Forty-three years ago today, I wrote down my first American Top 40 chart. The show was broadcast from 6-9pm on Sunday evenings on WSAI out of Cincinnati, 1360 on your AM dial. It became close to ritual, at least for the next three months, to set aside that block of time with a sheet of notebook paper and a radio of some sort close by. Committing the songs to paper meant wanting to listen through to the end of the show (though the Cincinnati Enquirer usually published the top ten of several Billboard charts in its Sunday edition). I didn’t necessarily switch the radio off immediately after Casey implored me to “keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars,” and soon I realized that WSAI followed AT40 with another three-hour syndicated show, the National Album Countdown. It reported on the top 30 albums of the week (though I don’t recall the data source—it wasn’t Billboard). The show generally featured album cuts, not singles.
I listened to the NAC with decent regularity through July and August of 76, taking notes in a spiral memo notebook, at least until I got too tired (I was twelve, and apparently midnight was too late to stay up, even in the summer). Naturally, I still have the notebook. Looks like I have parts of four countdowns from that summer.
First, 7/11 and 7/18:
Note how I botched the names of both the Scaggs and Beck LPs (those Beck cuts sure didn’t sound live!). I have more written down for these July shows on the backs of the pages (through #7 for 7/11 and #12 for 7/18), but you get the idea.
Next, 8/8 and an undated show—very likely 8/15:
This is all I have for both of these shows.
WSAI took AT40 off the air after the 9/4/76 show. An outcry from listeners led them to bring it back in mid-October, albeit at 8pm. No idea what happened with the National Album Countdown during or after, except that for some odd reason there is one complete NAC list, from 10/17:
Earlier album title issues fixed!
I don’t know that I ever heard another NAC after this, and I didn’t think much about the show over the next three-plus decades. But I didn’t completely forget, either. In early 2014, I tried to harness the power of the Internet to see what I could find out about it. There was surprisingly little; the show seems to have gone fully down the memory hole. The most, and best, information I discovered came from an 2010 article on Jim Bartlett’s blog. Probably the biggest thing I (re-)learned was the name of the show’s host: Humble Harve Miller—for years and years, I’d mistakenly thought it had been Robert W. Morgan.
(I briefly related last July how that Internet search turned out to be perhaps the first step toward this blog’s creation.)
The reason for telling all this now? Humble Harve passed away on Monday; jb has written a very good summary of Miller’s, er, unusual life arc, which you can find here.
Digging around YouTube last night led me to discover audio (voice-overs only) of the 7/13/74 American Top 40 show that Miller guest-hosted. Hearing his deep, sonorous voice immediately transported me through time and space, back to my tiny bedroom in Walton. The window is open, a box fan blowing on me. I’m cupping a transistor radio to my ear with a little blue 33-cent spiral notebook at my side, lying in the lower bunk of my stacked beds, scribbling stuff down until I conk out.
On Saturday, there’ll be another moment from my summer of 76.
6 thoughts on “The National Album Countdown”
As it happens, one of my favorite online streams frequently runs the audio of the trailer for the exploitation/documentary flick MONDO MOD, which was narrated by Humble Harve. That’s not how I arrived at my nom de blog, btw, but I guess it makes sense that I would dig it.
How awesome that you have that little book with the album countdowns written on it.
I once sold NAC for two different radio program syndicators.