Billboard’s Country Songs chart celebrates its anniversary today, having debuted on this date in 1944.
The survey started as the “Most Played Juke Box Folk Records” ranking. It was subtitled “(Hillbillies, Spirituals, Cowboy Songs, Etc.)” A descriptor below the chart name noted that the list showed “the most popular Folk records on automatic phonographs throughout the nation.”
The inaugural chart was just six positions-deep, led by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters’ “Pistol Packin’ Mama.” The song would lead for five weeks, after which Al Dexter’s version would take over for three weeks.
Ernest Tubb closed out the first tally at No. 6 with the eventual No. 2-peaking “Try Me One More Time.” Tubb would chart 91 more entries through 1983, when “Leave Them Boys Alone,” with Hank Williams Jr. and Waylon Jennings, reached No. 6.
The juke box chart served as Billboard’s lone country songs ranking until 1948, when a best-sellers chart debuted, while a disc jockey list launched in 1949. All such charts were merged into one, first titled “Hot C&W Sides,” as of Oct. 20, 1958. The chart is now known as Country Songs and underwent its most recent change in methodology exactly 54 years after that 1958 date: As of Oct. 20, 2012, the survey blends airplay and sales, according to Nielsen BDS and SoundScan, and streaming data. The current Country Songs leader has made its own historic headlines: Taylor Swift‘s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” has reigned for 10 weeks, the longest command ever (like, ever) by a woman.
Counting all songs that topped the juke box, best-sellers, disc jockey and Country Songs charts, “Never” is the 1,693rd No. 1. George Strait boasts the most No. 1s – 44 – from 1982’s “Fool Hearted Memory” to 2008’s “River of Love.”
As the birthday of Country Songs doubles as Elvis Presley‘s ( Jan. 8, 1944), the King has, notably, made his imprint on the chart, posting 68 entries beginning in 1955. He most recently appeared in 2009 with posthumous studio-created Christmas duets with Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride.