The chart's ranking methods -- along with, of course, the radically different song styles -- over the eras in which the four 21-week leaders have dominated is remarkable. Ranked solely by jukebox play at the time, the chart's first such 21-week No. 1 belonged to a handsome then-29-year-old crooner named Eddy Arnold, whose sentimental post-World War II ballad "I'll Hold You in My Heart (Till I Can Hold You in My Arms)" hugged the chart's summit for 21 weeks in 1947-48. Of a record 92 Hot Country Songs top 10s, 28 of which reached No. 1, "Heart" remains Arnold's longest-leading topper.
Arnold's feat was matched by 21-week command that began in the summer of 1950 by Canadian Hank Snow, whose breakthrough stateside hit "I'm Moving On" dominated the country Best Sellers chart. (By then, Billboard's country chart methodology incorporated a triad of tallies: Juke Box, Best Sellers and the radio-based Jockeys chart.)
Arnold and Snow were still major forces on those three charts when honky-tonk star Webb Pierce covered Jimmie Rodgers' 1928 novelty yodel "In the Jailhouse Now," which locked up the top spot on Juke Box for 21 weeks beginning in February 1955.
Having spent three weeks at No. 1 last December on the BDS-driven Country Airplay chart, "Cruise" was remixed featuring Nelly, renewing its sales and adding pop and adult crossover airplay, which has led to the song's record-tying Hot Country Songs reign. "Cruise" reached No. 7 on Mainstream Top 40 (and ranks at No. 12 in its 17th week on the list this week); bullets at No. 8 on Adult Top 40 after reaching No. 6 last week; and navigates 22-18 on Adult Contemporary.
"Cruise" has sold 5.1 million downloads to date, becoming the third-best-selling country digital track ever, according to SoundScan. Lady Antebellum leads with "Need You Now" (6.2 million), followed by Taylor Swift's "Love Story" (5.6 million). (Due, in part, to its availability before the addition of Nelly, the original version of "Cruise" accounts for 61% of the song's total sales.)
"Cruise" spent five nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 on Hot Country Songs in December/January before slipping to as low as No. 13 in March. Following the release of the Nelly edit and its push to pop and adult radio formats, it's ranked at No. 1 for the last 16 weeks dating to April 20.
While "Cruise" maintains its chart-topping course on Hot Country Songs and looks to claim the longevity mark all to itself next week, check Billboard.com next Wednesday (July 31) for news when the chart is refreshed next week -- the duo has already charted two successful follow-up singles. "Get Your Shine On" rose to No. 5 (and spent two weeks atop Country Airplay in May) and current country hit "Round Here" bullets at No. 8 (and jumps 16-12 on Country Airplay) this week.
Upon the record-tying achievement of "Cruise" this week, here is an updated look at the titles to spend the most weeks atop Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, dating to its Jan. 8, 1944, launch:
"Cruise," Florida Georgia Line (2012-13)
"In the Jailhouse Now," Webb Pierce (1955)
"I'm Moving On," Hank Snow (1950-51)
"I'll Hold You in My Heart (Till I Can Hold You in My Arms)," Eddy Arnold (1947-48)
"Crazy Arms," Ray Price (1956)
"I Don't Hurt Anymore," Hank Snow (1954-55)
"Walk On By," Leroy Van Dyke (1961-62)
"Bouquet of Roses," Eddy Arnold (1948-49)
"Heartbreak Hotel," Elvis Presley (1956)
"Slowly," Webb Pierce (1954)
"Slipping Around," Jimmy Wakely & Margaret Whiting (1949-50)
"Love's Gonna Live Here," Buck Owens (1963-64)
"Lovesick Blues," Hank Williams (1949-50)
"Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)," Tex Williams (1947-48)
"New Spanish Two Step," Bob Wills (1946-47)
"Guitar Polka," Al Dexter (1946-47)