New in MusicID Data: Cashbox Magazine (1944-1996)

The MusicID team is delighted to announce a new addition to our ever-expanding selection of music charts, the infamous Cashbox Magazine (1944-1996). From arcade machines to murder, no one can accuse The Cashbox’s history of being boring. Learn more about Cashbox below.

MusicID offers a full spectrum of charts, ranging from historical industry standards (Billboard, Official Charts Company, and more) to contemporary digital charts (such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Shazam), all current to last week. 

Now, by popular demand, we are excited to offer an exciting niche of the formative years of the American recording industry, The Cashbox! Cashbox began in 1942 as a weekly trade publication for the American coin-operated machine industry, but in 1944, they began tracking jukebox plays and publishing weekly charts. These charts were initially intended as a guide for jukebox operators who needed help choosing records to load into their machines, but they quickly turned Cashbox into one of Billboard’s main competitors. 

The Postwar Years

These early years capture a fascinating glimpse into changing American tastes from the height of World War II through the rise of rock’n’roll. With Cashbox, unlike with Billboard, you can get a glimpse of what people in major American cities were listening to while celebrating V-E Day together (8 May 1945)–not only what they were buying. [note on the above link: the MusicID platform is accessible only to subscribers. If you are not yet a subscriber, contact us for a demo or to arrange a trial.]

Table from MusicID showing the chart for the week of V-E Day (published 14 May 1045). The top 4 songs were "My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time", "Candy", "I'm Beginning to See the Light", and "Dream".
Top 4 songs from the week of V-E Day (14 May 1945)

Discover which recordings of popular songs of the ‘40s and ‘50s we’ve forgotten over the years, thanks to the unique title-based ranking system of Cashbox’s early years. (For tips and tricks about working with Cashbox charts in MusicID, see our post here.)

For example, if you think of “Mam’selle“, the theme from the acclaimed film The Razor’s Edge (1946), you might think of Frank Sinatra’s recording, or vocal group The Pied Pipers’. But have you heard Art Lund’s? Probably not, yet it was the only version of the song to reach #1 in Billboard, and it had the longest run in Cashbox.

Modernisation and Fixing Schemes

In 1959, Cashbox shifted to a record sales-based Top 100, which is the chart included in MusicID, but they maintained a snapshot of jukebox hits all the way until their final print issue in 1996. As the American music scene diversified, they also broadened into genre-based charts, to go along with their main pop chart.

Cashbox’s national surveys of jukebox plays were compiled, in the beginning, by one man, the industrious Jack “One-Spot” Tunnis. Given communications technologies in 1944, how accurate was the representation of these surveys? That is a question for our community of researchers, but if you know anything about the record industry’s history, you know the importance of one word: payola. 

Cashbox was hardly alone in allowing cash to influence its rankings and magazine features, but one employee’s reckless pursuit of lining his pockets led to one of the most infamous examples of chart fixing in history. On 12 December 1992, their #1 song, Wayne Newton’s “The Letter”, was a song that didn’t even appear in the Billboard Hot 100. (Billboard‘s hit of December 1992 was the lead single from The Bodyguard soundtrack, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”–which, incidentally, was the #1 song worldwide in 1992. It was originally a country song, by none other than Dolly Parton, so perhaps we can give Wayne Newton a hat tip.)

To be fair, we can’t say that the corruption endured throughout Cashbox; it was primarily an issue in their Nashville office, which handled the magazine’s country edition. But, the story doesn’t end here!

It was later discovered that former regional manager Richard D’Antonio conspired with local promoter and mafia stooge Chuck Dixon to murder Kevin Hughes, the magazine’s country chart director, in 1989. Hughes was attempting to reform the Nashville office and endure a more accurate, transparent system of chart calculation. D’Antonio was found guilty of murder in the first degree in 2003, and he died in prison in 2014. (Dixon had already died of natural causes before the trial, in 2001.)

With all of this in mind, at times Cashbox may not be the most rigorous and accurate chart, but it does present a stellar case study in the development and pitfalls of the American recording industry. Did the fixed charts and magazine features have any real impact on record orders and artist bookings? How much did the country music division’s corruption seep into Cashbox‘s mainstream chart? Contrast the sales patterns of hits in Cashbox and Billboard using MusicID’s custom graphs, and let us know what you find!

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