The Tennessee Plowboy
This past weekend Paul sent me a link to a few comments at Nashville Scene (scroll down to “WHAT IS COUNTRY MUSIC?:”) I didn’t read the original article that spurred these comments, but I see that the commenters echoed the comments made by riders on the Bus.
I did not set out to rekindle the discussion, but came across some interesting commercial statistics that I thought I would share. But first I must divulge a few secrets.
Aside from being an avid record collector and history buff, I am also a collector of books. My library is filled with books that are harmonious with my other interests (music, history, sociology...) I often refer to these volumes for inspiration and facts when preparing a post for the Bus.
Whenever I need to know commercial information about a song or artist, such as how long a song remained on the charts or how many records a particular artist sold in a certain year, I rely on Whitburn. Joel Whitburn founded Record Research Inc., with a staff of researchers that document, in full detail, all of Billboard’s various popular music (and now video) charts from the first issue in 1894 up to the current issue. Joel Whitburn is an avid record collector with one of the world’s largest record collections. His collection includes nearly every 78 rpm record, 45 rpm single, LP, and compact disc to appear on the Billboard charts dating back to the late 1890s.
According to Whitburn, George Jones (who’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today” was Paul’s choice as the most representative country song) has had more individual hits on the country charts than anyone else. The fact that Jones has had more hits on the charts during (most of) our lifetime would bias our opinion of what country music is.
But Whitburn uses a complex formula for ranking hits and the amount of time they spend on the charts. Whitburn’s formula gives the title of all-time leader in hits and their time on the country charts to Eddy Arnold! Whitburn lists 145 songs by Arnold that reached the charts, with 28 hitting the top at #1.
So, as the top ranking country artist (as defined by the most top hits on the charts for the longest time, per Whitburn), is the Tennessee Plowboy the most representative country artist?
Never mind, let’s not even go there again. Let’s just listen to a couple of great songs from another old 78 loaned to us by Walt’s Cousin Wes.