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Chart Rewind: In 1958, the Billboard Hot 100, 3 Months In, Was Off to a Sizzling Start

The Billboard Hot 100 began with the chart dated Aug. 4, 1958, and after just three months, it was being warmly welcomed.

“The enthusiastic acceptance of the new ‘Hot 100’ pop singles chart as the standard of the industry since its inception three months ago has made it possible for The Billboard to complete its plans to streamline its record research operation,” Billboard reported in a story on page 3 of the Oct. 20, 1958, issue (when the weekly cover read The Billboard).

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“Record dealers, disk jockeys and music machine operators have made it abundantly clear that their prime need in the pop singles area is the freshest possible data about breakout singles, as well as established best-sellers. This singles information is completely provided by The Billboard‘s ‘Hot 100’ chart.”

The Hot 100 premiered encompassing “such factors as [radio] disc jockey plays, jukebox activity and record sales,” Billboard explained upon the chart’s launch.

By October 1958, the Hot 100’s reception was strong enough to spark two other tallies that continue to publish weekly in their present forms as Hot Country Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (with all three charts now blending radio airplay, sales and streaming figures, as tabulated by MRC Data).

“This week The Billboard also inaugurates two new chart services,” the Oct. 20 story further noted. “One, ‘Hot C&W Sides,’ provides the fastest and most accurate coverage available on country music records, with the emphasis on ‘traditional’ rather than pop-style disks. The other new chart, ‘Hot R&B Sides,’ performs the same service for the rhythm and blues field.”

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As with the Hot 100, Hot C&W Sides and Hot R&B Sides replaced predecessor charts, presenting more robust coverage via each’s combined data metrics. (Billboard unveiled its first sales chart, the “National List of Best Selling Retail Records,” in the July 27, 1940, issue.)

Tommy Edwards’ “It’s All in the Game” led the Oct. 20, 1958, Hot 100 for its fourth of six weeks at No. 1. Ray Price’s “City Lights” topped the first Hot C&W Sides chart and Bobby Day’s “Rock-in’ Robin” perched atop the initial Hot R&B Sides survey.

The charts’ early positive reviews were also reflected by their usage on a medium likewise in its relative beginnings: television.

As Billboard also wrote in the Oct. 20, 1958, issue, “The recognized status of The Billboard‘s charts as the nation’s most authentic barometer of music popularity has again been highlighted by their adoption this season as the sole and exclusive basis for selecting the talent and tunes used on Your Hit Parade, on the CBS-TV network.”