My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

The case of the ‘Groovy Grubworm’ (and other chart confusion)

History is written by the victors” – often attributed to Winston Spencer Churchill but of unknown origin.

Thanks to the many fine volumes of Billboard charts compiled by Joel Whitburn, and the fact that Billboard is still published today, most fans tend to think of Billboard as being the authoritative source for charting the success and/or popularity of recordings. In the year 2011 that undoubtedly is true, but for much of the history of country music and the country music charts, that was not the case. From 1952 until the late 1980s, Billboard and Cashbox battled it out as the national authority for charting records. In the realm of country music, Billboard and Cashbox were of equal importance with as many country radio stations basing their weekly countdown shows on the Cashbox charts as on the Billboard charts. Normally this presented little controversy as most Billboard #1s made it to #1 on Cashbox, and vice versa. Even when such was not the case, a song reaching #1 on one chart usually would be a top three record on the other chart, or occasionally top five.

The Billboard and Cashbox charts did not measure popularity in quite the same manner. In his fascinating autobiography Me, The Mob and Music, rock artist Tommy James had the following to say:

“…The big three trade papers were Record World, Cashbox and Billboard. Billboard was always the most difficult to deal with. Cashbox had a slant toward retail. It focused on the money generated from records. Record World had a slant toward radio airplay. Billboard claimed to be in the middle. The problem with that was that when you put out a record, back then things happened fast.

In six weeks you needed a new record, that’s how quickly the turnover was if you wanted to stay constantly on the charts. If you put out a record and it generated some excitement, it immediately went on the radio. That would be reflected in Record World. But it would take two or three weeks after you heard a song on the radio before the sales figures would start to hit and the stores would start to report it. That was when your record would start charting in Cashbox. So there was a lag time between those two papers. Billboard claimed to chart records between radio play and sales. But you would always be two to three weeks further ahead in airplay than you were in sales …

… And now because the other trade papers collapsed over the years, Billboard, by attrition, became the keeper of the flame. When young researchers and historians go back to check the archives for a record’s history, they inevitably get a skewed sense of how popular it really was.”

I’m not sure I completely agree with Tommy James, but there is considerable truth in his observations. While the charts usually charted records in approximately the same range, sometimes there were outliers, with a record sometimes making a much bigger impression on one chart than the other, such as Johnny Darrell’s original recorded version of “The Green Green Grass of Home” reaching #12 on Cashbox (it also charted on Record World) but not charting at all on Billboard’s Country Chart. This phenomena normally would occur on songs not reaching the Top 10 on either chart. The most noteworthy outlier to reach #1 was that of the instrumental hit “Groovy Grubworm” by Harlow Wilcox and the Oakies. More about that record a little later.

During the 1970s more traditionally based artists seemed to fare better on the Cashbox charts than on Billboard (the same could be said of the Record World charts as well, but we’ll discuss Record World at another time). Both of the country radio stations I listened to during my high school and college years, WCMS in Norfolk, VA and WHOO in Orlando, FL presented their own local charts that seemed to track more closely with Cashbox than with Billboard.

When you attended a stage show for a country artist from the 1960s, 70s, or 80s, the artist will often introduce a song as a song “that went #1 for me in year 19xx…”, yet when you check on Wikipedia or one of the Joel Whitburn compendiums you’ll see that Billboard did not have the record reaching #1. That doesn’t mean the artist was lying to you – it could mean that the song reached #1 on Cashbox or Record World.

Below you will find a partial list of records reaching #1 on Cashbox but not Billboard. My Cashbox sources are complete only for the years 1958-1982 so there are undoubtedly other records that reached #1 on Cashbox, but not on Billboard. Some of these records were huge hits indeed and it is puzzling that they did not get to #1 on Billboard. Sometimes it was a matter of timing. For instance, Gene Watson’s “Love In The Hot Afternoon” reached #1 in virtually every market but topped out at #3 in both Billboard and Cashbox. Released originally on the small Resco label, the record was picked up by Capitol after it had topped the charts in Texas, California and the southwest and was already sliding down the charts in those areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some random thoughts – based on Cashbox’s methods Charley Pride really was the predominant superstar of his era. In additional to the eleven number ones above, he also had 29 other records reach the top on Billboard, giving him 40 for the period 1969-1984. His closest competitor during this period, Conway Twitty (39 combined Billboard & Cashbox #1s), padded his total with five #1 records in duets with Loretta Lynn. All of Charley’s #1 records were solo efforts.

The two records that hung around for the longest period of time at #2 on Billboard, Webb Pierce’s “I Ain’t Never” and Kitty Wells’ “Making Believe” both reached #1 on Cashbox. The three most extreme discrepancies between Cashbox and Billboard were “Snowbird” by Anne Murray, “Wings Upon Your Horns” by Loretta Lynn and “Groovy Grubworm” by Harlow Wilcox.

“Snowbird” is pretty easy to explain. Capitol didn’t conceive of “Snowbird” as a country song or Anne Murray as a country artist so they didn’t push it to country radio. Instead it was pushed to pop and easy listening radio (reaching #1 on the Billboard’s Easy Listening chart). Country DJs liked the song and played the record, and where the DJs weren’t playing it, country listeners started requesting the song after hearing it played on radio stations using other formats. In a sense, the record crossed over to country of its own volition.

“Wings Upon Your Horns” was the first Loretta Lynn song to really push the envelope, particularly in terms of perceived imagery. A fair number of radio stations banned the record – I guess it was those in the Billboard’s reporting network that banned the song. Loretta was already a superstar so almost anything she released was guaranteed to generate decent sales, even if radio wasn’t especially playing it in some markets.

“Groovy Grubworm” is an entirely different story. There isn’t much to say about Harlow Wilcox; Wikipedia had the following:

“Harlow Wilcox (died August 26, 2002) was an American session musician from Norman, Oklahoma. In 1969 he released an instrumental single on Plantation Records (as Harlow Wilcox & the Oakies) called “Groovy Grubworm,” which hit #30 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart late that year[…] “Groovy Grubworm” has sold over a million copies and was nominated for a Grammy in 1969.”

It seems odd that a record topping out at #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 would sell over a million copies, but everything about this record’s history is odd. For one thing it seemed to appeal across genre borders and the single could not clearly be defined as country or rock ‘n roll. The record does remind the listener of some of the material of The Bill Black Combo or even Johnny & The Hurricanes, both groups that straddled the country/rockabilly border. Our neighbors to the frozen north really took to the record as it reached #1 on the Canadian Country Charts and made the Top 20 on Canadian pop charts, reaching the Top 10 in several Canadian markets.

The song’s American history is interesting. Harlow Wilcox recorded “Groovy Grubworm” in 1969 for the tiny Impel label. Somehow the song came to the attention of Shelby Singleton, the owner of the previously dormant Sun label (which he used for reissues) and the Plantation label. Singleton purchased the master and re-released it as Plantation 28 in the fall of 1969.

“Groovy Grubworm” made its debut on both the Billboard and Cashbox Country charts on September 20, 1969. It hung around the Billboard Country charts for 13 weeks, peaking at #42. At some point, Billboard started tracking the record as a pop or rock ‘n roll record, as it made its debut on the Billboard Hot 100 on November 22, 1969 and stayed there for six weeks, peaking at #30

“Groovy Grubworm” would stay on the Cashbox Country Chart for 19 weeks with the following progression:

09/20/69 – #50, 09/27/69 – #36, 10/04/69 – #26, 10/11/69 – #21,
10/18/69 – #15, 10/25/69 – #11, 11/01/69 – #7, 11/08/69 – #4,
11/15/69 – #1, 11/22/69 – #1

From this point, the song dropped to #4 for two weeks and then slowly slid off the charts.

Cashbox also charted the song on its Top 100 Singles, where it debuted on September 20, 1969 and peaked at #25 on December 13, 1969 before sliding back down the charts, disappearing with the start of the New Year.

Both Billboard and Cashbox charts seemed subject to some manipulation during this period of time. Our esteemed colleague Ken Johnson once commented on this Classic Rewind of Wagoner’s version.

During the 1970s a total of 307 country recordings would reach #1 on Billboard, and during the 1980s a staggering total of 485 records reached #1 (during this period Billboard printed 51 charts per year). Cashbox results for the 1970s and 1980s are similar.

Chart manipulation does not seem a likely explanation for “Groovy Grubworm,” which had an unknown artist recording an instrumental for a minor label. I don’t have a good explanation on why the song reached #1 for two weeks on Cashbox but only #42 on Billboard. Whatever the case, Harlow Wilcox would never chart again on Billboard’s Pop charts, and would have only one more minor country chart hit: “Cripple Creek” which topped out at #54 in 1970.

20 responses to “The case of the ‘Groovy Grubworm’ (and other chart confusion)

  1. Razor X September 6, 2011 at 11:57 am

    How did Radio & Records factor into all of this? I know they were purchased by Billboard a few years ago, but they are the ones I remember as the source of a lot of the countdown shows I listened to when I was growing up.

    • Paul W Dennis September 12, 2011 at 12:51 am

      RADIO & RECORDS came later – it started in 1973 but really wasn’t of much importance until the mid-1980s when their charts were used for various “countdown shows”

      RECORD WORLDd (1946-1982, known as MUSIC VENDOR until 1964) folded in 1982 and RADIO & RECORDS moved up in importance after RECORD WORLD’s demise

  2. Blake September 7, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    This is a really interesting analysis. Thanks for sharing.

  3. luckyoldsun September 8, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Fascinating that someone made the effort to research this.

    Excellent point about history being written by the victors–Wikipedia uses the Billboard charts

    I’d differ with you on the claim that “Charley Pride was the predominant superstar of the era.” I’d want to look at album sales, concert ticket sales, national TV appearances, etc. before making that judgment. (I will grant you that Pride had a lot of gold albums, so that’s a point in your favor.)

    Overall, I think Twitty, Cash, Haggard, Jones, Willie and Waylon were all bigger country superstars than Pride–Certainly, their music has stuck around and endured a lot longer than his has.

    • Paul W Dennis September 18, 2011 at 10:00 am

      I think you can blame RCA for the fact that Pride is not better remembered – for the first decade of the digital era RCA issued almost nothing by Charley Pride. In fact, other than Elvis, Milsap and Alabama (and to some extent Waylon Jennings) almost all country acts were shafted for having been on RCA in the pre-digital era.

      All of the acts you named had far more product available.

      As COUNTY ON COMPACT DISC (Grove Press, 1993 – Paul Kingsbury, editor) noted of the two CDs RCA had issued:

      “Both are truncated eight-cut versions of LP collections that originally consisted of eleven and twelve cuts. It is fair to say what’s missing is better than what RCA has chosen to release…you won’t find on these CDs are the down-home musings of “Wonder Could I Live There Anymore”, the country finger-popping of “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” and Pride’s finest moment “Is Anybody Goin’ To San Antone”…. ”

      Let’s look at some RCA acts to see what was available from RCA in 1993 for pre-digital acts

      Eddy Arnold – THE BEST OF EDDY ARNOLD (a reissue of a 1967 which included some remakes of Eddy’s 40s hits along with some 1960s hits) plus three albums from the 1990s, long past Eddy’s vocal peak

      Chet Atkins – five CDs, mostly short anthologies (8-10 songs)
      Bobby Bare – nothing
      Jim Ed Brown – an eight song collection of duets with Helen Cornelius
      The Browns – nothing
      Skeeter Davis – nothing
      George Hamilton IV – nothing
      Hawkshaw Hawkins – nothing
      Johnnie & Jack – nothing
      Willie Nelson – several anthologies
      Dolly Parton – THE GREAT PRETENDER and three anthologies
      Kenny Price – nothing (even in 2011)
      Jerry Reed – BEST OF JERRY REED (ten songs)
      Jim Reeves – six (three anthologies, a Christmas album and two Camdens)
      Connie Smith – nothing
      Hank Snow – two anthologies, one with 20 songs, the other with 8 songs
      Nat Stuckey – nothing
      Porter Wagoner – PURE GOLD (ten tracks)
      Porter & Dolly – several anthologies on Pair (licensed from RCA)
      Dottie West – nothing

      • Razor X September 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm

        Also, Charley Pride left RCA in 1986 and signed with the independent 16th Avenue where he scored a few minor hits before the label folded a couple of years later. After that, it was difficult to find any new music from him. The others you mentioned — Twitty, Cash, Haggard, Jones, Willie, and Waylon all remained on major labels for a good while after that, with Cash being the first to leave the majors after his Mercury contract expired sometime around 1988. Since those artists were all still recording for the majors, the labels still had a vested interest, to one extent or another, in promoting those artists, hence more of their back catalogs were released on CD.

        Looking at the RCA artists listed above, none of them was still with the label in the 1990s. Most of them were no longer recording at all. Dolly was still recording for Columbia but beginning to decline commercially. Willie was also still active, so that may explain why he had more product available than the others. It is a shame, though, that so much great music remained locked up in the RCA vaults for so many years.

        • Paul W Dennis September 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm

          Not that the other labels did that well by their older country catalog, but some of them at least put some effort into it. The Capitol’s Collectors Series issued nice 20 track CDs by a number of artists – Sonny James, Ferlin Husky, Merle Haggard, Hank Thompson, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Tex Ritter, Jack Scott and then followed that up with their VIntage Collectors Series (both series included non-country acts). Capitol also kept some older Glen Campbell and Anne Murray material in print.

          Columbia kept some of their major artists such as Johnny Cash, Ray Price, Tammy Wynette, Marty Robbins and Flatt & Scruggs in print with at least representative collections. MCA/Decca did a pretty poor job although they kept Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn in print with some representative collections and had some stray discs available on other artists.

        • luckyoldsun September 21, 2011 at 5:15 pm

          Paul,
          There’s a bit of a “chicken-or-the-egg” issue to your main point. You assume that the lack of product in print causes an artists decline.But it’s also true that lack of demand for product causes it to go out of print.

          Singers who made heavily orchestrated recordings or “clean” (I would say “soulless”) recordings like Jim Reeves may have been extremely popular in their time, but the raw, unadorned singers like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash are the ones who are timeless. I thnk Charley Pride’s music generally does not wear very well, decades later.

          It’s funny–and telling–that in the CD era, Columbia has done much more with Ray Price’s raw ’50s recordings than with his lush later stuff.

  4. Ken Johnson September 20, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    First of all great analysis on the disparity between the two publications. Interesting to view these comparisons.

    However I believe that the statement that Billboard and Cashbox were of equal importance was true only during the 1960’s and early 1970’s. By the mid-1970’s Billboard became the preeminent country chart leader. Record World was actually a more viable contender as their methodology was far more credible than Cashbox where the purchase of advertising by record labels had a direct correlation to chart performance. Record World earned far more respect from the radio industry which was clearly evident at the radio seminars and conventions that I attended during that era. RW Editor Marie Ratliff was held in very high esteem.

    My view is that “Groovy Grubworm” is a textbook example of chart manipulation. For a record to perform so well in one trade magazine yet so poorly in another is truly unlikely without exceptional mitigating circumstances. During fall of 1969 I do not recall that record receiving the substantial airplay or attention that other #1 songs of that era received. Nor did it receive continuing airplay in subsequent years. Obviously something occurred that allowed its Cashbox chart position to be inflated higher than its anemic Billboard ranking. I offer two possible scenarios:

    One is that Plantation Records purchased significant ad space in Cashbox magazine during the chart life of the record. And those ads may not have been specifically for the Harlow Wilcox single. At that time Plantation Records owner Shelby Singleton had just revived the dormant Sun Records label and was briskly reissuing Johnny Cash’s early recordings. Cash had just concluded a successful summer TV series and was enjoying the biggest hit of his career with “A Boy Named Sue.” Singleton may have directed that the ad space purchased for his Cash product would grease the wheels for the Wilcox single as well as the latest Cash re-release. A reissue of Cash’s 1956 single “Get Rhythm” with overdubbed audience applause climbed to #12 in Cashbox that fall yet stalled at #23 in Billboard.

    Another scenario may have been orchestrated by Plantation Records at the radio station level. Cashbox reporting stations may have been offered incentives by the record label to report a higher chart position than the record deserved. The Cashbox radio station reporting panel generally included many more small market stations than those for Billboard therefore the cost of influencing those stations would have been more nominal. Also during that era most radio stations were affiliated with a national radio network and carried hourly newscasts. Those newscasts were “hard timed” to begin at exactly the top or bottom of the hour. Many radio stations would often play a portion of an instrumental to close the segment and “back-time” to the news. Perhaps radio stations were requested to include each time they played a portion of “Groovy Grubworm” for that purpose as they compiled their chart info or to use the record more frequently in that regard.

    Another reason that I strongly question the Cashbox rank is that when Plantation released the Harlow Wilcox album, “Groovy Grubworm And Other Golden Guitar Greats” in early 1970 the album spent only 9 weeks on the Billboard album charts peaking at #31. I could not even find a listing for that album on the Cashbox album chart. Hard to imagine that if a single was that widely popular that the album that included it would not be a top seller.

    On the flip side I’m at a loss to explain this example of Cashbox short-changing two legitimate hit records by one of the biggest stars of that era. Faron Young’s classic “Wine Me Up” peaked at #2 in Billboard during the first week of September 1969 yet only climbed to #12 in Cashbox. Faron’s follow-up “Your Time’s Comin’” went to #4 in Billboard three months later yet stalled at #20 in Cashbox. Perhaps Mercury Records failed to allocate enough of their ad budget to Cashbox that fall.

    Regarding Anne Murray’s “Snowbird”, it spent a very long time on the charts, a total of 19 weeks. It was Anne’s longest charting record of that decade. One reason that it only went to #10 might’ve been that the Billboard reporting stations added it to their playlists at differing times so the single may have peaked at different stations over a longer period of time. By the time some stations were adding it to their playlists it could’ve already peaked at others. In other words the peak popularity of the record was not occurring simultaneously at the majority of the Billboard reporting stations which included most major cities. Because the record received extensive airplay on pop radio stations it may have also shortened it’s duration on some country playlists. Obviously the Cashbox reporting panel tracked the song differently and/or that chart was influenced by other factors.

    Loretta Lynn’s “Wings Upon Your Horns” is indeed another anomaly. As you pointed out the subject matter of a woman losing her virginity was objectionable to some country radio stations. Even Loretta’s producer Owen Bradley disliked the song and thought the lyrics were “dirty” at the recording session. Its late-year release placed it on the charts during the Christmas season which may have also reduced airplay on many Billboard stations.

    Cashbox chart numbers are interesting to explore but I cannot assign significant credibility to them. The Record World chart had far greater accuracy. When that publication closed Radio & Records became the preeminent country chart during the 1980’s with methodology that earned the respect of both the radio and record industry rivaling Billboard. Perhaps one day a book will be written compiling the R&R chart info which will challenge the Joel Whitburn Billboard chart publications.

    As a side note, I’ve found that many country artists who falsely claim onstage to have won more awards or earned more #1 records than reality supports are more often exaggerating than referring to trade magazines other than Billboard. Usually the 2nd & 3rd tier acts are most guilty of this practice. I don’t necessarily believe that they are trying to deceive their audience but rather have chosen to believe their own often erroneous press kits. Repeat a fib enough times and it becomes your alternate reality. Perhaps they did have 50 number one gold records……in their dreams where they were also ten-time Entertainer Of The Year award-winners.

    • Razor X September 20, 2011 at 4:36 pm

      Those are some interesting scenarios, and while I don’t doubt that there could have been some substantial chart manipulation behind the success of “Groovy Grubworm”, I have to wonder why the label didn’t put such a strong promotional effort behind any subsequent Harlow Wilcox releases. If scoring a #1 hit was as simple as buying some ad space in Cashbox, then why didn’t they keep doing it instead of allowing Wilcox to languish in obscurity?

    • Paul W Dennis September 20, 2011 at 9:06 pm

      I wonder if the truth about “Groovy Grubworm” lays somewhere between the Cashbox and Billboard charts. Here in Central Florida the two major country stations (WSUN in St Petersburg and WHOO in Orlando) both played the song and continued to play it as an oldie as did some of the area Rock stations. My Canadian friends from Toronto and WInnepeg both remember it as being a major hit in their markets as well

      I’m not sure that it is so surprising that a hit single wouldn’t necessarily generate a hit album. Ray Steven’s 1974 hit “The Streak” went #1 on both the pop and country charts but the album never reached the top ten on either chart

      Billboard has been chronicled by the Joel Whitburn books, while Cashbox has only a couple of books by Albert & Hoffman that don’t begin to measure up to Whitburn’s efforts.

      I thought that the history of Record World was lost but I’ve found pieces of it here and there. Probably the most significant source was the Nelson George book from 1983 titled TOP OF THE CHARTS which gives a week-by-week listing of the top ten on each chart Record World compiled from January 1970 to December 1981. These charts were Pop Singles, Pop Albums, Black Singles, Black Albums, Jazz Albums, Country Singles and Country Albums.

  5. Razor X September 21, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    luckyoldsun said

    Singers who made heavily orchestrated recordings or “clean” (I would say “soulless”) recordings like Jim Reeves may have been extremely popular in their time, but the raw, unadorned singers like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash are the ones who are timeless. I thnk Charley Pride’s music generally does not wear very well, decades later.

    Charley Pride’s music does not fall into the “clean”, “heavily orchestrated” or “soulless” categories by any means, so I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. Most of what he did was more “raw” and “unadorned” than what George Jones was putting out at Epic around that same time. I also disagree that his music doesn’t wear very well decades later. I think a lot of his songs could be hits again with only slight variations in the arrangements. I honestly don’t know why his music isn’t better remembered than it is.

    • luckyoldsun September 21, 2011 at 8:33 pm

      Charley Pride often sang with a sing-songy delivery like he was singing to children.
      He often sounds to me like he’s holding back or that he’s working to ingratiate himself with an audience that might not be accepting of a more independent black man. I think that’s why Pride seemed to have surprisingly few black fans.

      That’s just my dead-honest opinion. I’m not suggesting that you have to agree with it.

      • Razor X September 21, 2011 at 10:07 pm

        It’s not surprising at all that he had few black fans. Country music in general has never had a huge black audience.

        • luckyoldsun September 22, 2011 at 11:49 pm

          No, but there definitely is a cross-pollination. A lot of mainstream country music of the ’70s –by artists like Joe Stampley, Razzie Bailey, Charlie Rich–sounds very close to R&B music of the time. And a lot of country hits of the era were also done up as R&B hits by black artists. And today, rap/hip-hop is definitely making its way into country.

  6. David B January 8, 2012 at 1:07 am

    Look at the gap between Billboard and Cashbox on “Wings Upon Your Horns” by Loretta Lynn. #1 in Cashbox and #11 in Billboard. That’s quite a difference.

  7. Pingback: So what is a music chart actually for? « My Kind Of Country

  8. Paul W Dennis January 6, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    I recently obtained Joel Whitburn’s new book on the Music Vendor / Record World pop charts from 1954-1982. Because Record World was more sales oriented than Billboard, there are some significant differences between the two charts. Because the genesis of the original article was “Groovy Grubworm” by Harlow Wilcox and the Oakies (#1 Cashbox country / #42 Billboard country) , I started with that song. Unfortunately I don’t have the Recovery World country charts except for the 1970s, but the Record World pop charts tend not to lend clarity to this particular issue as Record World had “Groovy Grubworm” do better on its pop charts than did either Cashbox or Billboard, with the song peaking at #23 and hanging on the charts for 13 weeks .

    I haven’t had much time to peruse the book (it came in yesterday’s mail) but it seems that country songs did a little better over the years on Record World than they did on Billboard – that may be a mistaken impression. I did notice that “A Boy Named Sue” which got marooned at #2 behind the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” , pushed past the Stones the week of September 6, 1969 for a one week stay at #1 on the pop charts.

    More later

    • Ken Johnson January 6, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      Though Record World may have been a bit more sales oriiented than Billboard it certainly was not any more accurate. Prior to the 1990’s sales and airplay tabulations were manually tallied rather than tracked by computers. Manipulation was sometimes as easy as the record label rep just asking the reporting record shop or radio station to report a particular record as their top seller or most requested item in return for some type of “consideration.” Some of the store sales reports fluctuated greatly depending upon which clerk answered the phone that day.

      That said as I look back to that era I seek common threads in data and tend to discount the outliers. The solid radio hits and true best sellers are easy to spot. Whether “A Boy Named Sue” peaked at #1 or #2 it was still a monster hit. I’ll be very interested to hear your further analysis of the new Whitburn book.

      • Paul W Dennis January 6, 2013 at 11:12 pm

        Of course, the “X” factor is regional hits.

        Four records particularly come to mind for me from 1968 when I lived in the Norfolk, VA area. None of the four records were monsters nationally but all four were top five records in our area according to the two radio stations that covered the area, WCMS-AM in Norfolk, VA and WTID-AM in Newport News, VA. The two stations were independently owned and operated yet both showed the four songs as huge hits in the area – and all received much airplay. WCMS printed a top forty chart weekly. WTID had a Friday night Top Five Countdown

        “Undo The Right” by Johnny Bush spent five weeks at #1 on WCMS and it reached #1 for a week or two on WTID. Nationally the record reached #10

        “Sounds of Goodbye” by George Morgan reached the top three on both stations. Nationally the record hit #31 but the song was recorded and released by Tommy Cash and the Gosdin Brothers, splitting the national chart action

        “Punish Me Tomorrow” by Carl Butler & Pearl hit the top five on both stations – it reached #28 on the national charts. The flip side “Goodbye Tennessee” also received airplay on both stations placing in the top forty on WCMS – the song did not reach the national charts.

        In December 1968, “Got Leaving On Her Mind” by Mac Wiseman received much airplay on both stations – I don’t know where it peaked on WCMS because Dad was transferred to London, England and we left the USA the first week of January 1969. It had reached #3 locally as of that week – nationally it peaked at #54. I think the single was the only one released on MGM by Wiseman – the record store I frequented said it flew off the shelves

        I wish I could get my hands on the WCMS charts my mother threw away when we moved -there were quite a few songs that were national hits that received little airplay on WCMS (or in some cases, the record was flipped by local DJs)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: