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Country Music Greatest Hits
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If you are a fan of Country music like I am, maybe you would like to know which Country music songs were the most popular. With so many great artists over the years, which song was the most popular and who had the most #1 songs would be something I would like to know. I was intrigued by this and decided to do some research and find out. I decided to cover the period from 1944 through 1988 for the most popular Country & Western songs for all-time. With more than thousands of songs being released, a decision had to be made on how to rank these songs. Is there a source that can be used to determine the best country music songs? Yes there is. It was Joel Whitburn's "Top Country Singles 1944-1988" book. This will be our resource.
If you are interested in viewing the other lists, click on the link below:
Rock N Roll Top 100 Hits 1955-1970
You can check out my newest chart lists from 1890 - 2010 by going there now!
Background of Country Music
Here is some background of country music before it became a music format that Billboard would eventually chart. During the period of 1944-1988, the following occurred:
- Over 15,000 record titles charted
- Close to 1,900 artists have charted singles
- There were 1,073 records that peaked at the #1 position
- 49 artists have charted 50 or more singles on the country charts
Billboard magazine began in earnest in 1944 to chart this popular music format. Beginning on January 8, 1944, they published their first chart of "folk" music.
Ranking Of The Songs
Now we have to establish how the songs will be ranked from 1-100. The ranking of the songs will be determined by the following criteria:
- Highest peak position.
- Total # of weeks at peak position.
- Total weeks in the Top 10.
- Total weeks in the Top 40.
- Total weeks charted.
The listing will include the following: title, artist, year released and total weeks at #1 (). So, let's start and see which C&W songs were the most popular during this period.
Ranking The Songs Research
The major decision was to decide how many records to include in this list which would make it meaningful. I decided on researching the top 100 songs for this period.
Country music charts varied over the years. In Joel Whitburn's "Top Country Singles 1944-1988" book he explains the different charts that Billboard used in ranking the songs. For those of you who are interested, I have listed all the charts used to compile the all-time best Country songs. These charts are:
- Most Played in Juke Boxes
- Most Played C&W in Juke Boxes
- Best Selling Retail "Folk Records
- Best Selling Retail Folk (Country & Western) Records
- National Best Sellers
- Best Sellers in Stores
- C&W Best Sellers in Stores
- Most Played by Jockeys
- Most Played C&W by Jockeys
- Hot Country Singles Chart
Criteria Used To Compile The Best Country Song Rankings
Most of these charts used had a various number of songs that got ranked each week. To be fair, each chart should be researched to determine the over all ranking of each song based upon the highest position reached on the chart, the number of weeks it held the #1 position, and total number of weeks charted from all sources.
Next, we have to determine how many songs reached the #1 position for the period. Upon research from all the chart sources I found that there were 1,073 songs that reached #1.
The Top 100 Country Music Songs
Here is the list of the all-time best country songs.
1. I'm Moving On / Hank Snow 1950 (21)
2. In The Jailhouse Now / Webb Pierce 1955 (21)
3. Crazy Arms / Ray Price 1956 (20)
4. I Don't Hurt Anymore / Hank Snow 1954 (20)
5. Walk On By / Leroy Van Dyke 1961 (19)
6. Slowly / Webb Pierce 1954 (17)
7. Heartbreak Hotel / Elvis Presley 1956 (17)
8. Guitar Polka / Al Dexter 1946 (16)
9. Love's Gonna Live Here / Buck Owens 1963 (16)
10. Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette) Tex Williams 1947 (16)
11. New Spanish Two Step / Bob Wills 1946 (16)
12. Slow Poke / Pee Wee King 1951 (15)
13. The Wild Side Of Life / Hank Thompson 1952 (15)
14. Please Help Me I'm Faling / Hank Lockin 1960 (14)
15. He'll Have To Go / Jim Reeves 1960 (14)
16. Jambalaya (On The Bayou) / Hank Williams 1952 (14)
17. The Shotgun Boogie / Tennessee Ernie Ford 1951 (14)
18. Divorce Me C.O.D / Merle Travis 1947 (14)
19. So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packet / Merle Travis 1944 (14)
20. So Long Pal / Al Dexter 1944 (13)
21. Love, Love, Love / Webb Pierce 1955 (13)
22. Singing The Blues / Marty Robbins 1956 (13)
23. Smoke On The Water / Red Foley 1944 (13)
24. City Lights / Ray Price 1958 (13)
25. Alone With You / Faron Young 1958 (13)
26. Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy / Red Foley 1950 (13)
27. Kaw-Liga / Hank Williams 1953 (13)
28. I Don't Care / Webb Pierce 1955 (12)
29. Always Late (With Your Kisses) / Lefty Frizzell 1951 (12)
30. There Stands The Glass / Webb Pierce 1953 (12)
31. Alabam / Cowboy Copas 1960 (12)
32. Don't Rob Another Man's Castle / Eddy Arnold 1949 (12)
33. One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart) / Jimmy Wakely 1948 (11)
34. I Want To Be With You Always / Lefty Frizzell 1951 (11)
35. Wanna Play House With You / Eddy Arnold (11)
36. There's Been A Change In Me / Eddy Arnold (11)
37. Don't Let Me Cross Over / Carl Butler & Pearl 1962 (11)
38. You Two-Timed Me One Time Too Often / Tex Ritter 1945 (11)
39. Wings Of A Dove / Ferlin Husky 1960 (10)
40. More And More / Webb Pierce 1954 (10)
41. Why Don't You Love Me / Hank Williams 1950 (10)
42. Gone / Ferlin Husky 1957 (10)
43. Ballad Of A Teenage Queen / Johnny Cash 1958 (10)
44. Sixteen Tons / Tennessee Ernie Ford 1955 (10)
45. The Battle Of New Orleans / Johnny Horton 1959 (10)
46. Don't Worry / Marty Robbins 1961 (10)
47. The Three Bells / The Browns 1959 (10)
48. Anytime / Eddy Arnold 1948 (9)
49. Shame On You / Spade Cooley 1945 (9)
50. Mexican Joe / Jim Reeves 1953 (9)
51. Wolverton Mountain / Claude King 1962 (9)
52. Young Love / Sonny James 1957 (9)
53. Hello Walls / Faron Young 1961 (9)
54. Almost Persuaded / David Houston 1966 (9)
55. Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way / Carl Smith 1952 (8)
56. Just A Little Lovin' (Will Go A Long, Long Way) / Eddy Arnold 1948 (8)
57. Rhumba Boogie / Hank Snow 1951 (8)
58. Oh Lonesome Me / Don Gibson 1958 (8)
59. I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know / The Davis Sisters 1953 (8)
60. Hey, Joe / Carl Smith 1953 (8)
61. Four Walls / Jim Reeves 1957 (8)
62. Hey, Good Lookin' / Hank Williams 1951 (8)
63. Don't Just Stand There / Carl Smith 1952 (8)
64. It's Been So Long / Webb Pierce 1953 (8)
65. At Mail Call Today / Gene Autry 1945 (8)
66. Once A Day / Connie Smith 1964 (8)
67. Devil Woman / Marty Robbins 1962 (8)
68. Guess Things Happen That Way / Johnny Cash 1958 (8)
69. Wake Up Little Susie / The Everly Brothers 1957 (8)
70. Long Gone Lonesome Blues / Hank Williams 1950 (8)
71. Tender Years / George Jones 1961 (7)
72. Loose Talk / Carl Smith 1955 (7)
73. Don't Be Cruel / Elvis Presley 1956 (7)
74. I'm Losing My Mind Over You / Al Dexter 1946 (7)
75. My Heart Skips A Beat / Buck Owens 1964 (7)
76. Mama Sang A Song / Bill Anderson 1962 (7)
77. Bye Bye Love / The Everly Brothers 1957 (7)
78. El Paso / Marty Robbins / 1959 (7)
79. Still / Bill Anderson 1963 (7)
80. Ring Of Fire / Johnny Cash 1963 (7)
81. I Guess I'm Crazy / Jim Reeves 1964 (7)
82. There Goes My Everything / Jack Greene 1966 (7)
83. Waitin' In Your Welfare Line / Buck Owens & The Buckaroos 1966 (7)
84. I Walk The Line / Johnny Cash 1956 (6)
85. I'm Wasting My Tears On You / Tex Ritter 1944 (6)
86. She Thinks I Still Care / George Jones 1962 (6)
87. Oklahoma Hills / Jack Guthrie 1945 (6)
88. I Don't Care / Buck Owens 1964 (6)
89. Your Cheatin' Heart / Hank Williams 1953 (6)
90. A Dear John Letter / Jean Shepard & Ferlin Husky 1953 (6)
91. Understand Your Man / Johnny Cash 1964 (6)
92. Dang Me / Roger Miller 1964 (6)
93. Straighten Up And Fly Right / The King Cole Trio 1944 (6)
94. Giddyup Go / Red Sovine 1966 (6)
95. Don't Take Your Guns To Town / Johnny Cash 1959 (6)
96. Before You Go / Buck Owens 1965 (6)
97. Think Of Me / Buck Owens & The Buckaroos 1966 (6)
98. I Want To Go With You / Eddy Arnold 1966 (6)
99. Daddy Sang Bass / Johnny Cash 1969 (6)
100. It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels / Kitty Wells 1952 (6)
Reaction To The List
This list surprised me. How about you? Wouldn't be nice to have the songs you are missing in your collection. Resort Records is a company that has been in business for over 15 years. They sell songs in any format and have reasonable prices. Another company Collectors' Choice Music has been in business since 1993, and has over 250,000 titles to select from. They basically sell music by artist, era and by preference. Why not purchase your missing songs now. Go here to order now!
I will include some important notes and facts about each song in the top 10. Should be very interesting reading. Also, as promised, I will provide a list of the all-time top 10 artists in Country Music.
You can hear each of the top 10 songs below.
Top 10 Country Artists
Here are the top 10 artists of all-time in the counrty format through 1988:
1. Addy Arnold (17,092)
2. George Jones (16,198)
3. Johnny Cash (13,356)
4. Merle Haggard (12,171)
5. Conway Twitty (11,905)
6. Ray Price (10,870)
7. Webb Pierce (10,791)
8. Willie Nelson (10,570)
9. Marty Robbins (10,550)
10. Dolly Parton (10,191)
Top 5 Artists with the most #1 hits:
1. Conway Twitty (40)
2. Merle Haggard (38)
3. Ronnie Millsap (34)
4. Charley Pride (29)
5. Eddy Arnold (28)
Buy Country Music Now
Here's your last chance to by your favorite country songs now. Go here to order now!
For your pleasure, each of the top 10 Country songs can be heard on this lens. Also, you will find more information about the artist and the recording of each song as well.
If you liked this chart, I have just compelted the top 100 songs from 1910 - 1979 using the pop format go and check this out now!
1. I'm Movin' On / Hank Snow 1950 - This song spent 21 weeks at #1
The late Hank Snow - born in Nova Scotia on this day in 1914 - bought his first guitar from an Eaton's catalogue in 1928* and first performed for an audience with it two years later in a church basement in Bridgewater. Having well and truly caught the performing bug, Snow made his way to Halifax, and thence to Montreal, where he was signed by RCA Victor. They would remain his record label for 45 years - a kind of mutual loyalty which is almost unbelievable in this day and age, even despite the fact that he managed to sell some 80 million of his own records for them.
All of which makes this song, I'm Movin' On, an apt anthem for the peripatetic Canadian who so completely mastered the quintessentially American idiom of country and western music he was elected to the Grand Ole Opry. The song would spend 21 weeks at Number 1 on the country chart in 1950, merely the first of seven chart-toppers he would release.
2. In The Jailhouse Now / Webb Pierce 1955 - This song spent 21 weeks at #1
In the Jailhouse Now is a novelty blues song originally found in Vaudeville performances from the early twentieth century,usually credited to Jimmie Rodgers. The song's three verses trace the exploits of Ramblin' Bob, who cheats at cards and gets caught, while the final verse tells about taking a girl named Susie out on the town and winding up in jail together
Webb Pierce, with his Nudie suits and big cars, his 96 charting singles (13 reached the top spot on the charts while 54 hit the Top Ten), and his love/hate relationship with the Nashville music establishment, did even more to present an identifiable and longterm face for honky tonk and the modernization of country in the 1950s than almost any other artist. Pierce was also a prescient and astute businessman, establishing his own record label, Pacemaker Records, as early as 1950, and also setting up a prosperous publishing company, Cedarwood Publishing, and purchasing several radio stations as well, creating what was essentially a oneman music conglomerate that still stands as a viable template for contemporary artists. He also bought most of the songs he is supposed to have written, was a constant and ardent opportunist, and in general pissed off a lot of people, which is no doubt why his considerable legacy doesn't always get the respect it deserves with the country music establishment. After Rodgers, the best-known version of the song was by Webb Pierce, who had a #1 Country Hit with the song in 1955.
3. Crazy Arms / Ray Price 1956 - This song spent 20 weeks at #1
"Crazy Arms" is an American country song recorded by Ray Price. The song, released in late 1956, went on to become a hit that year and a honky-tonk standard. It was Price's first number one hit. The song was written by Ralph Mooney and Charles Seals. Mooney, a pedal steel player on many recordings and for Waylon Jennings and Wynn Stewart for over 20 years, said he got the idea for the song after his wife left him because of his drinking problem.
"Crazy Arms" reached No. 1 of each of the Billboard magazine country music charts (jukebox, best sellers and radio airplay) in June 1956, and has been credited with spending 20 weeks atop the chart; just three other songs spent longer at No. 1. In addition,
4. I Don't Hurt Anymore / Hank Snow 1954 - This song spent 20 weeks at #1
In 1954 another top country song of the year followed, Hank's "I Don't Hurt Any More". In the early fifties Hank discovered a young singer, in his mind a country singer, who just emphasized the beat a little more. The young talent's name was Elvis Presley, and Hank took him on as an opening act, and later invited him to the Grand Ole Opry and introduced him to Colonel Parker who eventually became Elvis' Manager. Hank Snow sold over 70 million records in his career that spanned 78's, 45's, extended 45's, LP's, 8-tracks, cassettes and compact discs.Throughout his life he recorded over 100 LPs, including everything from hit parade material to gospel, train songs, instrumentals (alone and with Chet Atkins), tributes to Jimmie Rodgers and the Sons of the Pioneers, and recitations of Robert Service poems. He has always kept a warm spot in his heart for Nova Scotia, and he paid homage with his album "My Nova Scotia Home". He also recorded "Squid Jiggin' Ground" in honor of the fishermen he sailed with out of Lunenburg in his early youth.
Ernest Tubb invited Hank to the Grand Ole Opry on January 7, 1950. He performed at the Opry for 46 years. His first few appearances received only luke-warm appreciation, until he wrote and recorded the song "I'm Movin' On", which became the top country song of 1950 and still holds the country music record for number of consecutive weeks at the number one chart position. This enabled him to finally buy the family's first home, the Rainbow Ranch, where Min still lives today, just outside of Nashville.
5. Walk On By / Leroy Van Dyke 1961 - This song spent 19 weeks at #1
Van Dyke was born in Mora, Missouri and graduated from the University of Missouri majoring in agricultural journalism. He was catapulted into country music fame in 1956 with his composition "Auctioneer," (co-written with Buddy Black) which sold over 2.5 million records. He wrote the song about the life of his cousin, National Auctioneers Association Hall of Farmer Ray Sims, also a Missourian. Van Dyke had the lead role of a budding country music performer in the 1967 movie What Am I Bid?, in which Sims played himself as an auctioneer.
In his 50 years-plus career, Van Dyke has recorded more than 500 songs, dozens of them making the charts. His record of "Walk On By" (1961) was named by Billboard magazine in 1994 as the biggest country single of all time, based on sales, plays and weeks in the charts. It stayed at number one in the U.S. Country chart for nineteen weeks, and in all, charted for 42 weeks, also reaching number five on the pop listings. It sold more than 1.5 million copies.
6. Slowly / Webb Pierce 1954 - This song spent 17 weeks at #1
In 1951, Pierce got out of his 4 Star contract and was quickly signed by Decca Records. His second single, "Wondering," became his breakthrough hit, climbing to number one early in 1952. Pierce moved to Nashville, where he met and married his second wife, Audrey Greisham. In June 1952, he had his second number one single with "That Heart Belongs to Me."
In September 1953, the Grand Ole Opry needed to fill the vacancy left by the firing of Hank Williams, and Pierce was invited to join the cast. After Williams' death, he became the most popular singer in country music; for the next four years, every single he released hit the Top Ten, with ten reaching number one, including "There Stands The Glass" (1953), "Slowly" (1954), "More And More" (1954), and "In the Jailhouse Now" (1955). His singles spent 113 weeks at number one during the 1950s, when he charted 48 singles. Thirty-nine reached the Top Ten, 26 reached the top four and 13 hit number one.
He made regular appearances on ABC-TV's Ozark Jubilee including as a guest host once a month during 1956. In 1958, he recorded a rockabilly record, "The New Raunchy"/"I'll Get By Somehow" for Decca under the name Shady Wall. On February 19, 1957, Pierce resigned from the Opry after he refused to pay commissions on bookings and for associated talent. Pierce continued charting until 1982 with a total of 96 hits; and he toured extensively and appeared in the movies Buffalo Guns, Music City USA, Second Fiddle To A Steel Guitar, and Road To Nashville.
7. Heartbreak Hotel / Elvis Presley 1956 - This song spent 17 weeks at #1
"Heartbreak Hotel" is a rock and roll song performed by Elvis Presley with Bill Black (bass), Scotty Moore (guitar), D.J. Fontana (drums), Floyd Cramer (piano) and Elvis on rhythm guitar as the main supporting musicians. Recorded in January 1956 in Nashville, the song introduced Presley to the American national music consciousness. It was released as a single with the b-side song "I Was the One" on January 27, 1956. "Heartbreak Hotel" became the first No.1 pop record by Elvis and was the best selling single of 1956.
This was the second song recorded by Elvis at RCA Victor, during his debut session at the building at 1525 McGavock Street in Nashville, at that time owned by the United Methodist Television, Radio and Film Commission on January 10, 1956. Elvis selected the song. He had earlier promised co-writer Mae Boren Axton that he would want to record it. He arrived at the studio with the song ready to record it without input from RCA. Although producer Steve Sholes was worried, he recorded the song taking it on faith that Elvis knew what he was doing. Most others at RCA Victor believed that it was a mistake, especially after hearing that the finished recording sounded nothing like Elvis's previous recordings at Sun Records.
On February 11, 1956, Presley introduced the song live on the CBS television variety program, Stage Show, starring Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, on March 11 and March 24, and on his third (and final) appearance at The Ed Sullivan Show, also on CBS, on January 6, 1957. Cumulative viewers for these first television performances are estimated at over 65 million. In 1968, he also sang it on his celebrated Comeback TV Special, in a medley with "Hound Dog" and "All Shook Up".
"Heartbreak Hotel" was no. 1 for 8 weeks on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart when released in 1956 on RCA Records, reaching no. 1 on all four Billboard pop singles charts, Best Sellers, 8 weeks, Juke Box, 8 weeks, Top 100, 7 weeks, and Jockey, 3 weeks. The record was no. 1 for 17 weeks on the Billboard Country Chart and reached no. 3 on the Billboard Rhythm & Blues Chart The record spent 17 weeks at no. 1 on the Billboard Country Best Seller chart, 13 weeks on the Country Juke Box chart, and 12 weeks on the Country Jockey chart. "Heartbreak Hotel" was also no. 1 on the Cashbox pop singles chart for 6 weeks in 1956. In the UK, the single reached no. 2 on the pop singles charts. In 2006, more than 50 years after its initial release, "Heartbreak Hotel" returned to no. 1 on the Billboard Hot Singles Sales Chart when re-released. The B side, "I Was the One", reached no. 19 on the Billboard Jockey chart and no. 23 on the Top 100 chart, no. 8 on the Billboard country chart, and no. 35 on the Cashbox chart in 1956. In 1982, "I Was the One" was re-released and reached no. 92 on the Billboard country chart. "Heartbreak Hotel" was later ranked #45 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame
8. Guitar Polka / Al Dexter 1946 - This song spent 16 weeks at #1 (The song here is not the original by Al Dexter, but it is a good rendetion of this song)
Born Clarence Albert Poindexter in Jacksonville, Texas, Dexter owned a bar in the 1930s and helped popularize the style of country music known as honky tonk. He made his recording debut on November 28, 1936 for ARC Records. and he was probably the first artist to use the term "honky-tonk" in a country song when he recorded "Honky Tonk Blues" at his first session. His tremendous hit "Pistol Packin' Mama" became the 1943 marching chorus of the New York Yankees. The 1943 movie of the same name, made by the Republic Pictures, gave Dexter close to $250,000 in royalties. Another hit from the 1940s was "Guitar Polka" who entered Billboard's list as the "Most Played Juke Box Folk Record" for fifteen weeks running in 1946. Still other hits include "So Long Pal," "Triflin' Gal," "I'm Losing My Mind Over You" and "Too Late To Worry."
Dexter was the first country singer to perform on Broadway, and in 1971, was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He died January 28, 1984 in Lewisville, Texas.
9. Love's Gonna Live Here / Buck Owens 1963 - This spent 16 weeks at #1
Alvis Edgar Owens, Jr. (August 12, 1929-March 25, 2006), better known as Buck Owens, was an American singer and guitarist who had 21 number one hits on the Billboard country music charts with his band, the Buckaroos. Owens and the Buckaroos pioneered what came to be called the Bakersfield sound-a reference to Bakersfield, California, the city Owens called home and from which he drew inspiration for what he preferred to call American Music. While Owens originally used fiddle and retained pedal steel guitar into the 1970s, his sound on records and onstage was always more stripped-down and elemental, incorporating elements of rock'n'roll. Owens met his longtime guitarist Don Rich while in the Seattle area. Rich can be heard harmonizing on all of Owens' hits until his death in a motorcycle accident in 1974. The loss of his best friend devastated Owens for years and abruptly halted his career until he performed with Dwight Yoakam in 1988.
Owens co-hosted Hee Haw with Roy Clark. Hee Haw, originally envisioned as country music's answer to Laugh-In, outlived that show and ran for 24 seasons. Owens was co-host from 1969 until he left the cast in 1986, convinced that the show's exposure had obscured his immense musical legacy. But following the death of Rich, a deep depression set in and lasted throughout the remaining years of his stint on Hee Haw. Owens is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
10. Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette) / Tex Williams 1947 - This song spent 16 weeks at #1
Sollie Paul Williams (August 23, 1917–October 11, 1985), known professionally as Tex Williams, was an American Western swing musician from Ramsey, Illinois.
He is best known for his talking blues style; his biggest hit was the novelty song, "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)", which held the number one position on the Billboard charts for six weeks in 1947. "Smoke" was the number five song on Billboard's Top 100 list for 1947, and was number one on the country chart that year. It can be heard during the opening scenes of the 2006 movie, Thank You for Smoking.
Williams' backing band, the Western Caravan, numbered about a dozen members. They attained an enviable level of fluid interplay between electric and steel guitars, fiddles, bass, accordion, trumpet, and other instruments (even an occasional harp). At first they recorded polkas for Capitol Records with limited success. That was changed by the success of "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke" written in large part by Merle Travis. Williams died of pancreatic cancer on October 11, 1985.