Sunday, June 19, 2022


In our rush to get out our Tribute to Joel Whitburn in a timely fashion, we caught a few mistakes caused by that rushing and wanted to fix them before permanently posting this tribute on the website.  (The original went out via email to our subscribers / updates list on Tuesday after word circulated about Joel's passing.)

So here is our slightly revamped version.  (We have also added more of your comments below.)

Joel’s research touched so many of us … certainly ANYBODY who ever worked in radio from about 1972 and beyond utilized his books to varying degrees.  He will be missed.

Joel Whitburn, founder of Record Research, and the most authoritative source for chart information ever, passed away on Tuesday Morning, June 14th … and we couldn’t be sadder.

There has not been a single day that has gone by since 1970 when I didn’t refer to at least one of his books.  My one big regret is that despite promising to do so for the past six years, we never made it up to Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, to tour the vault.  (We had an open invitation to do so for years … and every summer I promised that THIS would be the one … but then his wife was badly hurt in an automobile accident … and then Covid hit … and then, and then and then … and before you knew it, it was too late to do so.  (I met Joel once … ran into him quite by accident at a now long-gone used record store in Oak Park, IL, where he was on one of his infamous record buys … seeking out a copy of EVERY title to ever appear on every Billboard chart.  This quest went well beyond a collecting obsession … he also used this data to compile facts on the artists, no matter how obscure, and, as time went on, document songwriting credit, producer’s credits and more.  No matter how many times he presented the history of the charts, he ALWAYS found new ways to make it more interesting than before … and pretty much force you into buying an updated copy of his book!  (lol)

I joke because Joel was as generous as could be in this regard.  I’ve lost track of how many free copies he sent me over the years, always hot off the presses to make sure Forgotten Hits was always giving out the most current and accurate information possible.  And a good number of those times he sent along an extra copy to give away to one of our readers … often devising a trivia contest of some sort himself so that somebody could legitimately WIN the latest edition.

We had countless conversations over the years … all kinds of discussions on all kinds of topics … for over a decade I plead my case as to how valuable a “comparison book” would be to us chartaholics, being able to compare the peak position of America’s Biggest Hits in all three major trade publications.  Once he obtained the rights to publish the stats for Cash Box Magazine and Music Vendor / Record World, I thought this might finally become a plausible reality.  Joel’s feeling was that Billboard Magazine, long considered to be The Music Bible, would NEVER allow their chart data to sit side-by-side with the stats of those other “inferior” publications.  And yet, he pulled it off … and today this is probably the book I refer to most.  (For the past decade, I have been pleading for a book documenting The Gavin Report … long considered to be the most influential source out there for handicapping the hits before they WERE hits … and then, perhaps, the most accurate representation of how those records were really doing once they started working their way up the charts.  Now it sounds like this, too, will become a reality.  All this time Joel and his staff have been scouring every source imaginable trying to put together a complete set … and I can’t wait to add this one to my collection, too.)  He also talked about compiling the charts from Variety … in short, his lifetime goal was to be able to present the most complete and comprehensive history of popular music possible.

In this regard, Joel Whitburn created the blueprint for every chart recap book that has come along since.  I will never forget the first time I saw a copy of his work. 

I was working at Rosary College at the time, running their Office Services Department and one day I just decided to eat my lunch in their massive library.  While there, I found the very first printing … a “library only” edition … of Joel’s first Top Pop Singles book.  (At this point, it hadn’t even been made available to the public yet.)

It covered the years 1955 – 1969 … and this particular edition also had a 1970 addendum.  I was blown away!  SO many great songs I remembered hearing that had since fallen off my radar … and radio’s radar as well.

I would bring in a notebook and jot down the titles every day, trying to create my own copy.  (By this point, I was already a chartaholic myself … for years I kept my own set of charts based on Chicago’s two powerhouse AM Top 40 stations, WLS and WCFL, comparing how records did between the two charts.  Like Joel, MY documentation began on drawers and drawers and drawers full of 3 x 5 index cards!)

At the time, my whole comprehension of pop music was based on what we heard here in Chicago.  I didn’t even know what Billboard Magazine was … that it even existed.  In this regard, Joel opened up a whole new world to me in the scheme of what was really going on NATIONALLY in the way of popular music.  I could never understand how a record that spent four weeks at #1 here in Chicago could only climb to #89 on the Billboard Chart … but that’s because my whole world and musical existence was dictated by what WLS and/or WCFL was playing.  I had to learn more … but, like I said, you couldn’t buy a copy at the time …

That wouldn’t happen until 1972 … but the minute I saw an ad for it in the back of Billboard Magazine (yes, I was now a reader!), I sent my money in that very same day … and I still have that badly worn paperback copy with annotations I made on every single page, the spine so worn the glue didn’t hold anymore and it was now just a series of loose pages, held together by an extra thick rubber band! I have bought EVERY updated edition since, the minute they became available.  (I’ll never forget one edition that has to go down as Joel’s greatest failure … and believe me, he really didn’t have many others.)

One year, instead of listing the titles chronologically as he had always done, he decided to list them, by artist, arranged from their biggest hit to their smallest … and even highlighted some of the biggest records in red print.  OMG, the backlash!!!  He never did it again!  (Hmm … I wonder if that book would be considered a collectors’ item today … or if anyone would want it!!!  Lol)

We didn’t always agree on his method of determining those biggest hits … The biggest example that I always cite was his naming “I’m A Believer” as the Biggest Single of 1966 … when, in fact, the record had only spent one of its seven weeks at #1 during 1966 (and THAT week was 12/30!)  It SHOULD have been The Biggest Hit Single of 1967 … but since Joel opted to go by the record’s original peak date, it was then awarded back-credit for all of its 1967 stats.  (There was even a time when Joel had his own series of CD’s out on the market, offering up The Ten Biggest Hits of any given year … and once again, “I’m A Believer” topped the 1966 chart.)

But we always talked it out … it was, after all, HIS publishing company!  (lol)

We even talked about doing a couple of business ventures together, one of which would have been a partnership between him, me and Mike Post.  It never happened because Joel felt Billboard would want too big a piece of the pie for the rights to use their data, leaving nothing worthwhile left to divide between the rest of us who actually came up with the idea (me), processed the data (Joel) and housed what would become the Hall Of Fame Building (Mike Curb) that would have come as the end result.  As such, The Official Top 40 Hall Of Fame never got off the ground.  (Think about it … with THIS criteria, there could be absolutely NO debate as to who could or couldn’t get in … you were either eligible or you weren’t!  And not only could you induct a dozen artists every year till the end of time, but you could also build an on-going list of Top 40 Hall Of Fame Songs, adding to this tally each year as well.  Sadly, it never happened.)

It's kinda like The Super Charts … a GREAT idea I had to show a record’s popularity at any given point in time by computing the COMBINED data from all three trades, utilizing ALL of the research each publication used to compile this data.  Now, instead of a couple dozen sources, we’d literally have HUNDREDS out retailers, rack jobbers, juke boxes, disc jockeys, radio station airplay and listener requests working as the foundation of this data.  Randy Price did all the leg work and built these lists from his extensive chart data base … and, over the years, we have run HUNDREDS of these charts here in Forgotten Hits.  There were often HUGE discrepancies between the three major trades … this concept would level off the playing field. 

I had always hoped that once Joel got the Comparison Chart Book off the ground, he might consider publishing our Super Charts as well … the “Dream Charts,” if you will … as it should have been, utilizing all reporting outlets to compute the most accurate list possible for every single week of the rock era.  (But because these charts, no matter how accurate they might prove to be, would ultimately challenge the stats as previously documented by all three major trades … and Billboard in particular, whose choices of #1 Records has come under a fair amount of scrutiny over the years, this one was doomed from the start to never get off the ground.)  Every year Randy and I swear we’ll just publish them ourselves … but much like my trip to The Record Research Vault, time just keeps slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ … well, you get the idea!)

This loss is going to hurt for a while.  Thankfully, Paul Haney tells me that Joel’s wish was for Record Research to continue … and his family and staff agree that this is now the plan.  (I know Joel told me on more than a few occasions that he wasn’t sure what the right thing to do with his massive collection should be … the vault contains a physical of literally EVERY record to ever make every single one of Billboard’s Charts … and then those that were exclusive to Cash Box and Record World, too … it would be impossible to even place a value on what a collection like this must be worth.  I can’t imagine there’s another one like it anywhere in the world.)  He talked about selling it … donating it … but never could decide who would best care for and manage it to its full potential … so no decision was ever made.  (Heck, I’d just love to get his iPods!!! Lol  He once told me that he was making a copy of every single one of those songs in digital form, too!!!)

Joel, I will think of you every single day as I continue to thumb through your massive library.  You were one of a kind … and took a hobby to heights no one ever even dreamed of.  (Billboard and Cash Box themselves couldn’t keep records of their charts as accurately as you did … which is why they gave you the green light years ago to keep their legacy alive.)  And to think that this whole thing started with Joel filling out 3 x 5 index cards to document every record’s movement up and down the chart each week!

You have SO greatly enriched my life with your work I could never begin to thank you enough.  Hopefully, you knew … because it wasn’t just me … you were the “go to” source for any and all chart information.  Pick up any publication … ready any CD liner notes … and you will see that Record Research is credited each and every time for the chart statistics held within.  I am so proud to call you my friend … and so flattered that you thought enough of what we do with Forgotten Hits to want to participate and sing its praises … it means the world to me.  If I’m not your #1 Fan, I’m certainly Top Five … with a bullet.

Thank you, Joel, for everything.  Your work will live on as the benchmark for popular music history. 


Kent Kotal

Forgotten Hits


I first heard the news early Tuesday Morning when I received this email from Paul Haney, a Record Research employee for over thirty years …

Hi Kent,

Some sad news to share with your readers.  My boss, dear friend and professional mentor, Joel Whitburn, passed away overnight at the age of 82.  He had been in failing health in recent weeks, but we didn't think he would go so quickly.

My two "music chart" idols growing up were Casey Kasem and Joel Whitburn.  I never got to meet Casey, but I got the privilege to work closely with Joel for 30+ years.  Some of my favorite memories are of just me and Joel at his home office desk, sitting around and talking music, charts, sports and just life in general.  I will forever be grateful for his friendship and for trusting me to work on his books.

Per Joel's wishes, Record Research will continue on into the future.  Joel's legacy will live on!

Paul Haney

Record Research  

Here is the link to Joel's "official" obituary ... 


Emails, texts and phone calls continued throughout the day …

More than a few of these really touched my heart …

(Joel used to say his books were for “anyone with a heart for the charts” … well, I can assure you there were a WHOLE lot of us out there who relied on Joel’s research for decades.)

Kent –

So sorry to learn of the passing of Joel Whitburn. His work was invaluable for me from 1970 - 2000 and even beyond. I have at least 15 of his books plus many updates.

I know you will miss him greatly as well.

My thoughts and prayers go out to you and his family and co-workers.

Danny Guilfoyle

PS - When I got his first edition around 1970 I checked off every 45 of mine, thinking that I’d get them all someday. Wishful thinking, but I did amass over 150,000 records at one point. It was easy collecting the top 60 or so but the ones that hit 90-100 were the toughest!

I used to sell at a lot of Record Conventions back in the day … and virtually everybody you saw there had a copy of Joel’s book with them, checking records off their Want List as they found them.

Back in the old AOL Music Oldies Trivia Room, we used to play “Top Ten,” a game where you’d see how quickly the participants could name the artists of that week’s Top Ten Records for any given week.

One player … a guy named Allan … finally said “This game is too easy … EVERYBODY knows The Top Ten… Let’s play BOTTOM Ten and see how well everybody does!”

So we did that for about twenty minutes and weeded out all the “wannabe” know-it-alls … but pretty soon THAT game wasn’t very much fun either!  Because nobody wanted to play!  Lol

I would venture to say that most of the people who read Forgotten Hits own, or have owned, or regular update their Joel Whitburn / Record Research collection.  His books have become such a vital part of our lives.  There isn’t a big enough Thank You we can offer.  You were an innovator an a true pioneer … please accept our collective thanks for the way you have enriched our lives and expanded our musical knowledge.  (kk)

>>>I will never forget the first time I saw a copy of his work.  I was working at Rosary College at the time and one day I just decided to eat my lunch in their massive library.  While there, I found the very first printing … a “library only” edition … of Joel’s first Top Pop Singles book.  (At this point, it hadn’t even been made available to the public yet.)  It covered the years 1955 – 1969 … and this particular edition also had a 1970 addendum.  I was blown away!  SO many great songs I remembered hearing that had since fallen off my radar … and radio’s radar as well.  I would bring in a notebook and jot down the titles every day, trying to create my own copy.  (By this point, I was already a chartaholic myself … for years I kept my own set of charts based on Chicago’s two powerhouse AM Top 40 stations, WLS and WCFL, comparing how records did between the two charts.  Like Joel, MY documentation began on drawers and drawers and drawers full of 3 x 5 index cards!)  At the time, my whole comprehension of pop music was based on what we heard here in Chicago.  I didn’t even know what Billboard Magazine was … that it even existed.  In this regard, Joel opened up a whole new world to me in the scheme of what was really going on NATIONALLY in the way of popular music.  I could never understand how a record that spent four weeks at #1 here in Chicago could only climb to #89 on the Billboard Chart … but that’s because my whole world and musical existence was dictated by what WLS and/or WCFL was playing.  I had to learn more … but, like I said, you couldn’t buy a copy at the time.  (kk)

That's the same way I first discovered "Top Pop Hits" ... a modestly-sized library-bound copy! Who'd've thunk how MASSIVE this company would become? (They picked up another Joel tome, the Top Singles 1955-2000, in 2001... and let that little one go in one of their occasional clean-out sales!) 

Bob Frable


When I was Executive Producer of American Top 40, there was never a countdown taping without one of Joel’s books in the studio for a quick reference.  Joel was truly the best at what he did.  I still keep a copy of his Top Pp Singles book in my office at the station to this day.

Tom Cuddy


Joel’s latest Top Pop Singles book broke the charts at 1955 – 1989 to better account for the way the tabulations have changed since then.  (He even offered, for the first time ever, a full-color edition for a few dollars more.  Naturally, I ordered both!  Lol)

Like I said … he was ALWAYS looking for a way to present this material in a new light.  (A 1990 – 2022 edition is in the works … and I might eventually pick up a copy of that so I can keep track of the 300+ songs Drake placed on the chart for a week or two … but my go-to book will ALWAYS be the one that represents The Top 40 Era.  (kk)



That was a lovely and heartfelt tribute to Joel, and I'm sorry for the loss of your friend.

I didn't learn of his flagship book, Pop Singles, until I started working at American Top 40 in 1976.  And to say that it was the bible there at the show would be an understatement.  I would liberate the worn, yellow, paper-bound edition from our statistician Sandy's desk several times a day.  Aside from strictly human interest stories, the chart info meticulously compiled in its pages informed virtually every story or anecdote that Casey Kasem spooled out in the show.  We never referred to this vital reference by its proper name … it was always "The Whitburn."

When I exited, or "ankled" the show as Billboard would say, I found myself somewhat rudderless without a copy of the book, and I began ordering Joel's publications for my own bookshelf, a habit that continues today.  I surely must have bought him a car over the years, as I have a copy of everything he ever published with the exception of a modern title or two that I just haven't gotten around to yet.  But I will.  His work fills two bookcases now -- a pillar of organization and order amidst a crazy archive.

Joel Whitburn was a paradigm of the concept of pursuing something that you love and success will follow.  But he not only carved out a successful professional business for himself, he created a reference library that documents the history of, arguably, our most important creative art that is truly ubiquitous among music aficionados.  Joel Whitburn is the Webster of popular recorded music.

My condolences to his daughter Kim and their family, and to his trusted lieutenants, Paul and Brent.  

I hope there's some solace in knowing that people will be reaching for their "Whitburn" for decades to come.


Scott Paton


Billboard ran a couple of nice tributes to Joel’s work, incredibly always on-going, right till the end.


Joel Whitburn Dead: Legendary Chart Historian and Writer Dies at 8 – Billboard


I especially like this one.  Joel’s book grew in stature with each new edition.  He ALWAYS found new ways to give us more information … Steve Greenberg is right … the original book was nothing more than a list of dates, titles and catalog numbers, illustrating the peak position for each charted hit.  Soon bios on many of the artists started to appear … then information about how some of the records performed on several of Billboard’s other charts.  The bios continued to expand throughout the years, even for long-standing artists covered.  The Bubbling Under chart information was later incorporated (after being its own book for quite a while)  The song writers got credit (as they appeared on the record labels at the time of original issue) and later regional hit / break-out hit information.  For me, there was ALWAYS a reason to update to the latest, greatest book.

I read that he published 120 books in all … but I know that the total has to be far greater than that when you consider all the updated versions that came out over the years … and you have to count them because a good percentage of what they contained was new information not previously available.

It was his life’s work … and it affected SO many other lives along the way.  Music Fan, Record Collector, Disc Jockey, Programming Directory, Music or Record Librarian … we ALL had a reason for needing Joel’s research and using it to fit our own special preferences and requirements.

The Golden Age of Top 40 Radio and the true Rock And Roll Era may be behind us … but these stats will live forever as a means to document their history … and for that, we have Joel Whitburn to thank.  (kk)


Here another excellent article we saw …

I remember my first Whitburn. Well, it wasn’t actually mine. 

It was that small orange colored book that went from 1955 to 1969 or so … and it was in our town library, of all things.

I used to go there and just sit and read like it was the Great American Novel.

It was all in there. The record company name … the artist name … and how high it went on the chart. And the date that it charted.

I was in heaven.

He branded the books with his name … so smart. We NEVER called them the Billboard books. It was … the Whitburn.

I bought everything … even the books I knew I didn’t need. Like the R&B Album book. But I had to have it all.

And the ones I DID use … were well worn with spines that dared me to open the book one more time.

Credible. Accurate. Complete. Thorough. And, for us nerds, a great beach read.

I wish I had the chance to have thanked him for those books.

Simply lists, really.

But they were OUR lists.

Lou Simon

Sirius / XM Radio

The loss of Joel Whitburn is in some ways even more devastating than that of any individual musician. Joel was a one-of-kind entrepreneur, who turned his fascination with music charts into an unequaled lifelong vocation that was a boon for professionals and amateur music-lovers alike.

It has been my pleasure to help out Record Research when I could by supplying copies of Cash Box and Record World magazines that were needed for some of its chart books. That dated back to the 5th edition of Top R&B Singles, the first one to include Cash Box chart data for the period from November, 1963, through January, 1965, when Billboard did not publish R&B charts.

I sent them copies of the Cash Box R&B charts for that period, and Joel was kind enough to send me a complimentary copy of the book with his personal thank you note on the inside front page.

I had the chance to chat with Joel on the phone a few years ago, and he related how he had visited the editorial offices of all three music trade publications (Billboard, Cash Box and Record World), and had chosen to partner with Billboard due to the fact that its office was the only one of the three where he encountered a fully-staffed chart department that was busy compiling the charts for its next issue.

My best wishes to Paul Haney as he keeps Joel's legacy alive by complying with his wishes that the Record Research company continues to provide the unparalleled chart research as it has in the past.

– Randy Price

I swear, I’ve received more Joel Whitburn appreciative responses than for any other rock star to pass during the time I’ve done Forgotten Hits.  His work touched EVERYONE … and made us all just a little bit smarter in the process.  In my book, he WAS a Rock Star.

Today’s tribute serves as a testament to this.  I’m hoping that Record Research will link to our post so that others may continue to comment moving forward.  (kk)

I have to go back to my college textbooks to find a series of books as expensive as his.  But, unlike the three-month lifespan of those hefty volumes, Joel Whitburn’s reference books have remained a part of my life as well as my career in radio for more than forty years.  They’ve been worth every penny.  Along the way they’ve been the source of countless nuggets that have made their way onto the air and resolved numerous arguments and settled many a friendly wager.  Even in the age of the internet I find myself cracking open a Whitburn book to look something up as often as I ever have, which is practically every day.  I owe Mr. Whitburn a debt that can never be repaid.

Rick O’Dell

Program Director

MeTV FM / MeTV Music Network


I am sure like me you are indebted to Joel Whitburn for all the great chart data he presented over the years, so it sad to pass along that he passed a few days ago at age 82.

Condolences to the Whitburn family on the passing of the man who helped us keep track of the hits.

Joe Cantello

Marietta, Ga

He will be sorely missed.  I have purchased many (too many) of his books over the years and I, too, refer to them quite often.  He did such a great job in putting together whatever the subject matter was.  RIP Joel, many people will miss you.

Hi Kent,

I made a YouTube video this morning about Joel.

I made an appearance on Ron Gerber's Crap From The Past radio show this past Friday night.  Naturally, we spent our time talking about Joel. 

Here is a link to listen to the podcast: 

Paul Haney

Having done Forgotten Hits for nearly 25 years now, I have to tell you that sometimes when you do something that you truly love and truly believe in … a passion of the heart … a labor of love … you can’t help wonder at times if it’s really worth it.  Are you really reaching others who share this passion … or is it all for naught?  And then just one random email can turn your whole world around and make you feel appreciated and important and even vital to keeping this great music alive.

I hope Joel never felt this way … and quite honestly, I doubt that he did … because the service he provided was used by radio stations and music fans the whole world over … he provided information that we could count on about a topic that we love.  Every person who ever picked up a Joel Whitburn / Record Research book did so with that passion.  And he built a very successful business around providing this service.

No, I don’t think Joel Whitburn ever really had to question his own self-worth when it came to the services he provided … it was known and it was felt every step of the way.  (Of course he also made money realizing HIS vision!!!  And that, in and of itself, can be quite the ego booster!  Lol

The era of music we care most about isn’t going to change … we’re not going to get new chart information … and probably not even a lot more back stories.  It’s been with us for over five decades now and the facts and figures have been well documented.

But there is still something about seeing it all in print that makes it all seem real.

So again, Joel, I thank you for that.  (kk)


AMEN to your piece on Joel Whitburn!!!   

Very nice ...  

Gary Pike

This is really a shock. And yes, every person who has ever been a music fan from this era has owned one or more of Joel's books.

David Lewis


What a terrible loss for all of us. May he RIP. Wonderful man ...

Johnny Holliday


“The Music Man” is gone.

Paul Evans


Such sad news.  Been using his books as best I could afford for close to 50 years.

A true legend in his field.

My prayers sent to all.

Mark Magel


This Whitburn book is as beat up as the Sgt. Pepper cassette I wore out because I was always digging through it, endlessly fascinated by the chart data. Putting the numbers to the music helped me understand its history and make connections. It was a key concept in the development of Songfacts.

I don't remember ever finding an error among the many entries, a testament to Whitburn's otherworldly attention to detail. In the world of song information, he was a titan.

Carl Wiser


There were a few … but not many!  (We helped correct some over the years, but one that’s STILL published wrong is the fact that Brian Wilson did NOT write The New Colony Six song “People And Me.”  That song was written by BOB Wilson, who was a member of the band at the time.  I swore Joel fixed this error when we first pointed it out … but them somehow it reverted back to the Brian Wilson credit … which simply is not true.  Paul, maybe you can add this to your list of things to be updated for the next edition.  If I remember correctly, David Lewis told us a few years ago that Bob Wilson was still playing gigs around Nashville at the time.)

As we met more and more artists over the years, we were able to submit corrections … even simple things like the correct spelling of their name or their REAL name (we just give them that info for Paul Evans after we ran our in-depth interview with him earlier this year.)  Joel’s staff was ALWAYS doing additional research, trying to dispel some of the falsehoods that have magnified over the years.  (Keep in mind that when Record Research first started there was no Internet … or a means to easily look up and double and triple check facts and figures … this was all done manually, first by hand on 3 x 5 index cards and then on the simplest and most rudimentary computers.  Imagine the time it took just to build the massive database the company has … and then being able to cross-reference these titles with all their other chart appearances on say the country, R&B or easy listening charts.  It really is quite remarkable what Joel’s little hobby and curiosity turned into.  Suffice to say, it certainly filled a void!)  kk


By the way, I believe the last Top 40 book Joel Whitburn published was the 9th Edition … and that would have been in 2010, already some twelve years out of date.

But honestly, the true Top 40 Era has long since passed … so let me throw THIS idea out there to you, Paul … and any others who may be looking for other ways to market this information.

Going back to my original idea for a Top 40 Pop Music Hall Of Fame, how about a Comparison Book showing EVERY Record to make The Top 40 on the three major charts … thus qualifying each of these artists as an eligible candidate for The Top 40 Hall Of Fame ... as well as every record to hit that elite status on the charts.  And perhaps you could even expand it to coincide with your latest Billboard Top Pop Singles Book, Volume 1, covering the years 1955 – 1989, the REAL Top 40 Era.

Now you’d have the perfect “carry-along” companion piece … with a clear distinction as to which records TRULY earned Top 40 Status.

And since Record World ceased publication in 1982, pick up the rest of the information from your Radio And Records book to cover the 1982 – 1989 time period.

I believe that this is a book that could have mass appeal, even to the more casual fan – The Comparison Chart Book has already become one of Record Research’s biggest sellers and most popular titles.  Now you’d have a handy, paperback companion piece to go with it!  (Just an idea!)  kk


Hi Kent,

Very sad news. May he RIP. 

I always liked the little bits of trivia that he added …

For instance, did you know that Ritchie Adams, the lead singer of the Fireflies (You Were Mine), wrote Tossin’ and Turnin’? Of course YOU did, but unless you read every word of his books, it wasn’t common knowledge. I would like to see a compilation of all of those little bits of trivia. 

Yours in Harmony,

John “Dr. Doo Wop” Weitzner 


My condolences to the family of Joel Whitburn.  What a life well lived. 

Twenty of his books line the shelf of my library.  Two of them are gifts from Joel himself, inscribed by Joel personally.  I've purchased several more than that.  When a new edition came out, I would donate the old one to the library.  His books were often a buyer's guide for me introducing me to new music and artists.  He will be missed.

Ed #1


I always thought Joel would just be around forever.

He was the one I would turn to in print so often whenever I had a question or was doing some research or wanted factual and trustworthy information about a song’s peak chart position, year and date of its popularity or an artist’s discography of all their certified hits, big and small. Over my years, radio stations I was associated with usually had a pretty worn copy of one of his books that I could count on for quick, easy to find and concise Pop Singles facts and information when I needed it. If I could locate it!  After some time, I realized I needed a copy of my own and bought my first “Whitburn Book!”

For years, I counted on his dedicated organizational skill set and doggedly detailed information for use on my radio shows, to answer questions friends and family would invariably ask me about a song or an artist, and as I wrote music-related stories and vignettes as I do currently.

I updated my books from time to time to keep my music information access current within the years I am most interested in. In fact, I recently received his latest book, a fabulous hard-bound, personally autographed to me copy of his “Top Pop Singles, 17th Edition, Vol 1: 1955-1989,” which pretty much covers every song I ever played on the air throughout the decades of my entire radio career in Contemporary Hit Music Radio and a copy I will forever cherish.


Thanx for being there for all those years, Joel. Your contributions will continue to be an almost daily and highly valuable Hit Music Source for me for a long time yet to come.

Chuck Buell

If Joel’s massive volumes were for us serious collectors only, he also went for the “mass appeal” market when he started publishing his Billboard Top 40 books.  (The weekly American Top 40 Countdowns certainly didn’t hurt sales of these volumes!!!)  For a while there, you could find them in virtually every single book store, large or small … and priced affordably so that any music fan could buy ‘em. 

Like you, I’ll probably use Joel’s 1955 – 1989 edition most, from now until the end of time.  This seems to be the area of interest in Forgotten Hits … and having expanded biographies, bubbling under hits, B-Sides, songwriting credits and recaps make this the perfect all-in-one volume to capture the history of The Billboard Pop Charts during the true rock and roll era.  (kk)

Hi Kent:  

Yes, it is sad news of Joel Whitburn’s passing yesterday. I, too, was introduced to his books because of the first book he published in 1969. He dropped off a copy at my local record store and the owner let me take it home and research it off and on. I remember being just as fascinated by what wasn’t in it, as by what was. All these soul records that didn’t get much play here were filling up the national charts, but where were The Messengers, The Robbs, The Unchained Mynds? These groups had huge hits here and were nowhere to be found. I was very puzzled by it all.

I met Joel around 1980 when I got started in my shop selling records. He would regularly come in when he was still searching for chart hits. We would also have discussions about localized charts vs. national ones. We talked off and on about producing a Milwaukee chart book, but we just  couldn’t find enough of the local information he needed to be part of the project, so I eventually put out what I could. Paul and Brent would also come by and load up with chart 45’s and LP’s. He had picked two great guys for his assistants.

I really haven’t seen him in several years. He got just about everything he possibly could want and moved away from here and on to other interests, I guess. I knew he had been ill for awhile, but I did not know it was anything this serious.

I am looking at a row of his books now as I write this. I had/have a ton of them and use them nearly every day. I will miss him and the interesting talks we had.

Ken Freck

Growing up in Wisconsin, if anyone could relate to the acts that were big on your local charts, Joel Whitburn would be the guy.  (Your book based on the Milwaukee charts certainly brings these facts into focus.)  The Robbs were crowned “The Kings Of Bubbling Under … five Billboard chart hits without ever cracking The Hot 100.  (kk)

Hi Kent:

Your wonderful tribute to the premier music lover and collector of our lifetime was touching and heartfelt. There will never be another like Mr. Whitburn.

He will be missed greatly.

Santi Paradoa

Miami, Florida


I just read your piece regarding Joel Whitburn.  Very sad - his was the name I'll always remember when it comes to info regarding pop music.
I'd never seen a picture of him, but when I saw the one you attached, it reminded me of my father, who was a musician. 

He passed on many years back, and I miss him.  He got me interested in music in the late 50s, when I was about 10 years old.  He had lots of old 78s in our basement … taught me clarinet and a little sax. When he played jobs, he'd bring me along, and I'd sit on the sidelines and keep time with claves and maracas.
But he hated rock and roll.   ;-)


Sad news indeed Kent!   At your suggestion several years ago, I ordered one of Joel’s books.  It had a profound effect on my FLip Side Radio Show, as I used it for years to learn interesting details about each 45 I was playing on my show. 

The book is dog-eared and well used now, but is a prized possession.  I have no doubt it helped me grow my listener base to ten community radio stations across the United States. 

Mr. C.



I enjoyed reading “Kent Kotal Says Goodbye To Joel Whitburn” …

Yes, all props and respect to Joel Whitburn, he was all that and more.

I am proud that I was able to hook him up VIP through Sony for the Johnny Mathis concert at Riverside Theatre in Milwaukee back in 2015.  Joel was very grateful and gracious, and gifted me a copy of whatever his newest volume was at the time.  (Who can even remember?)  Johnny was his all-time favorite, I think.

In all the tributes, and lists of peoples' fave editions, I have not seen any mention of "Joel Whitburn Presents Artist Archive of Chart Hits & Picture Sleeves."  Full-color beautifully printed (front & back) single sheets each devoted to one act's U.S. singles discography.  Each in a clear sleeve protector, housed in a special presentation loose-leaf binder.  I have the first 30 of them, done in three batches circa 1999 to 2001.  Anyone else have these?  Were there more than 30?

My Record Research contact for a couple of decades was Bill Hathaway, terrific guy.

Arthur Levy

Those artists cards your referring to are BEAUTIFUL … and have completely fallen off the radar in the last decade or so … and that’s a shame.

Believe it or not, that’s something Joel and I talked about recently … in fact, it may have been part of the very last conversation we ever had … we discussed resurrecting the series and profiling a number of new artists from this same era deserving of their own stat cards.  (In addition, there were a couple of very big name artists who only saw Volume 1 of their cards make it to print … it would have presented the perfect opportunity to bring the series up to date.)  The cards are beautifully produced, full color, laminated cards, showing photos of several of each artist’s picture sleeves along with their complete Billboard chart history (for the period covered in the case of some of the artists deserving of more than just one card in the set) …  and they all house in their own special binder.

Honestly, I don’t think they sold all that well … and again, that’s a real shame.

I don’t know that they’ll do more (so we may each own quite a collectors’ set!)  I’ll have to talk to Paul Haney once the dust settles down a bit to see what long-range plans the company has in the way of releasing new product.  (Personally, I think the Second Volume of Pop Hits, 1990 – 2022, is going to have a very limited audience … but time will tell.)

Meanwhile, the complete chart reprint books are an outstanding way of capturing an entire decade of charts, week by week … and most of those are back in stock (or in print) again.

As for those Artist Archive Cards, you CAN still order these thru the Record Research Website …

And here’s the link to the main site to order any other books you may be missing in your collection …

Whatever your taste in music, you’ll find it here … in precision-documented form …

Not only the biggest hits … but EVERY hit … EVERY record to ever make one of the pop charts here in The States.  (kk)   


I first read about the publication of Joel Whitburn's first chart book (the red one) when I was in college -- and immediately sent off for it.  Once it arrived, I literally memorized every page -- as the only reasonably comprehensive listing of oldies I had ever seen previously was just a mail order catalogue.  Its pages weren't much, of course, but until Joel came along it had to suffice as a very rough guide to which singles had been hits.  Then along came Mr. Whitburn with definitive, accurate data I could rely on as a local and then national radio DJ and programmer.   Later, when I became the Music & Entertainment Editor of Reader's Digest assembling and annotating multi-disc music box sets for direct mail marketing, I was surprised to discover why previous Reader's Digest Music releases contained so much non-hit filler.  No one who had programmed the earlier releases had ever heard of the Whiturn books and relied instead on their own faulty memories!  I should not have been surprised, as the 1969 KHJ-produced 48-hour version of THE HISTORY OF ROCK 'N' ROLL had also been programmed blindly, relying mostly on a handful of old KHJ weekly Top 40 surveys, hazy memories and guesswork.  Shortly after joining Reader's Digest Music, I had the entire staff stocked with Joel's invaluable books -- which remain the most important guides through recorded music history ever assembled.   Needless to say I have turned to Joel's work every time I have ever worked on a pop music project since college -- which includes, of course, my 1978 52-hour remake of THE HISTORY OF ROCK 'N' ROLL -- as well as its current incarnation as a two-hour weekly series syndicated through G Networks.  Thanks to Joel, we were able to abandon the history of recorded music as filtered through the distorted personal opinion lens of published critics and instead explore the opinions of the only critics who actually count -- the public -- the folks who, through radio requests and purchases. select the songs and stars which best speak to and for their hearts.  For decades now, Joel Whitburn has provided the no BS real history of hit records and his work has been more than appreciated.  If you sit some day at my computer, you'll immediately notice that his books are always within easy reach.    I never got to meet Joel Whitburn,  but certainly wish I had -- as I'm sure we would have become instant friends. 

Gary Theroux
"The History of Rock 'n' Roll"


This is very sad news.  For those of us in radio, his books have been so important to us.  I use them every day.  Condolences go out to his family.

Phil Nee – WRCO


They say you never forget your first. And mine was "Top Pop Singles 1955-1990" that I found "Used" for 20 bucks -- a steal -- a couple years after its publication. After replacing my worn-out copy with the 1999 edition, other Joel Whitburn books of all genres graced my shelves, the most recent addition being The Comparison Book. I especially loved the Pop Annuals and I hope Mr. Whitburn knew how much chart geeks like myself so deeply appreciated his efforts. Settle a bet? Go get "The Whitburn." I can't imagine doing an Oldies radio show without these most valuable and treasured resources. Thanks, Record Research. 

Sam Tallerico,


Kent –

So sorry to learn of the passing of Joel Whitburn. His work was invaluable for me doing specialty shows and building OTA and Online formats in a five decade broadcast career.  In fact, I just last month gifted one of my copies to Terry "Motormouth" Young to build his "Timeline" countdown format,, streaming soon via his Facebook page.  Condolences go out to Joel's family, friends and co-workers.

J. R. Russ


I think I have heard from more people regarding Joel Whitburn’s passing than I have for some of the biggest music stars who ever hit the airwaves … and all Joel did was document their successes.  But he did it in a way that hadn’t been done before … and the people that read Forgotten Hits relate to this chart information.  It’s like a sports fan pouring over a ballplayer’s lifetime stats … the accomplishments are all part of public record at this time … there is no disputing the statistics or the impact this music had on all of us.  Every one of us out there, whether you ever bought a Joel Whitburn book or not (and most of us HAVE … dozens, in fact!) appreciates knowing how these records performed at the time of their initial release … and Joel brought us this information.  And we devoured every bit of it.  (kk)


I bought my first Record Research book in '73 or maybe '72.

My mind was blown as I had thought (around the time I got ON the radio in 1970) there must be some way to chronicle all of the information from the Hot 100 weekly lists and make some ORDER to it all collectively. 

I told that to Joel when I was putting together a Music Trivia game, based on my longstanding bit called "Big Jay's Record-Pig Trivia." 

He told me he had been thinking about coming up with a system to tabulate this stuff long before his first book. 

And this was when rudimentary computers were bigger than a few elephants. 

It just wasn't practical in the late '60s. 

But he came up with the points systems that he became famous for, and made SURE to own EVERY single in the joy 100 -- and added the "Bubbling-Under" as well to his collection. 

I was mainly getting his permission to USE some of his data FROM his now HUGE book, listing every song to reach the Billboard charts. 

He said that as long as he was credited, I could do it! He GOT what I was doing!

Joel gave me the exact copy that he wanted printed either for online use, OR for an actual board game. 

One day, I'll finish that project.

I found Joel to be ONE OF US.

Meaning, a record pig, collector, fan, music and radio lover. 

We talked for about 15 minutes and I walked away smiling. 

Whenever I have had to put a music format together -- particularly non-current tunes, Joel's publications were a must. And they will be as long as there is interest in OUR music. 

I'm gonna live to be 112-years-old, just to piss everybody off. 

And accordingly, I wanna be laid to rest with his BIG singles book that goes from 1955 to 1989, when I croak in the year 2065. 

RIP Joel Whitburn.

Be B!G

B!G Jay Sorensen

a/k/a Jay the Jock


You can continue to send your comments and memories of Joel Whitburn to ... and we will share them in future posts.  Meanwhile, you can always rely on Forgotten Hits to keep you up to date on any new publications that may be coming our way thru Record Research, as well as special sale offers that occur from time to time.  (kk)