DEAR JERRY: As copy editor of your column at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, it struck me that the column doesn't always define which chart is used when making references to positions of songs.
Presumably it would be the Billboard Pop charts, but it could be Cash Box, or whatever.
It would also be a good opportunity to let readers know how the charts vary from each other.
Some basic chart history would also be interesting, since they have changed so much over the years.
Bill Dowlding, Milwaukee
DEAR BILL: I'd like to first thank you and the Journal Sentinel. For over 20 years, the amount of mail from your readers has always been among the most we receive from any area.
Most general references to chart successes on the national level are from Billboard, unless identified otherwise.
Alternative charts referenced include Cash Box, Record World, Your Hit Parade, and Britain's New Musical Express.
Frequent mention is also made of regional charts with local hits which may not have charted nationally.
Apart from the Pop (mainstream Rock and non-Rock) singles and albums charts, we often refer to two other Billboard charts: C&W (Country and Western) and R&B (Rhythm and Blues). As with all the charts, these both underwent several name changes over the years, but the basic genres are still the same.
Both Billboard and Cash Box (a.k.a. Cashbox) are valuable record chart references for the period most discussed here the second half of the 20th century.
As for Billboard, it is mostly Joel Whitburn's substantial series of books documenting and organizing Billboard's chart history that we use. For more information on Whitburn's Record Research publications, now in their 39th year, click here.
Though nothing in the printed format does for Cash Box what Whitburn created for Billboard, the Cash Box web site includes a magnificent archive of weekly charts, beginning with January 1950.
As for how they compare, or differ, the closer to the top of the charts you look, the greater the similarities. The bottom half of the charts is where you are more likely to find records listed by one magazine and not the other.
One noteworthy difference in the two formats is the handling of cover versions in the early years. Randy Price, the Official Cash Box Chart Data Collector, explains:
“Cash Box combined all currently available recordings of a song into one chart position, with artist and label info listed for each version, alphabetized by label, but with no indication of which version(s) were the biggest sellers.
“In the issue dated October 25, 1952, Cash Box began designating the hit version(s) of each song by placing a star next to that artist's name.”
By the mid-'60s, cover records became a thing of the past, as did the need to list more than one artist per hit.
IZ ZAT SO? To exemplify how routinely Billboard and Cash Box either agreed on the nation's No. 1 hit, or came mighty close, let's examine just the first 10 years of the Rock Era.
A week-by-week (520 total), side-by-side comparison, from 1955 through '64, reveals 49 No. 1 songs on one chart that failed to top the other. About 74% of those peaked at No. 2.
No. 1 hits only on Billboard (with peak Cash Box number):
1955: “Hearts of Stone” (Fontane Sisters) (2); “Sincerely” (McGuire Sisters) (2); “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” (Perez Prado and His Orchestra) (2).
1957: “Don't Forbid Me” (Pat Boone) (3); “Butterfly” (Andy Williams) (3); “April Love” (Pat Boone) (3).
1958: “Poor Little Fool” (Ricky Nelson) (2); “Little Star” (Elegants) (2); “Bird Dog” (Everly Brothers) (2).
1959: “A Big Hunk O' Love” (Elvis Presley) (2); “Sleep Walk” (Santo & Johnny) (2).
1960: “El Paso” (Marty Robbins) (2); “Mr. Custer (Larry Verne) (3); “I Want to Be Wanted” (Brenda Lee) (2); “Georgia on My Mind” (Ray Charles) (3); “Stay” (Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs) (4).
1961: “Moody River” (Pat Boone) (2); “Wooden Heart” (Joe Dowell) (3); “Please Mr. Postman” (Marvelettes) (2).
1962: “Peppermint Twist” (Joey Dee and the Starliters) (2); “Don't Break the Heart That Loves You” (Connie Francis) (2); “Sheila” (Tommy Roe) (2); “He's a Rebel” (Crystals) (2).
1963: “So Much in Love” (Tymes) (2).
1964: “Mr. Lonely” (Bobby Vinton) (2).
No. 1 hits only on Cash Box (with peak Billboard number):
1955: “Melody of Love” (Billy Vaughn and His Orchestra) (2).
1957: “Party Doll” (Buddy Knox) (2); “Bye Bye Love” (Everly Brothers) (2); “Chances Are” (Johnny Mathis) (5); “Raunchy” (Bill Justis) (3).
1958: “The Stroll (Diamonds) (5); “He's Got The Whole World (In His Hands)” (Laurie London) (2); “Topsy II” (Cozy Cole) (3).
1959: “There Goes My Baby” (Drifters) (2); “Don't You Know” (Della Reese) (2).
1961: “Exodus” (Ferrente & Teicher) (2); “Crying” (Roy Orbison) (2).
1962: “Slow Twistin'” (Chubby Checker) (3); “Mashed Potato Time” (Dee Dee Sharp) (2); “Return to Sender” (Elvis Presley) (2); “Limbo Rock” (Chubby Checker) (2).
1963: “Can't Get Used to Losing You” (Andy Williams) (2); “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” (Alan Sherman) (2); “Be My Baby” (Ronettes) (2).
1964: “Louie Louie” (Kingsmen) (2); “Twist and Shout” (Beatles) (2); “We'll Sing in the Sunshine” (Gale Garnett) (4); “Last Kiss” (J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers) (2); “She's Not There” (Zombies) (2).
Of these 10 years, only in 1956 did they not disagree on a single No. 1 hit.
The specific Billboard charts used for this study are: Best Sellers in Stores (1/1/55 - 11/5/55); Top 100 (11/12/55 - 7/28/58); and Hot 100 (8/4/58 - 12/26/64).
The Cash Box charts are: Best Selling Singles (1/1/55 - 9/6/58) and Top 100 Singles (9/13/58 - 12/26/64).