Casey Kasem brought me my first music lists through the AM radio. Our '65 Bel Air Chevrolet didn't have an FM dial, but AT40 was AM-friendly. Casey's countdowns conflicted with Sunday school, so I was very pleased to learn that Casey swiped his material (the list, not the trivia) from Billboard magazine, which one could find at the Hyattsville Public Library on a weekday afternoon.
Once one unlocked the secret of the weekly magazine of charts, it was possible to see that there was not just one chart, but many charts. Joel Whitburn has done a phenomenal job of chronicling the various charts. In addition to providing every charted song's weeks on chart, debut date, and peek position, there are supplemental lists such as the top hits of the decade. We'll take a look at one such list today.
Here's the top 10 R&B Hits of the 40s based on the book "Joel Whitburn Presents Top R&B Singles 1942-1999". He's updated that book since I bought it, so the new book is "Hot R&B Songs 1942-2000". The change from "singles" to "songs" makes sense due to changing recorded music formats, and I have to assume that Hot is simply hotter than Top right now, but I don't know how much the typical Joel Whitburn reader cares about heat. At any rate, hopefully nothing changed in the 40s chart between 1999 and 2010, so here it is:
#10. Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five - Saturday Night Fish Fry (Parts I & II)
#9. Julia Lee and Her Boyfriends - (Opportunity Knocks But Once) Snatch and Grab It
#8. Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five - Boogie Woogie Blue Plate
#7. Erskine Hawkins and His Orchestra - Don't Cry, Baby
#6. Paul Williams and His Hucklebuckers - The Hucklebuck
#5. Charles Brown Trio - Trouble Blues
#4. Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra - Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop
#3. Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five - Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens
#2. Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five - Choo Choo Ch'Boogie
#1. Joe Liggins and His Honeydrippers - The Honeydripper (Parts I & II)
There is a big downside to this sort of chart. It's not conducive to quibbling. First of all, Whitburn just uses some kind of formula based on chart position to make the chart of charts, and the original charts are based on record sales and/or airplay. Second of all, who am I to question to the R&B record-buying public of the 40s? Maybe when I get to Joel Whitburn's book of best modern rock tracks I can quibble with the public at large - something to look forward to for another day.