Originally a trade publication for outdoor billboard advertising and entertainment-related news coverage, Billboard published its first music “hit parade” list in 1936. With the greater focus on song performance came a number of respective charts, paving the way for the Billboard Hot 100. It debuted in 1958 and remains the foremost domestic signifier of song popularity in America to this day. And for anyone who’s curious, Ricky Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool” was the first hit to take the No. 1 spot. (Over time, these are the artists with the most No. 1 hits.)
To determine the biggest pop hits of the first five years of the Billboard Hot 100, 24/7 Tempo reviewed performance data on the Hot 100 charts for songs that entered the Hot 100 between 1958 to 1962. We ranked them based on an inverse score wherein a week at No. 1 is worth 100 points, a week at No. 2 worth 99 points, and so on, up to a week at No. 100 worth one point. Chart data is current through the week of August 20, 2022. Christmas songs were not included.
The resulting list features an iconic mix of country, pop vocals, rock, and orchestral music. To this day, music lovers still recognize names like Conway Twitty, Frankie Avalon, Brenda Lee, and Bobby Darin, all of whom topped the chart at least once during its first five years. (Here, on the other hand, are famous musicians who never topped the Billboard Hot 100.)
As for the era’s biggest hit, it’s a song that pretty much any music expert will see coming. Not only did it inspire countless imitations and yield a seminal dance craze, but it reappeared at the top of the chart two years after its initial release. Come on baby, you definitely know this one! And if you don’t, you certainly will soon.
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