Radio: American Country Countdown
American Country Countdown
is a weekly, long-running
syndicated radio program, currently hosted by Kix Brooks (of the country music duo Brooks & Dunn
), which counts down the 40 most popular radio songs in the United States.
The show's history dates to October 6, 1973, and was conceived as a spinoff of American Top 40
. Both programs were created by Don Bustany, Tom Rounds and Los Angeles radio personality (and voice actor
) Casey Kasem
. Initially, Don Bowman a Lubbock, Texas, native who became famous for his comedy recordings and association with Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson was the host. While he did a very credible job, conflicts with his touring schedule eventually forced him to give up the show in the spring of 1978. Bob Kingsley, who began producing the program in the spring of 1974, took over as host, and the rest was history.
The Kingsley era was arguably the height of the program, with his shows very much similar to Kasem's programs, in both hosting style and features: the occassional oldie or album cut, and stories about each of the songs. ACC
as the show is sometimes known was initially three hours (just like AT40
in its early years), and expanded to four effective with the January 18, 1986, show.
plays requests and dedications from listeners, today called "ACC
Inbox". Much like Kasem's "Long Distance Dedication," the requests were often sentimental in nature and directed at someone whom the listener had not seen in some time, or an anniversary of a landmark event (such as an anniversary or a relative's death).
Kingsley hosted ACC
until 2005, when he was forced out after ABC Radio Networks which owns the program wanted to revamp the show; the announcement was made in October, and Kingsley's last program was December 24, the last regular countdown program of 2005. Kingsley started a rival program, Bob Kingsley's Country Top 40
, while ACC
tapped Brooks as its new host. After several weeks of substitute hosts, Brooks took over on January 21, 2006.
, song-ranking data originally came from Billboard
magazine, only this time using the Hot Country Singles (now Hot Country Songs) chart. The show has used Mediabase as its chart source since August 2009. The show's chart length was trimmed to 30 songs effective February 12, 2011, then later reverted to 40. Kix has also ditched the retro songs in favor of more recent recurrents.
American Country Countdown provides examples of:
- Catch Phrase: Kingsley had several of them:
- "Three/four hours once a week, and you'll know where your favorite records are on the Billboard survey."
- "And the countdown continues/rolls on."
- "___ hits to go to No. 1, and we're counting them down." (A particular stock phrase during Kinglsey's first few years.)
- "Up ___ big notches to number ___." (Particularly if a song had jumped six or more notches from the previous week.)
- "At ___ and falling ... " (for a song that had peaked and was on its way down the chart).
- At the beginning of the final hour, particularly if a new No. 1 song hadn't been played yet: "We've got the 10 biggest hits coming up, including a new No. 1."
- "American Country Countdown is heard from coast to coast and around the world on such great stations as...*lists 3 or 4 affiliate stations*"
- Dramatic Timpani: A long, dramatic one was used on year-end programs, before revealing the year's No. 1 song.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- Pertaining to the Don Bowman years:
- Early shows had him cracking jokes that today would be considered politically incorrect, if not downright offensive. (For instance, one of the very first shows from the fall of 1973 had him make the joke: "How do you make a horse quit complaining in the wintertime? Shoot him in the summertime!") In fact, one episode from April 1974 had him read a letter on-air from a fan who said he appreciated hearing the songs and countdown but thought the jokes were a little much; Bowman cooled it after that, and having Bob Kingsley begin producing the show around that time also helped keep his humor under control.
- One of the early outro commercial bumpers featured the chorus singing, "Sweet talking', wise crackin' good timing' Don Bowman" along with a country artist of the day delivering in spoken word the "My kind of country, my kind of music" hook line. These were done by Bobby Bare, Tom T. Hall and Jerry Reed.
- Early Kingsley episodes
- Without fail, during the first three or four years of Kingsley-hosted programs, his only to-commercial phrase was "___ hits to go to No. 1, and we're counting them down." By 1982, he was giving a teaser to one of the songs coming up in the next segment.
- The original 1973 theme continued to be used as the hour-end theme until the spring of 1982, when it was finally retired. (The 1977 jingles, which began to be used while Bowman was still host were also used until 1982.)
- Early 4-hour shows from 1986:
- To fill in the time, a larger number of extras was played, usually by an artist who had a song debuting on the chart at least two years earlier.
- There were no listener requests; instead, he ended each hour by showcasing a previous #1 hit in chronological order.
- The "ACC Calendar" was a semi-regular feature that was played at no set point in the countdown. This wasn't set until 1996, when it became the end-of-the-third hour feature.
- Early Kix Brooks shows:
- Also featured a large number of extras, often a song that Kix himself wrote. Included on one of the first shows from January 2006 was Brooks' first No. 1 as a songwriter, "I'm Only In It For the Love" by John Conlee. Nowadays, the extras are almost always song that fell off the chart less than a year ago.
- The Eighties and The Nineties: When the show was arguably at the height of its power, although it actually started in The Seventies and is still doing well today.
- Guest Host: During his tenure, Kingsley would often take one or two weeks off per year and hand the mic over to someone else (usually a DJ at a major market radio station). Incidentally, Kingsley was a guest host about a half dozen times during the Don Bowman era of the mid-1970s, usually when Bowman's touring schedule didn't allow him to make the trip to Los Angeles to record the program; other top country acts of the day including Red Stegall hosted ACC's special programs during the 1970s. Today, Donna Britt, executive producer of ACC, handles the guest duties when Brooks is absent.
- Invincible Hero: Many examples. In certain eras when a new song by certain artists debuted you could count on it eventually hitting the Top 5 if not No. 1. Even if you liked the song you had to hunker down and get ready to hear it every single week for the next few months. Good examples are anything by:
- Laser-Guided Karma: Kix's short-lived decision to cut the show to 30 spaces meant that he never got to hear his post-Brooks & Dunn single "New to This Town" on his own countdown, as it peaked at #31.
- Long List/Top Ten List: 40 songs (although it got cut to 30 for a time during Kix's run), plus a couple of extras, in four hours (originally three).
- Long Runner: The program debuted in 1973 and has been going strong ever since.
- Montages: A staple of the year-end programs from 1973-2005; this was simply the No. 1 songs during the past year, often in chronological order. The host Bowman or Kingsley would tease that somewhere included was the No. 1 song of the year. The montage was played between the Nos. 2 and 1 songs.
- Through the Kingsley years, as part of a stretch story, he would sometimes assemble a montage of songs related to an artist or theme, or having a common subject in the title (such as songs about money). These montages typically ran 2-3 minutes and had often about a dozen songs or so included.
- Nothing But Hits: The entire premise of the program. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to obtain vintage copies of past programs especially those from early in the run would hear hit songs of their day that have likely not been played anywhere for 30-plus years.
- Quietly Performing Sister Show: Of the parent program, AT40.
- Previously On: Starting in 1986, the No. 1 song from the previous week's show would lead off the countdown. This segment, which continued throughout most of the rest of Bob Kingsley's tenure as host, was inspired by sister program AT40, which had played back the No. 1 song from the last program (and at times, Nos. 2 and 3 as well) to begin each week's show starting in 1979.
- Today, a "Top 3 Recap" begins each program, with Kix Brooks playing clips from the songs within that part of the chart.
- Rearrange the Song: Like AT40, single edits are usually used... and when time is running short, some of those songs are butchered even further.
- Oddly, a couple songs late in the Kingsley era seemed to always be presented in abridged fashion even though they weren't that long of a song to begin with, including "It's a Heartache" by Trick Pony and "Used to the Pain" by Tracy Lawrence, neither of which is much longer than 3 minutes uncut. On one show, he faded out Jo Dee Messina's "Delicious Surprise (I Believe It)" at the 2:21 mark, and a slower-talking Guest Host near the end of 2005 led to nearly every other song getting cut down (such as Jason Aldean's "Hicktown", which never got a cut otherwise). Inverted on Kingsley's last year-end countdown in 2005, where some songs actually were extended by having the last verse and/or chorus play twice.
- Another variant came in the later Kingsley eras when some artists began digitally releasing alternate mixes of their songs. He would often play the alternate mix either in place of, or after, the usual version (such as David Lee Murphy's now-impossible-to-find "Muy Caliente" remix of "Loco", or an acoustic mix of Andy Griggs' "If Heaven").
- There's also the curious case of Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow's "Picture" in 2003: the official single edit had Allison Moorer singing Crow's part as her label couldn't reach agreement with Kid's, but most stations played the Crow version anyway, and Bob alternated between the two.
- Zig Zagged with Dierks Bentley's "How Am I Doin'", which would alternate between the single version and radio edit (the radio edit omits the slower intro that begins "It's strange to hear your voice
- Shout-Out: To about 12-15 stations (depending on the era) each week as the host announced the stations that ACC could be heard on. One additional one was usually the Armed Forces Radio Network; it was common to hear foreign affiliates as well.
- During the Don Bowman era, listeners sent in postcards which, if selected at random, could net them an "American Country Countdown" T-shirt. Their name and station they listened to ACC on was read aloud.
- Something Completely Different: Bob usually only read letters in the two designated request segments, but on one show when Blaine Larsen's anti-suicide ballad "How Do You Get That Lonely" was climbing, he read a letter from a fan who said how much that song moved her right before its spot on the countdown.
- Spin-Off: ACC is the country version of AT40.