Tuesday, August 1, 2000

Edward Foote Gardner’s Popular Songs of the Twentieth Century, 1900-1949

Edward Foote Gardner:

Popular Songs of the Twentieth Century, 1900-1949

Edward Foote Gardner’s book, Popular Songs of the Twentieth Century, 1900-1949 tackled the task of crafting charts for the popular songs of the pre-rock era. He developed a top 20 chart for each month of every year from 1900-1949. The charts listed only song titles and not particular performers as it was common in the pre-rock era for multiple artists to have recordings of the same hit songs.

As for how Gardner developed these charts, he explains how he “processed over a million bits of information regarding about 5000 song candidates” (xi) for 1900-1929 alone, taking into account “three major areas of popularity: frequency of performance in vaudeville, sheet-music sales, and record and piano-roll sales. In later years, as vaudeville gave way to radio, airplay became a major factor” (xi).

For the 1930s, he “relied heavily on the record and sheet-music rankings in Variety and Metronome, rakings on ‘Your Hit Parade,’ and sheet-music and jukebox charts in Billboard” (xi). In the 1940s, Billboard began weekly charts of best-selling records and continued charts for sheet-music sales and radio performance. In 1945, they began their Honor Roll of Hits which tracked the top 10 to 15 songs. Gardner largely followed these charts from that point on, fleshing out his top 20 charts with songs from he Billboard charts on jukebox plays, jockey plays, and record sales.

In addition to the monthly charts, Gardner provides spreadsheets so one can track a song’s full chart run. He also offers blurbs about the 4000+ songs which include their writers, publishers, and significant artists who recorded it.

Most Notable Sources Cited in Book:

Gardner offers an extensive bibliography of his sources, but specifically notes the below books and weekly trade papers in the introduction.

  • Billboard (1908-1949). Cincinnati.
  • Roger D. Kinkle (1974). The Complete Encyclopedia of Popular Music and Jazz. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House.
  • Julius Mattfeld (1962). Variety Music Cavalcade. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Metronome (1899-1938). New York.
  • The Music Trades (1899-1929). New York, published by John C. Freund.
  • Sigmund Spaeth (1948). A History of Popular Music in America. New York: Random House.
  • Talking Machine World (1905-1930). New York, published by Edward Lyman Bill.
  • Variety (1907-1949). New York.

Dave’s Music Database lists based on Popular Songs of the Twentieth Century:

Resources/Related Links:

First posted 12/22/2022.

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