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Founded in Derby, CT by John Santangelo, an Italian immigrant laborer with a knack for turning a quick buck, Hit Parader met the starting line as a legitimized byproduct of several unlicensed song books Santangelo had begun selling in local shops along the I-95 from northern New York City through coastal Connecticut. During the Depression era of the 1930’s, for 10¢ a pop, customers could access lyrics to radio’s biggest songs right at their fingertips, a surprisingly new phenomenon at the time.
After an expected brush with copyright suits, and an untimely prison sentence as a result, law-abiding enterprise eventually won out and Santangelo rose to the challenge of his songbooks’ high-demand, adopting infant iterations of the Hit Parader playbook with titles such as “Big Song Magazine” and “Radio Hit Songs,” all at high volume/low cost print production beneath the umbrella of Santangelo’s official publishing house, the T.W.O. Charles Company (eventually renamed Charlton Publications).
Formed alongside attorney partner and former cellmate, Ed Levy, by 1942, all efforts to satisfy public consumption were streamlined into a singularly focused effort entitled, Hit Parader.
“When (Hit Parader) started, song lyric publications didn't include any features at all. We started adding features, fillers, and photographs to the magazines in .”
- Ed Konick (Charlton Publications Business Manager)
Through the fanatical rise of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Country Western music in the 1940s, Hit Parader would guide a shell-shocked WWII audience through their radio-listening days as the go-to source for songs and singable melodies, combining small blurbs and news bites on band leaders, movie starlets and top shelf crooners, with featurettes like “Behind the Hit Songs” and “Banner Performance of the Month."