‘Poor Little Fool’: Ricky Nelson Rules The First-Ever Hot 100

Ricky Nelson 'Unchained Melody' EP artwork - Courtesy: UMG

The publication of the first-ever Billboard Hot 100 is an occasion well known to devotees of Ricky Nelson. When the magazine published that historic first list for August 4, 1958, the pop idol, still only 18, stood proudly at No.1 with “Poor Little Fool.”

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Despite his youth, the star from Teaneck, New Jersey had already had five previous chart singles, which had yielded nine separate titles on the bestsellers with their double-sided success. Four of the five A-sides (“A Teenager’s Romance,” “Be-Bop Baby,” “Stood Up,” and “Believe What You Say”) were Top 5 hits, and several official B-sides were big favorites too, especially “I’m Walking.”

Listen to uDiscover Music’s official Ricky Nelson Best Of playlist.

“Poor Little Fool” had made its chart debut on July 7, when Billboard still had no fewer than three weekly surveys of the most popular hits of the week. The 50-title Best Selling Pop Singles In Stores showed Nelson’s new release debuting at a powerful No.18, the same position at which it debuted on Top 100 Sides. It was yet to show on the 25-strong Most Played By Jockeys, but it burst onto that list a week later at No.8. We picture Ricky’s 1958 EP Unchained Melody, also featuring “Poor Little Fool.”

No.1 on two charts at once

What’s not always remembered is that while Billboard dropped the Most Played By Jockeys and Top 100 Sides charts when it introduced the Hot 100, it retained Best Selling Pop Singles In Stores for another two months. “Poor Little Fool” led that list on August 4 and 11, just as it did the Hot 100.

The song was written by the fine rock’n’roll songwriter Sharon Sheeley, when she was just 15, in the mid-1950s. Legend has it that she actively pursued Nelson to record it. After “Poor Little Fool” was a hit, she became Eddie Cochran’s girlfriend and co-wrote his timeless “Somethin’ Else,” among other songs.

Buy or stream “Poor Little Fool” on the Ricky Nelson album.