Many people may know Fred Bronson from his work with Dick Clark, or appearances on American Idol, but what they may not know is that Fred Bronson is perhaps singularly more significant than both entities combined, and his contribution and work – by way of his Billboard books – far more invaluable.
Fred Bronson’s Billboard books may be amongst some of the most important and comprehensive books ever to be published on the subject of popular music. It is seldom that these books stay on my shelf, while they can more often be found strewn about my office, open, and part of some music research project. As reference books go, both The Billboard Book of Number One Hits and Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits are not simply important… they are necessary. The former of the two I first acquired in 1985 while in grade ten, and the latter in 1991 while in my fourth year of college. Subsequently, I have purchased each new edition as it was updated and published… as I said; they are necessary.
In the tenth grade, as a lover of music and budding DJ and Musicologist, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits spoke to me with a clarity and conciseness that I’d not even known to exist. As a factual anthology of every Billboard #1 hit of the rock era, it put a much needed ordering to popular music history, and by simply turning the pages one can witness popular music’s evolutions and transformations. I had already been tuning in each week to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40, and would write down each song title, carefully making lists, tracking their ascent or descent on the charts from week to week while jotting down some factual tidbits Kasem would share about each tune. To me, this was some seriously important stuff, so when I first stumbled upon the writing of Fred Bronson, it was like a guiding light. Throughout High School and College, this book served as an outline for countless mix-tapes and college radio show programs, as well as a barometer for building my own ultimate music collection. It was in effect my music bible.
And then I found Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits – which instantly became the new testament and then some.
In this new tome, Bronson truly blew my mind by literally re-organizing the yearly Billboard Top 100 charts into their proper order (as well as organizing multiple other lists). Yes, that’s right, the Billboard lists are flawed. Billboard lists typically go from November to November, in essence cutting off some songs before their full-year bloom. Bronson adjusted them to their proper December to December calibration, hence re-writing history and perhaps making Bronson the Alpha and Omega of Musicologists. His factual knowledge and precise accuracy of information in both volumes is the ultimate resource of charted hits in the rock and roll era.
It is quite likely that I have unknowingly paraphrased Mr. Bronson in much of my own writing, and certainly quoted him in conversation countless more times. Three decades of studying two books can do that, as Fred Bronson’s chart data and music knowledge have become cannon to me. The Billboard lists in my music library are organized not the Billboard way, but the Fred Bronson way, and Bronson’s books should be required for any musicologist, disc jockey or music enthusiast’s reference library.
Recently, I was informally introduced to Mr. Bronson through a mutual friend. I’m sort of still in shock that he exists in real time.
Thank you Fred for your research, your knowledge and your beloved books.
P.S. Many thanks to friend and Photographer Kevin York, for his willingness to satiate my obsession by coming to my office for the sole purpose of photographing a few books.
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