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Popular Songs of the 20th Century: Vol 1., 1900-1949

Popular Songs of the 20th Century: Vol 1., 1900-1949
3.00 lbs



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Products Extra
chart detail and encyclopedia

Bibliography , Appendix
$22.95 (22.95)

Best reference book I've seen
"The best reference book I’ve seen on songs of the 20th Century...the most thorough...no radio station, even contemporary ones, should be without it. We get calls at the station wanting to know where or when a song was published...I just grab Ed’s book." –Reed Hagen, Program Director, KLBB Radio, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Reviewed by Tim Brooks ""While it may not achieve the sales of the heavily-promoted Pop Memories, this is a better researched book and is well worth obtaining by those interested in what song popularity charts of its era might have looked like."–Tim Brooks, Television and Record Industry History Resources

Complete and accurate
This is the first and only book which completely and accurately summarizes American popular music for the first half of the century.

This volume covers the period 1900-1949. Its principal feature is the presentation of monthly popularity charts, 600 of them, running from January 1900 to December 1949. These charts appear in this book as they would have appeared if regular, accurate surveys had been conducted in those early years. Song charts were not created before 1944. Another section of the book uniquely displays these charts in a spreadsheet format so the reader can see how each song rose and fell during its period of popularity and how it compared with the other competing songs of its day.

The remaining section contains a massive and exhaustive encyclopedia of all charted songs giving every vital fact that pertains to each song, including chart highlights, writers, shows, movies, records, and principal artists connected with the song. An alphabetical index of song titles allows easy access to song information, and it eliminates the confusion that arises when two or more different songs have the same title but different writers. Likewise, it identifies any single song that charted on two or more occasions during the century by way of revivals and recording remakes.

Research into the early part of the century disclosed that music periodicals of the day contradicted some of the information commonly found in music history books. A song universally listed with a 1908 publication date was shown to actually have been published and widely popular in 1900. One song listed with a 1910 publication date did not actually become popular until 1915. Some of the most famous songs in history, such as “St. Louis Blues” and “Star Dust” did not make a huge splash upon introduction and never became big chart successes although they became standards. It was proven that many show tunes were overrated in their national popularity by historians and were actually minor chart items in their time. On the other hand, there were some songs, enormously popular in their time which receive scant mention, if mentioned at all, in previously issued music history books and encyclopedias. Another major conclusion is that prior to 1920, many songs did not come out on records until they became established hits by way of sheet-music sales and vaudeville performances. After that early period, the recording industry gradually became a major factor in the popularizing of a song and by the mid-1950’s became practically the exclusive factor.


SECTION 1: An Alphabetical Index of Charted Songs, 1900-1949
The index occupies Section I because it is central to the use of Volume 1. To find information on a particular song, look it up alphabetically in this index and note the year. Then look up the song in any subsequent section. Sections 2 through 4 each display their charts year by year. For those songs whose dates lie between 1900 and 1949, information regarding these songs will be found in Sections 2 through 4.

Generally, songs for the years 1950-1999 are indexed and summarized in Volume 2. However, there were many instances throughout the century when two different charted songs had the same title but different writers. Also, many songs initially popularized in or before 1949 were successfully revived and charted again post-1949. Both of these types of song pairings are a perennial source of confusion in musicology, so all such songs are listed in this index alongside their pre-1950 namesakes in order to eliminate such confusion.

When two different songs have the same title, a writer is listed for each song to distinguish them. For example, see “Beautiful Eyes” (Snyder): 1909 and “Beautiful Eyes” (Adams): 1949. When a song is listed multiple times with the same writer, it means this one song enjoyed separate waves of popularity on two or more occasions during the century. See “Ain’t She Sweet” (Ager), for example, which is listed as having been popular in 1927, 1949, and 1964.

Shown opposite each song is the highest chart rank it attained along with the month and year when it first reached this high. For example, the designation #13 - Apr. 1929 means the song reached #13 in April 1929 and never went higher during this wave of popularity. The month and year are particularly useful for locating songs in the chronological listings of Sections 2, 3, and 4.

SECTION 2: The Monthly Top-20 Song Charts, 1900-1949

This Section contains the Top-20 Song Charts, month by month, from January 1900 to December 1949. Such listings have never been published before. These include the years for which no charts existed prior to this research. Each chart shows the rankings for the given month (T.M.) as well as those of the previous month (L.M.) so that the song’s progress up or down the chart can be seen. The number in parentheses indicates how many months the song has been on the charts so far during its current wave of popularity.

SECTION 3: Semi-Monthly Top-20 Song Spreadsheets, 1900-1949

Section 3 breaks the monthly charts into semi-monthly intervals and thus shows the chart actions of songs from a different, and more detailed, viewpoint. The chart success of any given song can be seen at a glance as a series of numerical rankings shows the song climbing toward the top and eventually descending in favor of the next songs to come along. Two chart rankings appear for each month. For example, Jy Jy in the heading refer to the first and second halves of July respectively, and there are rankings listed underneath for each half-month for each song.

SECTION 4: The Encyclopedia of Charted Songs, 1900-1949

Section 4 contains complete details of every song mentioned in Volume I for the period 1900-1949. Each song’s description includes the following: the title followed by its rank for the year, its publisher at the time of popularity, publication date, and the month, year, and rank when peak popularity was attained. Following those entries are the writers of the song and any contemporary show or movie in which the song was featured. The third level of information details the artists connected with the song and how they were connected.


Volume I contains a complete bibliography of sources for this project. The listing is broken into several categories, including expository books and articles, periodicals, discographies, record catalogs, and libraries.

EDWARD F. GARDNER lives in Pennsylvania and is a mathematician by trade and a musicologist by hobby. He is a lecturer on music of the 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's, the musical trends of each decade and their interconnection with social trends. He has collected over 40,000 popular, country & western and rhythm & blues recordings from all parts of the century.

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  • Author: Nico Meeuwsen
    Looking for(ward to) Volume 2 of this excellent reference book

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