. 41 peak -- and then again 36 spots lower, with a version by Thurston Harris (of "Little Bitty Pretty One" fame), which was released contemporaneously, but only lasted on the chart for one week. Like "Rock-In Robin," "Over and Over" also inspired a smash cover in later years: British Invasion stars The Dave Clark Five went to No. 1 with it in 1965, the only of their eight top 10 hits to crown the chart. 

Jim Backus & Friend, "Delicious!" (No. 66)

Sixty years later, and you still might not need two hands to count the Hot 100 hits that are more surreal than Jim Backus & Friend's "Delicious!" Calling it a song at all is somewhat misleading -- though the cut features a lounge piano backing track, the vocals feature a spoken-word bit between Backus (yes, that Jim Backus, James Dean's father in Rebel Without a Cause and Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island) and "Friend" Henrietta Backus, his real-life wife, as they drink champagne and laugh. Like, a lot. In fact, the song was often subtitled "The Laughing Song": appropriate, considering the song is three minutes long, and the two spend over two of those minutes howling and cackling, over nothing in particular. The not-that-novel novelty hit's minor success remains perplexing six decades on, but if ever there was a Hot 100 entry you could say "They don't make 'em like this anymore" about, it's this one. 

Frank Gallup, "Got a Match?" (No. 71)

Only marginally less confounding than "Delicious!" is the success of this similarly bizarre one-off from Frank Gallop -- credited as "Gallup" on this record, for reasons seemingly unclear -- who was best known as a radio and TV personality, most prominently serving as the announcer on the titular programs of star entertainers Milton Berle and Perry Como. The song is a rollicking bass-and-organ-driven instrumental, punctuated by Gallup's baritone sporadically interrupting to ask "Hey there... got a match?" (At song's end, he changes course: "Hey there... never mind.") Strangest of all? A second version of "Got a Match?" also appeared on the Hot 100 that week at No. 86, courtesy of The Daddy-O's.

Lee Andrews and the Hearts, "Try the Impossible" (No. 83)

Philly doo-wop quintet Lee Andrews and the Hearts scored the final of their pre-Hot 100 chart hits with "Try the Impossible," a lovely, understated ballad ("Try the impossible, try to understand the way I feel about you" go the song's opening lyrics) whose popularity was already on the wane by the time of the chart's debut. Andrews' post-Hearts recording success was limited, but his touring days made an impression on his son: Amir "Questlove" Thompson, who rose to stardom a generation later, both as drummer for Grammy-winning rap outfit The Roots, and one of the music industry's preeminent pop, rock and soul scholars. 

Joe South, "The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor" (No. 91)

The late '50s were high times for novelty songs, one of the biggest of which was actor/singer Sheb Wooley's "The Purple People Eater," about a monster who comes to Earth to join a rock band. That song, which peaked in popularity earlier in 1958, was still No. 24 on the Hot 100 -- and 67 spots lower was this spinoff, courtesy of country singer-songwriter Joe South, which introduced the "Purple People Eater" to the "Witch Doctor," title character from a concurrent novelty smash for David Seville, fictional invention of Alvin and the Chipmunks creator Ross Bagdasarian. The layers of novelty were nearly overwhelming, but South survived to have a successful recording career of less-gimmicky singles, including the top 20 Hot 100 hits "Games People Play" and "Walk a Mile in My Shoes." 

Hot 100 60th Anniversary

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