The Curious Case of The ‘Groovy Grubworm’ (and other chart confusion) – Part One
Look at the gap between Billboard and Cashbox on “Wings Upon Your Horns” by Loretta Lynn. #1 in Cashbox and #11 in Billboard. That’s quite a difference, although I read somewhere that some of Billboard’s reporting stations found the topic matter too racy and banned the record .
I recently obtained Joel Whitburn’s new book on the Music Vendor / Record World pop charts from 1954-1982. Because Record World was more sales oriented than Billboard, there are some significant differences between the two charts. Because the genesis of the original article was “Groovy Grubworm” by Harlow Wilcox and the Oakies (#1 Cashbox country / #42 Billboard country) , I started with that song. Unfortunately I don’t have the Record World country charts except for the 1970s, but the Record World pop charts tend not to lend clarity to this particular issue as Record World had “Groovy Grubworm” do better on its pop charts than did either Cashbox or Billboard, with the song peaking at #23 and hanging on the charts for 13 weeks .
I haven’t had much time to peruse the book but it seems that country songs did a little better over the years on Record World than they did on Billboard – that may be a mistaken impression. I did notice that “A Boy Named Sue” which got marooned at #2 behind the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” , pushed past the Stones the week of September 6, 1969 for a one week stay at #1 on the pop charts.
Noted sage and country historian Ken Johnson feels that charts were subject to some manipulation; moreover, charts were tallied manually rather than by computer and were subject to considerable error and possible manipulation. According to Ken “sometimes as easy as the record label rep just asking the reporting record shop or radio station to report a particular record as their top seller or most requested item in return for some type of “consideration.”.
Of course, the “X” factor is regional hits. Four records particularly come to mind for me from 1968 when I lived in the Norfolk, VA area. None of the four records were monsters nationally but all four were top five records in our area according to the two radio stations that covered the area, WCMS-AM in Norfolk, VA and WTID-AM in Newport News, VA. The two stations were independently owned and operated yet both showed the four songs as huge hits in the area – and all received much airplay. WCMS printed a top forty chart weekly. WTID had a Friday night Top Five Countdown
“Undo The Right” by Johnny Bush spent five weeks at #1 on WCMS and it reached #1 for a week or two on WTID. Nationally the record reached #10
“Sounds of Goodbye” by George Morgan reached the top three on both stations. Nationally the record hit #31 but the song was recorded and released by Tommy Cash and the Gosdin Brothers, splitting the national chart action
“Punish Me Tomorrow” by Carl Butler & Pearl hit the top five on both stations – it reached #28 on the national charts. The flip side “Goodbye Tennessee” also received airplay on both stations placing in the top forty on WCMS (“Goodbye Tennessee” did not reach the national charts).
In November and December 1968, “Got Leaving On Her Mind” by Mac Wiseman received much airplay on both stations – I don’t know where it peaked on WCMS because Dad was transferred to London, England and we left the USA the first week of January 1969. It had reached #3 locally as of that week but I suspect it was on its way down – nationally it peaked at #54. I think the single was the only one released on MGM by Wiseman – the record store I frequented said it flew off the shelves
I wish I could get my hands on the WCMS charts my mother threw away when we moved – there were quite a few songs that were national hits that received little airplay on WCMS (or in some cases, the record was flipped by local DJs, splitting the local airplay).