One of the longest-running magazines ever produced, Hit Parader was an American music publication that operated from 1942 until its final printing in 2008. Over 66 prolific years, Hit Parader published nearly 1,000 issues featuring iconic covers and stories on the most memorable names in the entertainment world. A regular champion of notable genres including the early days of Rock N Roll, R&B, Blues, and Country - all the way through Heavy Metal and Hard Rock - the history of Hit Parader offers a comprehensive glance at the evolution of the most important music still symbolizing American popular culture today.

A legacy of influence, success, controversy, and force majeure - the story of Hit Parader is that of one of the greatest American institutions ever.

In The Beginning…

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.

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.”

“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 [1942].”

- Ed Konick (Charlton Publications Business Manager)

Hit Parader Mission Statement:

“Hit Parader is designed to appeal to boys and girls in school, in colleges and in the armed services… and the millions who listen to radios everyday, the people who go to the movies and dances, the jukebox addicts, the people who buy phonograph records and sheet music for home use and even the people who whistle while they work.”

Hit Parader, 1942

Songs That Will Live Forever

At the dawn of 1954, the concept of Rock ‘n Roll sat on the cusp of pandemonium and Hit Parader proudly stands as one of the first consumer publications to debut the genre to a mass audience, charting some of the first written mentions of Rock and R&B pioneers like Fats Domino, Little Richard, and of course, Elvis Presley.

Hit Parader confidently predicted the eruption of Rock n Roll and by the 1950s business was booming for Charlton Publications. So much so, that a new warehouse was needed in Derby just to keep up with the companies extensive printing needs.

Thanks in part to the fast charting single “Crazy Man Crazy,” one of the first articles on Rock ‘n Roll was this Bill Haley feature from Hit Parader in October, 1953.

Bill Haley and The Comets would make history on the charts less than two years later when “Rock Around the Clock” became the first #1 song in the Rock genre.

However, destruction awaited the Hit Parader empire, and on Friday, August 18th, 1955, a natural disaster struck that changed everything for the staffers at Charlton and Hit Parader, and even threatened to close the company's doors down permanently. The aftermath of Hurricane Diane cut a watery trail through the Atlantic Coast and Connecticut. Eleven inches of rainfall caused massive flooding that claimed the lives of hundreds of victims in the Connecticut Valley area. The Hit Parader grounds were submerged in 18 feet of water. $300,000 worth of paper inventory, mats, art work, and plates, among other things, were destroyed by the flood in minutes.

"When the flood came through," Burton N. Levey, cousin to co-owner Ed Levy and Charlton executive, said, "we had to get on top of the building because the water was rising, and a helicopter landed on the roof and took us off—that's how I got out of there! I watched my car float down the river."

After the disasters of the warehouse flood, wages to employees were gashed, costs were cut, and any new forms of income the magazine could drum up were considered. As a matter of recourse in 1959, Hit Parader began commissioning session musicians to ‘cover’ the hit songs being mentioned in the magazine. Now, fans and readers of Hit Parader had instant access to not only the words to these songs, but the actual songs themselves.

From 1959-1966, Hit Parader Records (along with Song Hits) pressed over 40 LPs at breakneck speed.

Hit Parader and the Mafia Rumblings around suspected mob ties with Hit Parader and parent company, Charlton Publications, began in the 1950s behind closed door whispers, but no real evidence ever officially surfaced. Most of the rumors revolved around the involvement of organised crime figures utilizing printing presses and becoming a part of the distribution, but when it comes to an actual employee, there was nothing tangible linking any mob connected figure to Hit Parader. Around 1986, the FBI finally linked one particularly well-known figure to the music business and the mafia, Morris Levy. Levy was notorious during his career as a vigilant, unorthodox club owner and label manager. His persona and reputation is believed to be the inspiration for the character of Hesh on popular HBO series, The Sopranos. Read more about Morris Levy here. To date, Levy’s exact involvement with Hit Parader isn’t definitively known, but the potential connection is no doubt unusual and speaks volumes to the state of the music business at the time. Levy never served any prison time for his supposed mafia involvement as he died before his final sentencing.
Some historians attribute the birth of contemporary music journalism occurring around 1966 with either Melody Maker or Crawdaddy, but forays into critical music reporting often began much earlier with Hit Parader during the first wave of Beatlemania. With years of combined staff knowledge, Hit Parader was among the first group of magazines to publish articles alongside photos about new rock music that combined serious analysis with a different kind of fan-oriented writing.
This seismic shift into worthier words around pop music is remembered fondly by former Hit Parader editor, Jim Delehant. “In 1962, I answered a newspaper ad for a music editor at a Charlton Publication (Hit Parader). I started working there right away. From that time until '64, the only source of information used to create articles came from record company bios and from publicity material. In 1964 the Beach Boys and Beatles changed everything suddenly. Other groups were happening — Byrds, Baez, Dylan, Donovan, etc. I hooked up a tape recorder to my phone and started interviewing. Now it was exciting!”
Rock’s first alleged Photojournalist, Don Paulsen, recalls his time working at Hit Parader in 1964, “Hit Parader was the only consumer publication in those days to provide in-depth coverage of the popular music scene, and remained so until the introduction of Rolling Stone in late 1967. With a monthly circulation of nearly 200,000, and a readership close to one million, each month, dozens of articles about recording artists and trends needed to be written. I’d never even heard the word ‘photojournalist.’ Years later, friends told me that’s what I was.”

Reaching Critical Mass

As Hit Parader progressed beyond the 60s as just a voice for the glory days of the British Invasion and countercultural movements like Psychedelia, the explosion into 1970s rock journalism would lead Hit Parader to an iconic time of fast-paced punctuations and high-brow opinions mashed on tour bus typewriters in low-level lighting. Hit Parader rose to the challenge in yet another new era with a fresh coat of paint and a savvy New York City editing staff that featured now legendary writers and photographers Lisa Robinson, Lenny Kaye, Legs McNeil, Patti Smith, Bob Gruen, Nick Kent, and Lester Bangs.
While working among the most pivotal literary voices of the decade Hit Parader would also provide musicians and artists with a powerful voice beyond their own recordings as occasional features granted rare opportunities for acts and bands to write about themselves in established print. Whether it was Frank Zappa reviewing The Mothers, Joe Strummer & Mick Jones penning “The Clash Story,” or Sam Cooke citing his personal thoughts on The Beatles and his now legendary Copa shows just months before his untimely death, through trust and ingenuity Hit Parader cemented itself through 60s and 70s as a music magazine unlike any other.
Hit Parader ‘Hits’ Again

Hit Parader ‘Hits’ Again

Our most iconic logo - revived!

Available for the first time in three unique color ways. 

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