75 Years Ago, the First Billboard Country Chart Debuted, With 'Pistol Packin' Mama' at No. 1, With a Bullet
The song became a World War ll-era favorite.
On Jan. 8, 1944, Billboard published its first version of a country songs chart, with multiple recordings of "Pistol Packin' Mama" leading the then-named Most Played Juke Box Folk Records list.
The chart was subtitled "Hillbillies, Spirituals, Cowboy Songs, etc." and ranked "the most popular Folk records on automatic phonographs thruout [sic] the nation."
"Mama" became a wartime anthem, with many U.S. troops christening their fighter planes, cannons and tanks "Mama." Notably, a group of female fighter pilots, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), decorated their B-17 bomber after the song.
"Mama" has also been recorded by several other acts, including Tex Ritter and Frank Sinatra, while the 1943 New York Yankees reportedly sang the song in their clubhouse after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
The Andrews Sisters, consisting of Patty, LaVerne and Maxene, were royalty during the 1940s, scoring their signature hit in 1941 with "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." They received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1987.
Meanwhile, Crosby's 1942 classic "White Christmas" returns each year. The carol from the late legend of stage, screen and song rose to No. 34 on Jan. 5-dated Billboard Hot 100, marking its highest rank since 1962.
As for the evolution of Billboard's country charts, a country song sales survey joined the juke box tally in 1948 and a disc jockey ranking followed in 1949, ahead of the all-encompassing Hot C&W Sides chart in 1958. Top Country Albums premiered in 1964; the Nielsen Music-powered Country Airplay chart launched in 1990; and Hot Country Songs adopted its current airplay-, streaming- and sales-based methodology in 2012.