The Billboard Music Charts

The Billboard Chart Evolution

The Billboard charts are one of the most popular sets of charts covering everything from music to movies to ringtones. Billboard magazine began in 1894 and by 1914, the first chart was included in the magazine, which counted down popular songs heard in Vaudevil theaters.

The invention of the jukebox in the ‘30s spurred Billboard to begin charting the most popular music. In 1936, the feature “Chart Line” made its debut in the magazine, which listed the most-played songs on the three major radio networks, followed by the “Best Selling Retail Records” chart in 1940. Thus, Billboard's journey in charting popular music began.

Beginning in 1944, Country Music received its own chart, a juke box list known as “Folk Records.” The chart was called “Hillbilly Records” for a short period in 1947; then in 1949, it changed to “Country and Western.” Finally, in 1962, “Hot Country Singles” replaced the previous chart titles.

Billboard continues to have what is probably the most significant presence in the music industry today. An estimated 4.1 million users access on a monthly basis, while its radio programs American Top 40 and American Country Countdown broadcast music chart results both nationally and internationally.

Today, Billboard has several Country Music charts, including:

  • Hot Country Songs - calculated by weekly airplay and occasionally commercial sales;
  • Top Country Albums - tabulated by sales
  • Top Country Catalog Albums - tabulated by sales
  • Top Bluegrass Albums - tabulated by sales
  • Top Country Singles Sales - tabulated by sales
  • Top Country Recurrents - features songs that have appeared on the Hot Country Songs chart for 20 weeks but have fallen below No. 50.

Billboard Hot Country Singles Songs Chart

Billboard bases its single, album, video, and DVD charts on the results of Nielsen SoundScan, which registers sales when a product is purchased at a SoundScan enabled store. Billboard also utilizes Broadcast Data Systems to track radio airplay and Arbitron to take into account audience size and time of day. The Country Singles chart was the first to use SoundScan and BDS in 1990.

Making History on the Billboard Country Music Charts

Throughout Billboard Country Music chart history, many successes have been achieved by various Country Music stars, songs, and albums.

  • George Jones has the most Top 40 hits with 145 songs
  • The late Eddy Arnold holds the record for the artist with the most Top 10 singles with 92 singles.
  • There’s a three-way tie for the song that held the No. 1 spot the longest on the Hot Country Songs chart (all stayed atop the chart for 21 weeks):
    • “I’ll Hold You In My Heart (Til I Can Hold You In My Arms)” by Eddy Arnold
    • “I’m Movin’ On” by Hank Snow and his Rainbow Ranch Boys
    • “In The JailHouse Now” by Webb Pierce

Country Music has also enjoyed numerous "crossover" Billboard chart-toppers:

  • The first crossover song to top both the Country and Pop charts was “Pistol Packin’ Mama” by Al Dexter in 1943-44.
  • Not surprisingly, Elvis Presley had six songs top both charts, including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” “Don't Be Cruel”/”Hound Dog,” “All Shook Up,” “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” and “Jailhouse Rock.”

Most recent to make history on the Hot Country Songs chart is Jessica Simpson, whose first Country Music single, “Come On Over,” debuted at No. 41, the highest chart debut by a solo artist with no prior history on the Country Music chart.


- compiled and written by Courtney Drake / CountryHound staff, June 2008.