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55 Years of the Hot 100

Published: 8/4/2013

Billboard Hot 100 August 1958 (Flickr Creative Commons / C.P. Storm)Fifty-five years ago today, a staple of the music industry saw its debut – it was the first time Billboard magazine ever published its Hot 100 chart. Though Billboard had been tracking the popularity of songs and albums since 1936, previous charts were divided by genre and by location (e.g. one chart for sales at record stores and another for radio play). The Hot 100 was something new, their first attempt to bring together all the charts, compiling hit songs of many genres into one list that defined the music industry's trends at a glance.

That first Hot 100 list from August 1958 reads like a time capsule of musical memories. And despite the generation gap, it's not really all that different from the Hot 100 charts of 2013. It's made up of legends and one-hit wonders, rockers and slow burners – in other words, a little bit of everything. Variety has always been the spice of the Hot 100. And on this anniversary, we're looking back at the hottest 10 from the first Hot 100.

No. 10: Peggy Lee – "Fever." The superstar's signature song brought a touch of sultry jazz to the Hot 100 – plenty of heat, too.

No. 9: The Johnny Otis Show – "Willie and the Hand Jive." Johnny Otis helped introduce white audiences to the type of early rock 'n' roll that was mostly played by black musicians.

No. 8: Jack Scott – "My True Love." This is what slow dances in school gymnasiums were all about.

No. 7: The Coasters – "Yakety Yak." The Coasters made frequent appearances on the R&B charts, where they were hot enough to hit the Hot 100 (and eventually top it – "Yakety Yak" would climb all the way to No. 1).

No. 6: Duane Eddy, His Twangy Guitar and the Rebels – "Rebel Rouser." Country music has had a place in the Hot 100 since the very beginning.

No. 5: The Kalin Twins – "When." Twin brothers (and future one-hit wonders) Hal and Herbie Kalin gave us doo-woppy "When."

No. 4: Elvis Presley with the Jordanaires – "Hard Headed Woman." A 1950s singles chart wouldn't be complete without the King, and he turns up the rock to 10 on this rollicking hit.

No. 3: Bobby Darin – "Splish Splash." Novelty hits are nothing new to the Hot 100 – Darin helped keep the charts silly from the very beginning.

No. 2: Perez Prado and His Orchestra – "Patricia." The King of the Mambo brought an international flavor to the chart.

No. 1: Ricky Nelson – "Poor Little Fool." The teen heartthrob's debut single was the Hot 100's first No. 1 and continued to dominate, never leaving the Top 10 throughout the chart's first month.

These hit makers may not have known it when they were recording their songs, but they've left an indelible legacy. They created a blueprint that popular music is still following to this day – and a beat that still has us moving our feet.

Written by Linnea Crowther

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