EDIT: In July 2016, “Ready ‘N’ Steady” was aired on radio show Crap From The Past, just over 37 years after it first charted. Yes, it exists!
Grab the cake and pick out some party hats because a birthday celebration is in order this weekend. On August 4, 1958, the Billboard Hot 100 debuted in what was then The Billboard magazine, a combination of their Best Sellers in Stores and Most Played by Jockeys charts into an all-genre top 100 survey. The first song to top the chart was “Poor Little Fool” by Ricky Nelson. The magazine and the big chart have had their ups and downs over the years, but they’ve managed to survive while other trade publications, like Cashbox Magazine and Record World, folded over time. Rather than compile any sort of list of my favorites to hit the Hot 100, I thought I would take a look at one of the more peculiar cases that’s occurred in the chart’s history. It remains one of Billboard’s biggest mysteries of all-time and most likely, it will never be completely solved.
Let’s take a trip back to the disco era and the summer of 1979. Anita Ward, Chic and Donna Summer were ruling over the land with their energetic hits, but there were also some rockers on the way up the survey. On the chart dated June 16, 1979, a song called “Ready ‘N’ Steady” debuted at #106 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under survey by an act called D.A., released by Rascal Records out of Detroit. It moved up to #103 on the next chart, and then to #102 the following week (pictured above) before disappearing and failing to make the Hot 100. Now, it seems silly to report on this kind of chart action as is, and that probably should’ve been the end of the story. Who remembers a song that peaked at #102 on a national chart? No one — literally.
Absolutely no one has been able to find a copy of the song even though it placed on a Billboard chart. Longtime record collector and music historian Joel Whitburn tried to hunt it down for years, even finding a trade ad for the punk rock record label with an address, but by the time it was scoped out, the label’s building was vacant and he wasn’t any closer to finding the song. A band called DA! was also tracked down, based out of Chicago and matching the genre, who were active at the time the song charted, but none of the three members in the group at that point ever confirmed recording it or being signed to the label. So, the hunt goes on, and we’re not moving any closer to a result.
So, how could this have happened in the first place? It would never happen in 2013, but the loopholes that existed back then when compiling data was astounding. At that point in history, there was no way to track airplay or sales via the computer methods that we have today. Reports were done by calling radio stations and record stores and having them report their statistics, and basically, they could make up anything they wanted because everything was based on estimations rather than pure accuracy. There was also the issue of payola, which still existed even if it was illegal. So, if a record label paid a retail outlet or a station to report that a song was playlisted or sold some amount, this could be done back in the day without them every having touched the record or have it purchased. It appears this is what happened. Since the label was based out of Detroit, I’m guessing that several regional places there were told to report it to Billboard, probably lower down on their own lists, and this is why it made the Bubbling Under for three weeks. It’s a good-sized market and it likely would’ve been given more weight when the chart data was analyzed; hence, whomever was behind it only needed a few reporters, and boom, a fictitious group with a fictitious song is somehow being recognized by Billboard, or so I think.
If it truly does exist and it happens to somehow find its way to YouTube one day, I think some people would be rather happy, yet perplexed about how it managed to stay under the radar for so long. Until then, it’s anybody guess as to why this was actually done in the first place. Yet, people still go back to it and the charts and the magazine every week, and that’s why it remains so popular. Happy birthday, Billboard Hot 100. You may not always be hot, but lukewarm is acceptable too.