Music guides, popularity charts, surveys, top-forty lists—these things went by a lot of names. Generally created and printed by radio stations, they were available free at record stores. They promoted the station, sometimes carried ads for the things we needed most (Stridex, Clearasil, Brylcreem), and often featured pictures of the DJs we listened to every day but never saw. I remember thinking how old they looked. “Like, man, he must be thirty!”
Music guides are one of the few collectibles I actually started accumulating when they were new. As a kid, I’d head down to Grinnell’s at the Pontiac Mall every week and slip one or two from the stack near the cash register under the long nose of an unsympathetic cashier. “Are you going to buy something, sonny?”
WKNR, “Keener 13,” like all top 40 radio at the time, played
an amazing variety of music. Where else could you hear the Blues Magoos
Sandy Posey, then Aaron Neville, then Frank Sinatra? And then... SUNday! SUNday! SUNday! at Detroit
Dragway!!-- See ‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits..., etc. etc.)
Later, top 40 seemed hopelessly passé as we all grew too hip for our own good. No one mourned its passing as radio splintered in the 1970s and ’80s into niche formats. In retrospect, though, we lost something of value when we lost top 40. We lost being exposed to music we didn’t know-- by artists we never heard of-- and learning to like it.
From top, left to right: WKNR (Detroit) Music Guide week of December 27, 1966, Keener 13 Hits, WKNR (Detroit) Music Power Pack week of December 7, 1967, WXYZ Detroit Sound Survey Monday April 18, 1966, KSJB (Jamestown, North Dakota) Royal 40 Survey January 28, 1966, 93/KHJ (Los Angeles) Boss 30 December 24, 1969, CKLW (Windsor Ontario Canada) Big 30 October 15, 1968, KFRC (San Francisco) Big 30 July 31, 1968, and WWDJ (Hackensack, New Jersey Survey February 28, 1972.