This week marks the 65th anniversary of Billboard's first album chart. The chart was just a top 10 listing when it first appeared in the issue dated March 24, 1945. It expanded to its current 200 positions in 1967.
Like just about every top 10 that has followed in the past 65 years, that first top 10 featured a mix of legends (Glenn Miller, Judy Garland, Tommy Dorsey) and hit-makers that had just a brief time in the spotlight. (Does anybody out there remember orchestra leader Mark Warnow or the "boogie woogie" piano duo of Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons? I didn't think so.)
To get the party started, here are 20 all-time record-holders from the past 65 years. I also identify the two closest runners-up.
The first six categories are open to all artists. The next six are divided by musical genre. Carving 65 years of music into genres is something only a fool would attempt. Naturally, I couldn't resist. As you might imagine, I have a fair amount of Fine Print after the list.
The Beatles: The artist with the most #1 albums. The Fab Four had 19 #1 albums from Meet The Beatles! in 1964 to 1 in 2000-2001. Runners-up: Jay-Z (11) and Elvis Presley (10). The Beatles also had the most weeks at #1 (132).
Frank Sinatra: The artist with the most top 10 albums. Ol' Blue Eyes had 40 top 10 albums from The Voice Of Frank Sinatra in 1946 to Nothing But The Best in 2008. Runners-up: The Rolling Stones (36) and the Beatles and Barbra Streisand (30 each). Sinatra also had the longest span of top five albums (62 years and two months).
Elvis Presley: The artist with the most chart albums. The King of Rock and Roll has charted with 121 albums, from Elvis Presley in 1956 to three albums just last month. Runners-up: Frank Sinatra (86) and Johnny Mathis (72). Presley also had the longest span of #1 albums (46 years and six months).
Stevie Wonder: The youngest solo artist with a #1 album. The future Motown legend was 13 years and three months old when Little Stevie Wonder/The 12 Year Old Genius hit #1 in August 1963. Key song: "Fingertips-Pt 2." Runners-up: LeAnn Rimes (14 years and six months) and Miley Cyrus (14 years and eight months). See The Fine Print.
Bob Dylan: The oldest artist with a #1 album. The rock legend was just one week shy of 68 when Together Through Life hit #1 in May 2009. Key song: "Beyond Here Lies Nothin.'" Runners-up: Barbra Streisand (67 and six months) and Neil Diamond (67 and four months).
Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon: The album with the most weeks on the chart. The rock classic has logged 754 weeks on the chart from March 1973 to this very week. Key hit: "Money." Runners-up: Johnny Mathis' Johnny's Greatest Hits (490 weeks) and the My Fair Lady cast album, with Julie Andrews, (480 weeks).
Michael Jackson's Thriller: The pop album with the most weeks at #1. Jackson's genre-bridging blockbuster was #1 for 37 weeks in 1983-1984. Key hits: "Billie Jean" and "Beat It." Runners-up: Harry Belafonte's Calypso (31 weeks) and Bee Gees' Saturday Night Fever soundtrack (24 weeks).
Fleetwood Mac's Rumours: the rock album with the most weeks at #1. The hit-laden album was on top for 31 weeks in 1977-1978. Key hits: "Dreams" and "Don't Stop." Runners-up: Prince & the Revolution's Purple Rain soundtrack (24 weeks) and the Police's Synchronicity (17 weeks).
Usher's Confessions: the R&B album with the most weeks at #1. The blockbuster was #1 for nine weeks in 2004. Key hits: "Yeah!" and "Burn." Runners-up: the Ink Spots' The Ink Spots (seven weeks) and Bobby Brown's Don't Be Cruel and Janet Jackson's janet. (six weeks each). See The Fine Print.
M.C. Hammer's Please Hammer Don't Hurt Em: The rap or hip-hop album with the most weeks at #1. Hammer hammered the competition for 21 weeks in 1990. Key hits: "U Can't Touch This" and "Pray." Runners-up: Vanilla Ice's To The Extreme (16 weeks) and Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP (eight weeks).
Garth Brooks' Ropin' The Wind: the country album with the most weeks at #1. The album was on top for 18 weeks in 1991-1992. Key hits: "Shameless" and "What's She Doing Now." Runners-up: Billy Ray Cyrus' Some Gave All (17 weeks) and Taylor Swift's Fearless (11 weeks). See The Fine Print.
The King Cole Trio's The King Cole Trio: The jazz album with the most weeks at #1. Cole's album was on top for 12 weeks in 1945. Key song: "It's Only A Paper Moon." Runners-up: Stan Kenton and his Orchestra's A Presentation Of Progressive Jazz and Benny Goodman and his Orchestra's 1937/1938 Jazz Concert No. 2 (eight weeks each).
Various Artists, West Side Story: The soundtrack album with the most weeks at #1. The soundtrack to the Oscar-winning musical was #1 for 54 weeks in 1962-1963. Key songs: "Maria" and "Tonight." "Runners-up: Mario Lanza's The Student Prince and other Great Musical Comedies (42 weeks) and South Pacific (31 weeks).
James Horner, Titanic: The (predominately) instrumental soundtrack with the most weeks at #1. Horner's score for the Oscar-winning disaster flick was #1 for 16 weeks in 1998. Key songs: "Southampton," "My Heart Will Go On." Runners-up: Ernest Gold's Exodus (14 weeks) and Henry Mancini's Breakfast At Tiffany's (12 weeks).
Various Artists, Miami Vice: The TV soundtrack with the most weeks at #1. The album was on top for 11 weeks in 1985-1986. Key hits: Jan Hammer's "Miami Vice Theme" and Glenn Frey's "You Belong To The City." Runners-up: Henry Mancini's The Music From Peter Gunn (10 weeks) and the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour (eight weeks).
Mary Martin/Ezio Pinza, South Pacific: The original cast album with the most weeks at #1. This album from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical was #1 for 69 weeks from 1949 to 1951. Key song: "Some Enchanted Evening." Runners-up: The Sound Of Music, also starring Martin, (16 weeks) and My Fair Lady, starring Julie Andrews, (15 weeks).
Bing Crosby's Merry Christmas: The Christmas album with the most weeks at #1. This holiday perennial was #1 for 39 weeks from 1945 to 1958. Key hits: "White Christmas" and "I'll Be Home For Christmas." Runners-up: Josh Groban's Noel (five weeks) and Elvis Presley's Elvis' Christmas Album (four weeks).
Bob Newhart's The Button-Down Mind Of Bob Newhart: The comedy album with the most weeks at #1. The stand-up set by the future TV legend was on top for 14 weeks in 1960. Runners-up: Vaughn Meader's JFK parody The First Family (12 weeks) and Allan Sherman's My Son, The Nut (eight weeks).
Judy Garland's Judy At Carnegie Hall: The live album with the most weeks at #1. This classic album was on top for 13 weeks in 1961. Key songs: "Over The Rainbow" and "The Trolley Song." Runners-up: Peter Frampton's Frampton Comes Alive! (10 weeks) and Benny Goodman's 1937/38 Jazz Concert No. 2 (eight weeks).
Glenn Miller and His Orchestra's Glenn Miller: The greatest hits album with the most weeks at #1. The collection topped the chart for 16 weeks from 1945 to 1947. Key hits: "In The Mood" and "Moonlight Serenade." Runners-up: Elton John's Greatest Hits (10 weeks) and Garth Brooks' The Hits and the Beatles' 1 (eight weeks each). Miller's album also had the longest posthumous run at #1. His plane disappeared on a flight over the English Channel in December 1944.
The Fine Print: I adhered to the Grammys' genre classifications of albums. This played a big role in shaping the R&B listing above. The Grammys classified numerous contenders as pop, rather than R&B, including Michael Jackson's Thriller and Bad, Stevie Wonder's Songs In The Key Of Life, Donna Summer's Bad Girls and multiple albums by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. The Grammys classified Prince & the Revolution's Purple Rain as rock.
Ray Charles' 1962 classic Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music logged 14 weeks at #1, which would have made it the third longest-running #1 country album of all time. But I'm classifying it as pop, rather than country. That's because none of the songs from the album (or its hit sequel) cracked the country chart (!), while the album's two classic singles, "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "You Don't Know Me," reached #1 and #2, respectively, on the Hot 100.
On the youngest solo artist to have a #1 album, I didn't count the duo Kris Kross, whose members were 13 and 14 in May 1992 when Totally Krossed Out hit #1. And I didn't count the first Hannah Montana soundtrack, because it wasn't billed as a Miley Cyrus album. Cyrus was 13 years and 11 months old in November 2006 when that soundtrack topped the chart. She had stepped up to front-cover billing nine months later when Hannah Montana 2/Meet Miley Cyrus topped the chart.
What have we learned today? Mary Martin starred in (and Rodgers & Hammerstein composed) the two musicals with the longest-running #1 original cast albums: South Pacific and The Sound Of Music. But Martin didn't land either film role. The parts went instead to Mitzi Gaynor and Julie Andrews. Martin, whose son is Dallas star Larry Hagman, died in 1990.
Henry Mancini died in 1994, but he still has one of the longest-running #1 instrumental soundtracks and one of the longest-running #1 TV soundtracks of all time.
Hat Tip: Joel Whitburn's excellent series of research books made compiling this column much easier (not easy, mind you, but easier!). The two key books that I used this time were The Billboard Albums, 6th Edition and Top Pop Albums & Singles 1940-1954. Joel's website is http://www.recordresearch.com/.
If you want to find out more about Billboard, go straight to the source at http://www.billboard.com/.
If you enjoyed this list, why don't you buy an album this week? You know, it wouldn't kill you. (Which I think is going to be the music industry's new marketing slogan.)