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 Country Music 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.
Like AT40, ACC eventually began to play 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.
Like AT40, song-ranking data originally came from Billboard magazine, only this time using the Hot Country Singles (now Country Airplay) chart. The show used Mediabase as its chart source from August 2009 to the summer of 2017, when the show reverted to the Billboard Country Airplay chart. 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.
In April 2015, a newly syndicated series consisting of repeat broadcasts of Kingsley-hosted ACC programs from 1990-2005 was announced. The new show is called ACC Rewind With Bob Kingsley.
American Country Countdown provides examples of:
- Catchphrase: Kingsley had several of them, many taken directly from Casey Kasem on American Top 40.
- "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*"
- At the beginning of one of the hours (it varied from week to week), the host would introduce new affiliates, often thusly: "Before we continue with the countdown, we'd like to welcome (number) new affiliates," followed by those new stations, and then a "welcome aboard"-type message (e.g., "If you're listening to the countdown for the first time, I'm (host) and we're presenting this week's top country songs, counting down from No. 40 to No. 1."
- Christmas Episode: "American Country Christmas." From 2006-2009, Ronnie Dunn joined Kix Brooks to share their favorite memories of Christmas, before in 2010 and 2011 Brooks used pre-taped interviews of elementary school students (from the Nashville area) sharing their memories and thoughts of Christmas. Each year, including 2012-present shows, have featured pre-taped interviews of country stars talking about Christmas. What started out as a six-hour program (with stations having the option to repeat) has now extended into a 24-hour show, with affiliates having the option to air all 24 hours (beginning on Christmas Eve day and continuing through to Christmas Day, natch) or airing only selected hours to leave room for other holiday-related programs.
- From 1989-2005, the Kingsley version, "Christmas In America," aired as a six-hour special, meant to air on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day. That program was moved to Bob Kingsley's Country Top 40 in 2006 and continues in its original format. The first years used the regular commercial bumpers before holiday-appropriate bumpers were used; the theme also changed to Kenny Rogers' "Christmas in America," a song that opened and closed those early programs (i.e., after the usual intro and before the closing spiel).
- Prior to 1989, unlike American Top 40, no early-Kingsley or Bowman-era all-Christmas ACC programs are known to have aired or have surfaced.
- 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. note
- 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, Merle Haggard and Jerry Reed.
- Early Kingsley episodes:
- His delivery was more laid-back and low key.
- 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 (something Bowman frequently did).
- 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. On occasion, he would also play an album cut if an artist in the countdown had a recently released album; this stopped in the early 90s.
- There were no listener requests; instead, he ended each hour by showcasing a previous #1 hit in chronological or alphabetical order. Listener requests didn't appear until 1996.
- 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.
- Pertaining to the Don Bowman years:
- Evolving Music: Much like its sister show the music packages would change every few years or so. Unlike AT40, the overall Country feel would remain the same, but updated to match the decade. For example, the package heard from the mid 80s until 1990* is more blues-y in tone compared to later packages, which would up the honky-tonk aspect of the music more.
- 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:
- 1970s and 1980s: Charley Pride, Dolly Parton, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, Kenny Rogers, The Statler Brothers, The Oak Ridge Boys, Eddie Rabbitt, Mel Tillis, Dave & Sugar, Don Williams, Ronnie Milsap and Merle Haggard.
- 1980s: Alabama and Earl Thomas Conley.
- 1980s through early 2000s: George Strait and Reba McEntire.
- 1990s and 2000s: Brooks & Dunn, Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson.
- 1990s to present: Tim McGraw.
- 2000s and 2010s: Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood.
- 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).
- Montages: A staple of the year-end programs from 1978-2004; 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. The feature was abandoned once Kix Brooks took over; Kingsley has continued it on CT40.
- 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.
- Some 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 (including "Just Might (Make Me Believe)" by Sugarland and "Billy's Got His Beer Goggles On" by Neal McCoy) 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").
- Remixes and extended album cuts were a comparative rarity in the early years ... but one notable exception was with the 1978 year-end countdown, when an extended album cut of Bill Anderson's disco-esque "I Can't Wait Any Longer" lasting nearly 6 minutes was played (on a show where only one other song longer than 3-1/2 minutes — Waylon Jennings' "I've Always Been Crazy," at 4:11 — was featured).
- 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 latter 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.
- Signing-Off Catchphrase: All of the following were preceded by the chart week, show production information (e.g., the show was created by Casey Kasem, Tom Rounds and Don Bustany) and key producers.
- Don Bowman: "Bye!" Often preceded by one final zinger, especially prior to 1977.
- Bob Kingsley: "This is Bob Kingsley; join me again next week when we'll count down the 40 top country hits in the USA!" Altered slightly for a special, especially the year-end special.
- Kix Brooks: "Adios!" Always preceded by some folksy comment thanking listeners for tuning in.
- Something Completely Different:
- During the Bowman era, Bowman frequently did his trademark one-liners, often including artists he was about to introduce as the butt. However, the many specials he also presided over as host are done straight; instead of incorporating his typical (now) politically incorrect humor, Bowman comes off as authoritative and displays his genuine knowledge and love of country music ... and specials such as the "B-Sides Special" and "Top Male Artists 1949-1976" were among the very best of the early ACC shows, and are part of the show's longevity. note
- During the Kingsley years, he would 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.