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Chart Rewind: In 1958, Ray Price & Bobby Day Topped Billboard’s New Country and R&B Charts

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“The enthusiastic acceptance of the new Hot 100 pop singles chart as the standard of the industry since its inception three months ago has made it possible for The Billboard to complete its plans to streamline its record research operation,” a story announced in the Oct. 20, 1958, issue of Billboard (to be formal, then The Billboard).

“Record dealers, disk jockeys and music machine operators have made it abundantly clear that their prime need in the pop singles area is the freshest possible data about breakout singles as well as established best-sellers,” the story continued. “This singles information is completely provided by The Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.”

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After the Billboard Hot 100 began with the Aug. 4, 1958, listing, two new genre charts arrived: Hot C&W Sides and Hot R&B Sides, ranking 30 titles apiece. Today, they thrive as Hot Country Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, each 50 positions deep and incorporating the same streaming-, airplay- and sales-based methodology as the Hot 100.

Billboard had presented various rankings for the two genres previously, with R&B first measured by the Harlem Hit Parade, starting in the Oct. 24, 1942, issue. Country popularity was first reflected by the Most Played Juke Box Folk Records listing, beginning on Jan. 8, 1944.

The makeover in 1958, as noted that issue, marked “a new and expanded form of service,” with Hot C&W Sides and Hot R&B Sides the first all-encompassing song rankings for each genre. “Hot C&W Sides provides the fastest and most accurate coverage available on country music records, with the emphasis on ‘traditional’ rather than pop-style disks,” Billboard noted that issue. “The other new chart, Hot R&B Sides, performs the same service for the rhythm and blues field.”

The first track atop Hot C&W Sides? Ray Price’s “City Lights,” which reigned for 13 weeks. Multiple covers have been recorded, with Mickey Gilley’s likewise a No. 1 in 1975. Price amassed over 100 entries on Billboard’s country singles charts in 1952-89, including six Hot Country Songs leaders among 33 top 10s.

Bobby Day’s “Rock-in’ Robin” flew in atop the inaugural Hot R&B Sides chart, leading for three weeks. It, too, became a hit in a new form, as Michael Jackson’s version reached No. 2 in 1972. Like Price, Day was born in Texas; “Rock-in’ Robin,” however, stands as Day’s only charted R&B single.

Sixty-five years on, Luke Combs’ “Fast Car” leads the latest Hot Country Songs chart (dated Oct. 21, 2023). “Flashing signs invite a broken heart to lose itself in the glow of city lights,” a lonesome Price sang in his hit; sings Combs, “Won’t have to drive too far, just across the border and into the city …”

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Meanwhile, Drake’s “First Person Shooter,” featuring J. Cole, launches as Drake’s record-extending 30th No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. On the Hot 100, it’s Drake’s 13th leader, tying him with Jackson for the most among solo males.

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