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Jelly Roll Racks Up First Mainstream Rock Airplay No. 1 With ‘Dead Man Walking’

He reigns as another of his songs, "Son of a Sinner," climbs Country Airplay.

Jelly Roll garners his first leader on a Billboard radio ranking – after he first hit Billboard‘s charts in 2011 – as “Dead Man Walking” hits No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock Airplay chart dated May 14.

The song brings the artist born Jason DeFord to the chart’s summit with his first entry on the tally.

Jelly Roll is the third soloist to crown Mainstream Rock Airplay in 2022, following Nita Strauss and David Draiman, who co-led with “Dead Inside” for three weeks beginning in January. Comparatively, just one act topped the chart as a lead artist in 2021: Ayron Jones, with “Mercy.”


The three soloists reigning as lead acts in 2022 mark the most for Mainstream Rock Airplay in a single year (by songs new to No. 1 in that calendar year) since 1998, when Lenny Kravitz ruled with “Fly Away” and Jimmy Page and Robert Plant teamed up on “Most High.” (Though not technically a soloist, Kenny Wayne Shepherd also led that year with “Blue on Black” as part of his eponymous Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band.)

Jelly Roll’s “Walking” additionally steps 31-30 on Alternative Airplay, where it’s also Jelly Roll’s first appearance. The track jumps 9-6 on the all-rock-format, audience-based Rock & Alternative Airplay chart with 3.2 million in audience, up 1%, according to Luminate.

On the multi-metric Hot Rock & Alternative Songs list, “Walking” ranks at No. 33, a week after reaching No. 32. In addition to its radio airplay, the song earned 750,000 official U.S. streams and sold 500 downloads April 29-May 5.

But “Walking” isn’t the only Jelly Roll song currently climbing a Billboard airplay chart. His first Country Airplay entry, “Son of a Sinner,” concurrently bullets at its No. 28 high, up 3% to 4 million impressions. The song also bounds 21-14 on Hot Rock & Alternative Songs and 39-33 on Hot Country Songs, with its radio audience joined by 2.5 million streams and 800 sold.

Jelly Roll becomes the first act to have a song simultaneously charting in the top 30 on Country Airplay while reigning on Mainstream Rock Airplay since Brantley Gilbert, who led the latter as a featured artist on Five Finger Death Punch‘s cover of the aforementioned “Blue on Black” (alongside Shepherd and Brian May) for five weeks in 2019 while Gilbert’s country single with Lindsay Ell, “What Happens in a Small Town,” was climbing Country Airplay. Before then, Zac Brown Band crowned Mainstream Rock Airplay with the Chris Cornell-featuring “Heavy Is a Head” in 2015 while a pair of its singles, “Homegrown” and “Loving You Easy,” ranked within the top 30 of Country Airplay.

Largely a rapper early in his career, Jelly Roll released his latest album, Ballads of the Broken, last September, fusing hip-hop, rock and country on the set. It’s become his first release to garner bona fide radio success; he had never appeared on a Billboard airplay survey before “Walking” and, subsequently, “Sinner.”

“Some music’s meant to be heard and some music is meant to be felt,” Jelly Roll recently told Billboard. “Personally, I try to make the kind of music that’s meant to be felt.”