Teen idols have been a part of pop and rock music almost from the beginning. The first big peak of teen idol success on the pop charts occurred in the late 1950's and early 1960's. This is the list of the 10 most successful based on Billboard pop singles chart performance.
For the tabulation, only songs which reached their peak on the chart before the artist turned 20 were considered. For consideration of groups, all members were required to be under age 20.
1. Brenda Lee
Dubbed "Little Miss Dynamite," Brenda Lee first began recording at the age of 11. Her biggest early hits came as a teenager. They included the #1 hits "I'm Sorry" and "I Want to Be Wanted" as well as "Sweet Nothin's," "Dum Dum," and "Fool #1." Brenda Lee hit the pop singles chart nearly 40 times before she turned 20. She remains one of the top female pop artists of all time and is a member of the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.
2. Ricky Nelson
Many fans remember Ricky (later simply "Rick") Nelson primarily as part of the Nelson clan on the hit 50's TV show Ozzie and Harriet. However, he was arguably the biggest male teen pop idol of all time. Among his classics were the #1 hit "Poor Little Fool," and the top 10 hits "Be-Bop Baby," "A Teenager's Romance," and "Stood Up." As an adult, Rick Nelson received critical acclaim for his 1972 top 10 comeback hit "Garden Party." Nelson died in a tragic plane crash December 31, 1985 at the age of 45.
3. Stevie Wonder
When thinking about Stevie Wonder's phenomenal string of 1970's classics such as "Superstition," "Higher Ground," and "Sir Duke," it's easy to forget that he had an amazing career at Motown before turning 20. "Uptight (Everything's Alright)," "For Once In My Life," "I Was Made to Love Her," and the stunning "Fingertips, Pt. 2" are just a few of the classics Stevie Wonder released before the age of 20.
4. Paul Anka
Paul Anka became a teen pop idol in the 1950's through an unusual route, his songwriting. Never the most phenomenal of vocalists, Anka exhibited a tremendous gift for songwriting while still a teenager. His hit singles included such classics as "Diana," "Lonely Boy," "Puppy Love," and "Put Your Head on My Shoulder." In the early 1970's, Paul Anka returned to the top of the charts with "(You're) Having My Baby" featuring Odia Coates.
5. Donny Osmond
On his own as a solo artist and with his sister Marie, Donny Osmond is one of the most successful teen artists on the pop chart of all time. First hitting the charts as part of the Osmonds brother act, Donny soon outgrew the group and began recording as a solo act. He hit #1 with "Go Away Little Girl" in 1971 and followed it up with the top 10 hits "Puppy Love" (a version of Paul Anka's classic), "Hey Girl," and "Sweet and Innocent." In 1974 Donny Osmond launched a successful run of hits and a TV show with his younger sister, Marie.
6. Lesley Gore
Lesley Gore is best remembered for her first hit single, the amazing teen anthem "It's My Party," which hit #1 in 1963. She returned to the top 10 with such songs as "Judy's Turn to Cry" and "You Don't Own Me," but she never repeated this initial success. "It's My Party" is also notable as the first pop hit single produced by Quincy Jones.
7. Bobby Vee
Bobby Vee is all but forgotten by most pop music fans today. Vee's first big break was as a fill-in concert act after the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. His first top 10 hit single, "Devil or Angel," appeared in 1960 when Bobby Vee was 17. A series of hits followed in quick succession including "Rubber Ball," "Run to Him," and the #1 "Take Good Care of My Baby."
Brandy released her debut, self-titled album at the age of 15 in 1994. It included the smash top 10 hit singles "Baby," and "I Wanna Be Down." Brandy's star shone even brighter as the star of the TV sitcom Moesha. In 1998, as a seasoned 19-year-old, Brandy released her second album Never Say Never that included the #1 smash hit duet with Monica, "The Boy Is Mine." She has remained active as an adult recording artist, but Brandy has failed to replicate her early success as a teen pop and r&b artist.
9. LeAnn Rimes
LeAnn Rimes seemed to emerge out of nowhere in the mid-1990's as a 13 year old with a Patsy Cline voice. Her first hit single "Blue" hit the country top 10 and crossed over into the pop top 30. A series of hit singles followed including "How Do I Live," a song which was certified triple platinum and spent well over a year on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
10. Bow Wow
Just recently turned 20, rapper Bow Wow began his recording career under the name Lil' Bow Wow. However, as he grew up, Shad Gregory Moss began recording simply as Bow Wow. His first album Beware of Dog appeared when he was only 13 years old. Bow Wow consistently charted hit singles through his teen years, but he didn't hit the pop top 10 until 2005 with two duets, "Let Me Hold You" with Omarion and "Like You" with then girlfriend Ciara.