A generation grew up hearing Casey Kasem’s voice on the radio and in cartoons. Best known for his groundbreaking national radio countdown show “American Top 40,” Kasem died on Father’s Day, June 15. He had been in declining health for years as he suffered from the effects of a progressive form of dementia. He was 82.
Kasem began his radio
career when he was drafted into the Army in 1952 and sent to Korea,
where he worked as a disc jockey for the Armed Forces Radio Network.
Over the years, he worked at stations in cities around the country,
including Cleveland, Ohio; Buffalo, New York; Flint, Michigan; San
Francisco; and Oakland. In Los Angeles, he was heard on the original
KRLA (1110 AM) from 1963 to 1969.
His last year at KRLA was weekends only, as he wanted to spend
more time on other projects including his voiceover work in cartoons
including “Scooby-Doo,” “Batman and Robin,” “Josie and the Pussycats,”
“Hot Wheels,” “Transformers” and others. He also did commercial spots
for numerous companies.
But it was “American Top 40” that made him
famous. Created by Kasem with the help of his childhood friend and
movie producer Don Bustany, the idea was pitched in 1969 to Ron Jacobs,
who had recently left the programming position at KHJ (930 AM) to start
the radio syndication company Watermark.
“American Top 40” launched on seven radio stations on the July
Fourth weekend of 1970. It was not an instant success, and the company
had to change marketing agreements. Soon, however, it found its niche
and was eventually heard on more than 1,000 stations around the world
and on Armed Forces Radio.
A simple concept, really, but one that
truly belonged to Kasem. No one else could do it as well as he did it —
giving short backgrounds of the songs and artists he was counting down,
eventually allowing listeners to make “long distance dedications,” and
generally using his positive persona to make you feel good.
A contract dispute forced him out in 1988. Replaced by Shadoe
Stevens, he launched a competing program, “Casey’s Top-40” on more than
400 stations in January 1989. That show, and variants of it, were heard
on top-40 and adult contemporary stations for 10 years until he was
brought back to AT-40.
He retired from all his radio programs and
voiceover work at the age of 77 in 2009. Ryan Seacrest has been host of
“American Top 40” since 2004.
Seacrest plans to offer a tribute
to Kasem on this weekend’s show, heard locally on KIIS (102.7 FM)
Saturday from 6 to 10 a.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon.
You can also hear some clips of Kasem as part of a tribute on the
AT-40 website, www.AT40.com. His 1970s recordings of AT-40 can be heard
on KOLA (99.9 FM) Sundays, 6to 9 a.m.; on SiriusXM satellite radio’s
Channel 7 Saturdays from 9 to 11:15 a.m, Sundays from 6 to 8:15 a.m, and
Sunday nights from 9 to 11:15. The 1980s versions are found on KOLA
Saturdays from 5 to 9 a.m.
Just want the top-10? KOLA has you
covered: Sunday nights at 7, the top-10 from that weekend’s ’70s show is
featured, followed by the top-10 from that weekend’s ’80s show at 8.
KCRW (89.9 FM) has brought back its annual Summer
Nights shows, outdoor events featuring live band performances and DJ
sets in venues from Pasadena to the Pacific and beyond. This is an
example of local radio at its best, and 2014 marks the fifth year of the
Summer Nights series.
This weekend, the event will be held in the
Courtyard of Pasadena’s One Colorado, a series of 17 historic buildings
located at 41 Hugus Alley in Pasadena.
On Saturday, KCRW DJ
Marion Hodges opens the evening at 7:30, followed by the orchestral pop
band Kan Wakan, described as combining deep soul, dramatic folk, and
orchestral pop and a great local band.
As always, the event is free and family oriented. For more
information, go to www.kcrw.com/events/summer-nights-2014 or text
“Summer” to 69866.
Speaking of KCRW, the station
recently broke ground on a new state-of-the-art studio with an expected
completion date of 2016, allowing the station to emerge from the
basement under the Santa Monica College cafeteria where it has been for
the past 30 years.