The Billboard Hot 100 Chart was launched August 4th, 1958, with Ricky Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool” crowned as the inaugural chart topper.
Before the Hot 100 was created, Billboard published numerous charts that were very specific. These charts included:
- Best Sellers in Stores – ranked the biggest selling singles in retail stores, as reported by merchants surveyed throughout the country.
- Most Played by Jockeys – ranked the most played songs on United States radio stations, as reported by radio disc jockeys and radio stations.
- Most Played in Jukeboxes – ranked the most played songs in jukeboxes across the United States. At that time, this chart used to be one of the most important channels for measuring the popularity of a song among the younger generation of listeners, as many US radio stations resisted adding rock and roll music to their playlists for many years.
- On the week ending November 12, 1955, Billboard published The Top 100 for the first time. The Top 100 combined all aspects of a single’s performance (sales, airplay and jukebox activity), based on a point system that typically gave sales (purchases) more weight than radio airplay. The Best Sellers In Stores, Most Played by Jockeys and Most Played in Jukeboxes charts continued to be published concurrently with the new Top 100 chart. This chart was eventually eliminated in favor of a revamped Hot 100 chart because of the waning popularity of jukeboxes and more listeners favoring radio (specifically rock and roll radio).
The creation of the Hot 100 was a concerted effort by the magazine to have one main chart to measure the popularity of a song in the country, and has been the most watched music chart since, with over 1,000 different songs topping the chart in its nearly 60 year run.
As the first #1 hit on the Hot 100, “Poor Little Fool” holds up pretty well for what it is – a four chord acoustic guitar driven song about a guy giving away his heart “for the first time,” only to end up being heartbroken by a girl a day later. It’s a classic tale, and one that has been told countless times over the years. Surprisingly, this song was not written by Nelson himself, it was written by 15 year old Sharon Sheeley, who shared the song with Nelson when she claimed that her car broke down outside of his house.
“Poor Little Fool” topped the Hot 100 for 2 consecutive weeks, but Ricky Nelson would reach the #1 spot on the Hot 100 one more time, with “Travelin’ Man” in 1961, marking the end of his run as one of the most popular artists in the United States.