Wednesday, December 31, 1986

Pop Memories 1890-1954

Pop Memories:


My personal book shelves are loaded with more than a hundred books devoted to music. This one, however, is the most important of them all. The book was published by Record Research, a company started by Joel Whitburn which became the go-to resource for books on the Billboard charts. The book also features invaluable research from Steve Sullivan, who has become the individual most responsible for sparking my interest in music of the pre-rock era.

I became a chart fanatic in the 1980s because of American Top 40, a weekly radio countdown show based on Billboard’s pop charts. The magazine was founded in 1894 as a trade publication for, well, billboards. However, it expanded in the early years of the 20th century to cover the entertainment industry in general and then later keying in on the music industry. Their first music charts in 1913 focused on sheet music. Over the years, they’ve developed multiple charts focused on music, but the Billboard Hot 100, which tracks the most popular songs in the United States on a weekly basis, has become the industry standard.

However, other charts have existed over the years and Pop Memories serves as an invaluable resource to early Billboard charts as well as other chart sources. Here are some of the sources cited on page 7 of the 1986 edition:

  • The Phonogram (early 1890s), record industry periodical
  • The Phonoscope (1896-1899), monthly lists of popular recordings
  • Hobbies Magazine (1900-1920s), Jim Walsh columns on music
  • Talking Machine World (1905-1921), monthly record industry periodical, lists of best sellers
  • Billboard (1913-1918), most popular vaudeville songs
  • Billboard magazine (1920s), hit records and songs of the era, regular charts by 1934 for radio airplay and sheet music sales
  • Variety magazine (1920s), hit records and songs of the era, monthly rankings of best-selling records starting in 1929
  • Your Hit Parade (1935-1940), weekly rankings
  • Billboard (1938-1954), weekly lists of the most popular records in jukeboxes
  • Billboard (1940-1954), began first comprehensive chart of best selling records from all labels
  • Billboard (1945-1954), chart of most played songs by disc jockeys
  • record label catalogs and publications
  • sheet music sales

Dave’s Music Database lists based on Pop Memories:

Resources/Related Links:

  • Dave’s Music Database: “Lists Based on Charts, Sales, and Airplay
  • Joel Whitburn (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc.
  • Joel Whitburn (2016). Pop Memories 1900-1940. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc.
  • Joel Whitburn (2002). Billboard Pop Hits – Singles & Albums, 1940-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc.

First posted 12/21/2022.

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