THE LONG RUN: There aren’t a lot of songwriters who can claim a 54-year span of No. 1 hits on the Billboard charts. In fact, I can only think of one team that has accomplished this, and they sealed the deal this week. Well done, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
Before I tell you how they did it, let me tell you a little bit about who these gentlemen are. They met when they were both 16 years old, introduced by a mutual friend who knew that Stoller played the piano and Leiber wanted to write blues songs.
At the time, Stoller was working in a Los Angeles record store and one day Lester Sill of Modern Records walked into the shop. Stoller sang some of his own songs for Sill, who was impressed enough to provide contacts with people in the music business for the two teenagers.
Two years later, in 1951, a Southern California vocal group, the Robins, recorded Leiber and Stoller’s “That’s What the Good Book Says.” That led other artists to record Leiber and Stoller songs — performers like Johnny Otis, Little Esther and Little Willie Littlefield.
Otis asked Leiber and Stoller to write material for one of the singers in his revue, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton. It took the two young songwriters 15 minutes to come up with “Hound Dog.” Thornton’s single topped the Billboard R&B Best Sellers in Stores chart for six weeks in the spring of 1953. The song returned to No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1956 when it was recorded by Elvis Presley.
Leiber and Stoller scored more No. 1 hits on the R&B chart with Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” and four songs by the Coasters: the two-sided “Searchin'”/”Young Blood,” “Yakety Yak” and “Poison Ivy.” Their song “Kansas City” was No. 1 for seven weeks when Wilbert Harrison recorded it in 1959. And in 1961, Ben E. King ruled the chart for four weeks with a song that has become a 20th century classic: “Stand by Me.”
That brings us to 2007 and the song “Beautiful Girls” (Beluga Heights/Epic) by Sean Kingston. Based on “Stand by Me” and with writing credit for Leiber and Stoller, the song moves 2-1 on Rhythmic Airplay, giving the legendary songwriting duo a career chart span of No. 1 hits of 54 years and three months.
On Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, “Beautiful Girls” slides 28-29, but it is not the only Leiber-Stoller song on the chart. “Block Party” (Full Circle) by Chuck Brown featuring DJ Kool dips 60-62. Included in the songwriting credits are Leiber and Stoller along with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Since the Leiber-Stoller and Mann-Weil teams only joined forces for two songs, that narrows down the choices of which tune is sampled on “Block Party.” It either has to be “On Broadway,” a 1963 hit for the Drifters covered by George Benson in 1978, or “Only in America,” recorded by the Drifters but not released by them until years after Jay & the Americans recorded a pop version in the summer of 1963. One listen to “Block Party” reveals the answer — the song samples “On Broadway.”
ON THE ‘TAKE’: Rascal Flatts adds three achievements to its long list of chart accomplishments. “Take Me There” (Lyric Street) blasts onto Hot Country Songs at No. 24 — the highest new entry of 2007, the highest new entry in the group’s seven-year chart career and the highest new entry for a non-solo act since March 31, 1979, when Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius debuted in the same position with “Lying in Love with You.”
Just counting the years since 1990 when the chart was first compiled with airplay information from Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, this is the highest new entry by a group since Alabama opened at No. 31 with “Forever’s As Far As I’ll Go” the week of Nov. 17, 1990.
Prior to “Take Me There,” the highest-debuting Rascal Flatts song was “What Hurts the Most,” which bowed at No. 33 the week of Jan. 7, 2006.
BIGGEST AND RICHEST: Just a few weeks ago I reported that the country duo Big & Rich had achieved its first top 10 hit on Hot Country Songs with its 11th chart entry, “Lost in This Moment” (Warner Bros.).
Now I have news that’s bigger and richer. “Lost in This Moment” achieves pole position, giving the pair its first No. 1 hit. Previously, the highest-ranked Big & Rich song was “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy),” which peaked at No. 11 in August 2004.
Big & Rich is the fifth duo to top the country tally since the introduction of Nielsen BDS airplay figures in 1990. The others are Brooks & Dunn, Montgomery Gentry, the Wreckers and Sugarland. The latter four acts had their first No. 1 hit in the last three years.
RIHANNA WITH A Z: How long can the “Umbrella” reign? And how many times can I use that pun?
Rihanna and Jay-Z are No. 1 for the seventh week on the Hot 100. One more week and “Umbrella” will be tied with “Crazy in Love” (credited to Beyonce featuring Jay-Z) as Jay-Z’s biggest hit of all time, using highest position reached and weeks in that position as criteria.
“Umbrella” is the second No. 1 for Rihanna (after “SOS”) and the third for Jay-Z. His first chart-topper, “Heartbreaker” by Mariah Carey featuring Jay-Z, ruled the survey for two weeks in October 1999.
Only two Def Jam singles have been No. 1 longer than “Umbrella.” “Foolish” by Ashanti and “Gold Digger” by Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx both had 10-week runs. “Umbrella” is tied with Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” as the next longest-running Def Jam No. 1 titles.
‘HOME’ RUN: Daughtry’s “Home” (RCA) spends a sixth week atop the Adult Top 40 chart. In March and April, Daughtry’s “It’s Not Over” led the list for nine weeks. That cumulative 15 weeks is the longest any act has spent at No. 1 on this chart in a calendar year since 2004, with Maroon 5 racked up 26 weeks in the penthouse, evenly divided between “This Love” and “She Will Be Loved.”
GREEN GROWS THE CHART: When the envelope for Best Musical was opened at the 2004 Tony Awards, the winner was not “Wicked” but “Avenue Q.” Still, the show about the witches of Oz is the undisputed winner on the Billboard charts, where the original cast CD on Decca Broadway dominates Top Cast Albums for the 72nd week.
Only four other albums have topped this tally since it was introduced in 2006, and the longest any of them have held onto pole position is five weeks.
After “Wicked,” the other chart-topping cast albums are, in chronological order:
“The Color Purple,” one week (2006)
“Harry on Broadway, Act I/The Pajama Game,” Harry Connick, Jr./Original Broadway Cast, one week (2006)
“Jersey Boys,” five weeks (2006, 2007)
“Spring Awakening,” one week (2007)
McGRAW HILL: The husband-and-wife team of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill collects its fourth top 10 hit on Hot Country Songs, as “I Need You” (Curb) advances 13-10. McGraw and Hill’s previous top 10 hits as a couple were:
“It’s Your Love,” No. 1 for six weeks (1997)
“Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me,” No. 3 (1998)
“Let’s Make Love,” No. 6 (2000)
“It’s Your Love” was credited to Tim McGraw featuring Faith Hill. “Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me” and “Let’s Make Love” were billed to Faith Hill with Tim McGraw. “I Need You” is by Tim McGraw with Faith Hill.
“I Need You” is the 40th top 10 for McGraw and the 22nd for Hill.