Hit Parader was an American music magazine that operated between 1942 and 2008. A monthly publication, it was a general popular music title until the 1980s, when its focus turned to the genres of hard rock and heavy metal. The magazine reached its peak during the 1980s as heavy metal music achieved high levels of popularity and commercial success.
Hit Parader was launched in 1942 by Charlton Publications, based in Derby, Connecticut. Along with Billboard, Down Beat and Song Hits, it was among the first and longest-lasting American music magazines. Consistent with its title – which referred to the pre-music charts hit parade – Hit Parader began as a popular-song lyric newspaper. It continued to reproduce the words to contemporary songs until that practise became financially prohibitive in the mid 1970s.
For much of the 1960s, Jim Delehant worked as a staff writer and editor for the magazine. According to his recollection, it covered "an extremely boring music scene" before the emergence of rock groups such as the Beatles and the Beach Boys in 1964. In addition to Delehant's contributions, Hit Parader subsequently published articles by music journalists Ellen Sander, Keith Altham and Derek Taylor. Over the following decade, its contributors included Nick Logan, Barbara Charone, Lenny Kaye, Jonh Ingham and Alan Betrock. The magazine's future editor, Andy Secher, joined as a staff writer in 1979; he said in a later interview that the publication "functioned with an amazingly small staff throughout the years" and attributed its longevity to support from the music industry.
During the 1970s, Hit Parader frequently covered rock acts such as Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, David Bowie, Blue Öyster Cult, the Kinks, Three Dog Night, the Who, Cheap Trick, Kiss, and Van Halen. The magazine typically featured song lyrics, album reviews, interviews, fan mail, bits of trivia on popular rock acts, and readers' polls.
In 1984, the magazine began to focus mainly on the hard rock and heavy metal genres. Over the ensuing decade, it became a leading heavy metal publication, providing extensive coverage of the era's popular acts, including Mötley Crüe, Quiet Riot, Def Leppard, Ratt, and Ozzy Osbourne.
Charlton sold off Hit Parader before the company went under in 1991. Later that year, Guns N' Roses' album Use Your Illusion II included the track "Get in the Ring", which accused the magazine of "printin' lies instead of the things we said" and "rippin' off the fuckin' kids … [and] startin' controversy". The song was written partly in response to a March 1991 cover piece, featuring Guns N' Roses singer Axl Rose and Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, in which the magazine declared: "Bas & Axl Interviewed Together For the First Time!" Rather than an exclusive, the interview turned out to be a transcript from a Howard Stern radio-show telephone interview with the two musicians. Rose and Bach both claimed that Hit Parader editor Andy Secher was misleading his readers with such tactics.
Speaking to the music website rockcritics.com in the early 2000s, Secher identified the magazine's target readership as "a young, male demographic … They want short, pithy interviews and features – along with BIG color photos. The formula is fairly basic." He also defended Hit Parader's championing of heavy metal, despite the disapproval the genre attracted from some music critics, saying: "I always sensed that people like Christgau had to justify their existence by promoting the artistic aesthetics of the rock form. I've never taken any of this that seriously. Hit Parader isn't the New York Times … it's a frikkin' fanzine, and proud to be exactly that."
The magazine closed down following the publication of its December 2008 issue. During its years of operation, Hit Parader also published issues dedicated to "Top 100" lists, such as "Top 100 Metal Bands", "Top 100 Guitarists", "Top 100 Vocalists" and "Top 100 Bassists & Drummers".