Contemporary hit radio (also
known as CHR, Contemporary Hits,
Current Hits, Hit Music,
Top 40, Kids music, Teen
Pop) is a radio format that is
common in the United
Kingdom, Canada and Australia that focuses on playing current and
recurrent popular music as determined by the top
40 music charts.
There are several subcategories,
dominantly focusing on rock
, or urban music
Used alone, CHR
most often refers to the CHR/pop format.
The term Contemporary Hit Radio
was coined in the early
1980s by Radio & Records
magazine to designate Top 40
continued to play hits from all musical genres as pop music
splintered into Adult
and other formats.The term top 40
used to refer to the actual list of hit songs, and, by extension,
to refer to pop music
in general. The term
has also been modified to describe Top 50
; Top 20
; Hot 100
(each with its number of
songs) and Hot Hits
radio formats, but carrying
more or less the same meaning and having the same creative point of
origin with Todd Storz
as further refined
by Gordon McLendon
as well as
also ethnic variations, such as
CHR/español (Latin pop),
and CHR/Tejano (Tex-Mex
and Tejano) which are commonly found in Texas, California, and Mexico.
- CHR/dance — playing dance remixes of popular songs with
perhaps some current hits from the dance charts. Pure dance-music
radio stations (as opposed to CHR/rhythmic and Rhythmic AC formats such as MOViN) are not very common but tend to have loyal
audiences in the markets where they do exist. Examples include
WPTY on Long Island, NY and KNHC in Seattle.see
also: Hot Dance
- CHR/rhythmic or CHR/urban
(CHuRban) — focusing on hip-hop and R&B. There are subtle differences
between CHR/rhythmic and the urban
contemporary format; urban stations will often play R&B and soul songs
that CHR/rhythmic stations will not, and CHR/rhythmic stations,
despite playlists heavy with urban product, sometimes have white
disc jockeys and formatic elements resembling CHR/Pop, which
includes R&B or hip-hop influenced pop and/or dance tracks.
WWPR in New York, WGCI in Chicago, and
KMEL in San Francisco are among the most successful CHR/urban stations in
the United States. WBBM-FM in Chicago, KYLD in San Francisco, WQHT in New York, and KPWR in Los Angeles are among the most successful CHR/Rhythmic stations
in the U.S. and among the pioneers of the format.
- Adult CHR — these stations typically are
hybrids of Contemporary Hits Radio and the Hot
AC format. Some Adult CHR stations may play pop-friendly
rhythmic, dance or hip hop titles from artists such as Rihanna, Beyonce,
Flo Rida, Britney
Spears, Usher, Kanye West, T.I., or Ne-Yo while still shying away from hardcore hip hop.
include WWMX in Baltimore, MD and WKRQ in Cincinnati,
OH, which both report as Hot AC to R&R and Mediabase. WSTR-FM and
WWWQ in Atlanta, GA, KRBE in Houston, TX, and KVUU in Colorado
Springs, CO also fall in the Adult CHR category, but are listed
in R&R and Mediabase as CHR/Pop reporters. The Adult CHR format
is sometimes utilized by stations which are heritage Top 40/CHR
outlets in their respective markets which have been in the format
since the 1970s or 1980s (such as WKRQ) or FM successors to former
AM Top 40s (Cumulus-owned WKFR-FM in Kalamazoo, MI and WHOT-FM in Youngstown, OH are two examples). see also: Hot Adult Top 40
- CHR/pop (also known as Mainstream
CHR) — plays pop, urban, alternative and rock hits, and sometimes country crossover as well. Often referred as
"Top 40"; in terms of incorporating a variety
of genres of music, CHR/Pop is the successor to the original
concept of Top 40 radio originated in the 1950s. WHTZ and WXRK in New York
City, KIIS and KAMP in Los Angeles, KDWB in Minneapolis, and WFLZ in Tampa, FL are the best-known CHR/Pop stations in the
U.S. However, the format differs in the United Kingdom; CHR includes a selection of older hits as well as
contemporary music, but the main output is current / recurrent hit
music. The Hit Music
Network, UTV GB CHR and
The Big City Network are just three
network systems that include CHR/pop stations. see also:
Top 40 Mainstream
- CHR/rock — Stations with this format are
similar to the CHR/pop format, but also incorporate Modern Rock and Modern
AC titles in an upbeat presentation. Examples include
WIXX in Green Bay, WI, and KLAL in Little Rock,
for the format is widely given to Todd
Storz, who was the director of radio station KOWH-AM in
Omaha, Nebraska in 1951.
At that time typical AM radio
programming consisted largely of "block programming" —
pre-scheduled, sponsored programs of a wide variety, including
and variety shows. Local
popular music hits, if they made it on the air at all, had to be
worked in between these segments. Storz noted the great response
certain songs got from the record-buying public and compared it to
the way certain selections on jukeboxes
played over and over. He expanded his domain of radio stations,
purchasing WTIX-AM in New
Orleans, Louisiana, gradually converted his stations to an all-hits
format, and pioneered the practice of surveying record stores to
determine which singles were popular each week.
that the more people heard a given song on the radio or from the
jukebox, the more likely they were to buy a copy; a conclusion not
obvious in the industry at the time. In 1952 he purchased what was
then WLAF-AM in Lafayette Indiana and constructed WAZY-A/F which is
still the longest running Top 40 FM in existence to this day.
Storz purchased WHB-AM, a
high-powered station in Kansas City, Missouri which could be heard throughout the Midwest and
Great Plains, converted it to an all-hits format, and dubbed the
result "Top 40".
Shortly thereafter WHB debuted the first
top 40 countdown
, a reverse-order playing of the
station's ranking of hit singles for that week. Within a few years,
Top 40 stations appeared all over the country to great success,
spurred by the burgeoning popularity of rock and roll
music, especially that of
. A 1950's employee at
WHB, Ruth Meyer, went on to have tremendous success in the early to
mid-60's as program director of New York's premiere top 40 station
at that time, WMCA.
Storz Broadcasting Company consisted of six AM radio stations, all
featuring Top 40 in the sixties.
Todd Storz is regarded as the father of the Top 40 format, Gordon McLendon of Dallas, Texas is regarded
as the person who took an idea and turned it into a mass media
marketing success in combination with the development in that same
city of PAMS jingles.
in Dallas, which went Top 40
around 1953 or 1954, soon became perhaps the most imitated radio
station in America. With careful attention to programming, McLendon
presented his stations as packages to advertisers and listeners
alike. It was the combination of Top 40 and PAMS jingles which
became the key to the success of the radio format itself. Not only
were the same records played on different stations across America,
but so were the same jingle music beds whose lyrics were resung
repetitively for each station to create individual station
identity. To this basic mix were added contests, games and disc jockey
patter. Various groups (including
emphasized local variations on their Top 40 stations.
Gordon McLendon would operate approximately a dozen and a half AM,
FM and TV stations at various times, experimenting with formats
other than Top 40 (including Beautiful
early 1960s Rick Sklar also developed the
Top 40 format for radio station WABC in New York City which was then copied by stations in the eastern
and mid-western United States such as WKBW and
built upon the foundation
established by Storz and McLendon to create a variation called
. This format began in
California in early 1961 at KSTN (Stockton), then in 1962-63 at
KYNO (Fresno), in 1964 at KGB (San Diego), and finally to KHJ Los
Angeles in May 1965, and was further adapted to stations
across the western USA. It was later broadcast by American disc
jockeys as a hybrid format on Swinging Radio England which
broadcast from onboard a ship anchored off the coast of southern
England in international
At that time there were no commercial radio
stations in the UK, and BBC radio offered only sporadic top 40
programming. Other noteworthy North American top 40
stations that used the "Drake" approach included KFRC in San Francisco; CKLW in Windsor, ON; WRKO in Boston;
WHBQ in Memphis,
TN; WOLF in Syracuse, NY; and WOR-FM in New York City.
identified Boss Radio with less talk, shorter jingles and more
Mike Joseph and Hot Hits
Mike Joseph's "Hot Hits
" stations of the
late 1970s and early 1980s attempted to revitalize the format by
refocusing listeners' attention on current, active "box-office"
music. Thus, Hot Hits stations played only current hit songs - no
oldies unless they were on current chart albums - in a fast,
furious and repetitive fashion, with fast-talking personalities and
loud, pounding jingles. In 1977, WTIC-FM
Hartford, CT, dropped its long-running classical format for
Joseph's format as "96 Tics" and immediately became one of the top
radio stations in the market. The first Joseph station to use the term
"Hot Hits" on the air was WFBL ("Fire 14",
which played its top 14 hits in very tight rotation) in Syracuse,
NY, in 1979.
Philadelphia switched to Hot Hits as "98 Now" in the fall of 1981
and was instantly successful. Other major-market stations which adopted
the Hot Hits format in the early 1980s included WBBM-FM Chicago, WHYT (now WDVD) Detroit,
WMAR-FM (now WWMX) Baltimore, KITS San Francisco, and WNVZ
took the formats of Gordon
McLendon, Boss Radio and PAMS jingles to the United Kingdom in the
form of Wonderful Radio London, (A Pirate Radio Ship) and
subsequently revolutionized the popular music format. On the 14th
August 1967 The Marine Offences Act was introduced in the UK and
the Pirate Stations were shut down.
The British Broadcasting Corporation where chosen by the UK
Government to come up with a Station to replace the Pirates, And so
in 1967 BBC Radio 1 started broadcasting having employed many of
the DJ's from the Pirate stations (Tony Blackburn, Kenny Everett
& John Peel Etc) and obtained re-sings of the PAM's
In fact it was Tony Blackburn who played the first Pop record on
Radio 1, The Move. Flowers In The Rain.
- Format in the UK specified by OFCOM - CHR/Pop - Contemporary /
Current / Recurrent hits, may contain older music. 
- Mass Media Moments in the United Kingdom, the USSR and the USA,
by Gilder, Eric. - "Lucian Blaga" University of Sibiu Press,
Romania. 2003 ISBN 973-651-596-6
- Music in the Air: America's Changing Tastes in Popular Music
(1920-1980), by Eberley, P.K. New York, 1982.
- Studying Popular Music, by Middleton, Richard. - Philadelphia:
Open University Press, 1990/2002. ISBN 0-335-15275-9.
- Durkee, Rob. "American Top 40: The Countdown of the Century."
Schriner Books, New York City, 1999.
- Battistini, Pete, "American Top 40 with Casey Kasem The 1970s."
Authorhouse.com, January 31, 2005. ISBN 1-4184-1070-5.
- Douglas, Susan, "Listening In: Radio and the American
Imagination," New York: Times Books, 1999.
- Fong-Torres, Ben, "The Hits Just Keep On Coming: The History of
Top 40 Radio", San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 1998.
- MacFarland, David, "The Development of the Top 40 Radio
Format", New York: Arno Press, 1979.
- Fisher, Mark, "Something in the Air: Radio, Rock, and the
Revolution That Shaped a Generation", New York: Random House,
- Goulart, Elwood F. 'Woody', "The Mystique and Mass Persuasion:
Bill Drake & Gene Chenault’s Rock and Roll Radio