Music History

Bruno Mars back to Joe Venuti: First Billboard chart published 75 years ago today

Billboard magazine published its first music chart ever on January 4, 1936 -- 75 years ago today. It was called The Hit Parade, and it was one of the first music charts of any kind. The first number-one in Billboard history? Joe Venuti, father of the jazz violin, performing "Stop, Look and Listen." The equivalent today is the Hot 100 chart, where Bruno Mars holds the top spot with "Grenade." Jazz violin to teen-crush crooning: Hooray for progress?

That first chart tracked album sales. At the time, the prevalent format for pop music was a 10" 78 rpm vinyl. You could fit about three minutes of music per side. The current iPod with the least amount of storage can hold something like 1,400 minutes of music and is the size of a postage stamp. This is pretty much why e-mail blows your grandma's mind.

Billboard publishes over 550 charts these days, which is good, because how else would you know what the year's biggest Hot Smooth Jazz Song* was?

We can't find the complete first edition of the 1936 Music Hit Parade anywhere, but if you do, please let us know. Amazon's got a preview of Joe Venuti's "Stop, Look and Listen," the first number-one song in Billboard history. You can get the gist by watching Venuti performing with longtime collaborator Eddie Lang below. For good measure, we've also included the Bruno Mars "Grenade" video in case you feel like doing a 75-year time warp. It's satisfyingly dramatic.

*Note: Actual Billboard chart.