DEAR JERRY: Not long ago you discussed how rare it was, before the British Invasion, for Top 40 format stars, not named Presley or Nelson, to fare well on the LP charts.
I suspect it was even more difficult for them to show up on Billboard's short-lived stereo LP charts.
True or false? I'd like your assessment.
Jason Bagley, Gilbert, Az.
DEAR JASON: True.
As a Top 40 jock on AM radio throughout the '60s, part of my job was to keep up with the trades; especially Billboard, Cash Box, and Record World.
For most of us in AM broadcasting, a stereo albums chart was of no interest, which is not to say it wasn't helpful to record retailers.
Not until 1970, when I joined KNIX-FM in Phoenix did I play anything in stereo. By then, that chart had been gone for seven years, and monaural LPs were few and far between.
It was Billboard's May 25, 1959 issue when a Top 30 "Best Selling Stereophonic LPs" was introduced as a separate chart from their Top 50 "Best Selling Monophonic LPs."
As expected, most of the stereo entries were also on the monaural chart, either that week or very recently.
At that time the predominant media for R&R music was 45 rpm singles, and their buyers were mostly teenagers. Young people were not the target demographic for LPs, especially stereo ones that sold for around five dollars, usually a buck more than a monaural alternative.
Ergo, charted mono R&R albums were mighty scarce, and practically non-existent in stereo, as evidenced by the debut Top 30, er, 31, Best Selling Stereophonic LPs:
1. "South Pacific" (Soundtrack) RCA Victor LSO-1032
2. "My Fair Lady" (Original Cast) Columbia OS-2015
3. "The Music From Peter Gunn" (Henry Mancini) RCA Victor LSP-1956
4. "Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture" (Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra) Mercury SR-90054
5. "Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1" (Van Cliburn) RCA Victor LSC-2252
6. "Flower Drum Song" (Original Cast) Columbia OS-2009
7. "Come Dance With Me" (Frank Sinatra) Capitol SW-1069
8. "Gigi" (Soundtrack) MGM SE-3461
9. "Around the World in 80 Days" (Soundtrack) Decca 79046
10. "Oklahoma!" (Soundtrack) Capitol SWAO-595
11. "Film Encores, Volume 1" (Mantovani) London PS-124
12. "77 Sunset Strip" (TV Soundtrack) Warner Bros. WS-1289
13. "Only the Lonely" (Frank Sinatra) Capitol SW-1053
14. "Taboo in Hi-Fi" (Arthur Lyman) HiFi 806
15. "Soul of Spain" (101 Strings) Stereo Fidelity SF-6600
16. "Victory at Sea, Volume 2" (RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra) RCA Victor LSC-2226
17. "The Music Man" (Original Cast) Capitol SWAO-990
18. "Near You" (Roger Williams) Kapp KL-1112
19. "Gems Forever" (Mantovani) London PS-106
20. "Strauss Waltzes" (Mantovani) London PS-118
21. "Deep River and Other Spirituals" (Robert Shaw Chorale) RCA Victor LSC-2247
22. "Blue Hawaii" (Billy Vaughn) Dot DLP-25165
23. "Perez" (Perez Prado) RCA Victor LSP-1556
24. "Canadian Sunset" (Eddie Heywood) RCA Victor LSP-1529
25. "Open Fire, Two Guitars" (Johnny Mathis) Columbia CS-8056
26. "Porgy and Bess" (Percy Faith) Columbia CS-8105
27. "Swingin' Pretty" (Keely Smith) Capitol ST-1145
28. "Hollywood Cha Cha Cha" (Edmundo Ros) London PS-1152
29. "When You Come to the End of the Day" (Perry Como) RCA Victor LSP-1885
30 (tie). "Under Western Skies" (George Melachrino Orchestra) RCA Victor LSP-1676
30 (tie). "Music for Reading" (George Melachrino Orchestra) RCA Victor LSP-1002
Nearly half of the 31 LPs are original cast recordings and movie or TV soundtracks.
The remainder are pop singers, non-rock instrumentalists, and classical.
There isn't a trace of the music that Ed Sullivan used to introduce as "for the youngsters in our audience."
Judging by just the stereo chart, one would never know that such a thing as R&R music existed.
However, the Best Selling Monophonic Top 50 that same week does include eight titles by rock stars:
10. "Have 'Twangy' Guitar - Will Travel" (Duane Eddy) Jamie JLP-3000
21. "The Buddy Holly Story" (Buddy Holly) Coral CRL-57279
26. "Ricky Sings Again" (Ricky Nelson) Imperial IMP-9061
32. "Hold That Tiger!" (Fabian) Chancellor CHL-5003
33. "Remember When?" (Platters) Mercury MG-20410
34. "Ritchie Valens" (Ritchie Valens) Del-Fi DEFLP-1201
41. "For LP Fans Only" (Elvis Presley) RCA Victor LPM-1990
42. "Elvis' Golden Records" (Elvis Presley) RCA Victor LPM-1885
From this list, only three qualified by having a stereo counterpart:
"Have 'Twangy' Guitar - Will Travel" (Jamie JLP-3000)
"Hold That Tiger!" (Chancellor CHLS-5003)
"Remember When?" (Mercury SR-60087)
For the next 15 weeks, the stereo charts were pretty much the same, but on September 7th, Duane Eddy finally broke the ice with his second LP. "Especially for You" (Jamie 3006 ST) debuted at No. 26 on the Top 30, making Eddy the first rock artist with an LP on the stereo chart.
Following publication of the August 10, 1963 issue, Billboard jettisoned the idea of having separate charts for mono and stereo LPs.
But had the landscape of the stereo chart really changed much between 1959 and 1963?
As the Four Lads once said, "no, not much."
In September 1959, only .0333 per cent of the Top 30 was a rock act (1/30).
By August 1963, rock and roll's share had zoomed up to .06 (3/50):
11. "Surfin' U.S.A." (Beach Boys) Capitol ST-1890
43. "It Happened at the World's Fair" (Elvis Presley) RCA Victor LSP-2697
45. "Shut Down" (Various Artists Compilation: Beach Boys; Cheers; Super Stocks; Piltdown Men; Eligibles; Robert Mitchum; Jimmy Dolan) Capitol ST-1918
IZ ZAT SO? Many months before his "Especially for You" LP, Duane Eddy made history on two fronts with "Have 'Twangy' Guitar - Will Travel," released in December 1958.
It is both the first stereo R&R album by anyone, as well as the first nationally charted rock instrumental LP. "Twangy" remained on the charts for 82 weeks, establishing a vinyl era longevity record for a rock instrumental album.