For millions of us, Casey Kasem and his countdowns on American Top 40 and other shows were a staple of weekend FM radio for decades, until the Detroit native signed off for good in 2009.
Kemal Amen “Casey” Kasem died Sunday at 82 from complications of dementia.
Mark Elliott, WRQN-FM, 93.5 morning-show host and program director, was a rookie radio DJ when he started playing Kasem’s weekly show at WIZE-AM, 1340, in Springfield, Ohio, in 1972. In this pre-tape, pre-automation era, Kasem recorded the countdown of the 40 most popular songs for that week, based on Billboard findings including jukebox popularity, record store sales, and radio play. The recording was then pressed into a 33 LP record album and mailed to the radio stations nationwide that aired his show.
From recording to broadcast, it was a process that took eight days, Elliott said. “Then I would put it on the turntable and play it. I’d do this every week.”
Even in the show’s formative stages -- still years before the “Long Distance Dedications” segment debuted -- Elliott said he knew there was something special about the friendly and warm-voiced Kasem.
“Casey, how he related to people, his storytelling -- it’s one of the most influential things, how he tells stories, how he sets up stories,” he said. “A lot of things we do know, like ‘Coming up in 10 minutes … ’ whatever your setup is, that’s the way he did his show.
“The deal is, Casey Kasem is truly the first national radio personality after the era of network radio” from the 1930s and ’40s went local. “He’s really the first one that became an internationally known personality. … He went international on Canadian, Australian radio, playing basically the same show. He was something to strive for, a Lebanese kid from Detroit.”
A few weeks ago, WRQN began airing reruns of American Top 40 shows from the 1970s as part of a nationwide affiliate. Premiere Radio Network, which owns the original archived recordings of American Top 40, remastered the shows and airs the program, now called Casey Kasem's American Top 40 - The 70's, in its original broadcast form.
In tribute to Kasem, WRQN also has been airing special American Top 40 broadcasts this week. Tonight from 7 to 10 -- and again beginning midnight Sunday -- the station will air the first American Top 40 broadcast, July 4, 1970. Beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Sunday, the station will air the last hour of the year-end countdown in chronological order, from 1973 through 1985. For example, 1973 will air at 6 p.m., 1974 at 7 p.m., et cetera.
From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, WRQN will air the American Top 40 Countdown from June 14-15, 1975, followed by a rebroadcast beginning at midnight. The original American Top 40 broadcast will also be replayed at 7 p.m. Sunday.
Casem built his “entire legacy [on] his voice and not his face,” in radio and in voiceover work, including Shaggy on Scooby-Doo and Robin on Super Friends, Elliott said. “There will never be another Casey Kasem.”
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.
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