Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Casey Kasem (1932 - 2014)

I first discovered Casey Kasem and the American Top 40 sometime in the early 80's. I don't remember if I was told about it, or I found it by accident, but I was mesmerized by the show. Forty of the most popular songs of the week played one after the other! I think it was Saturday mornings that it was broadcast in my area and I would stay glued to the radio, as this was often a chance to tape songs that I really liked.

I was eleven or twelve when I first started listening to America Top 40, and my only source of income was a paper route, but I used that money for baseball cards. It wasn't until I joined the Columbia House record and tape club (remember that?), that I was able to really increase my music collection. So I would tape songs by putting a cassette player next to my radio and record the songs I wanted.  Since this was not a direct connection, you had to keep quiet or else any noises you made would show up on the tape. This was far more difficult to accomplish than it sounds...I have two brothers and two sisters (all younger, and at that point all under ten years old), who took great pride in trying to "ruin" any songs I was trying to tape. A lot of tapes that I made over this time period have survived the decades (meaning I still have them), and are a collection of memories and recordings of cool songs throughout my early childhood. I also have a collection of songs that have pig snorts, underarm farts, and a variety of other inappropriate noises from my failed attempts to keep my siblings away from my recordings.

But Casey Kasem introduced me into the charting of songs. As I was able to accumulate more music, I would make my own Top 40 countdowns with the songs I had in my music collection. I would pester my brothers and sisters to list their favorite songs and I would tabulate them and count them down in my bedroom. I'm sure this helped in developing my fascination with music. It certainly helped with my music collection, because once I was able to get Billboard magazine (I used to buy it every week for years), I would do my best to get all of the songs that were in that week's Top 40. I would listen to the radio and look and see how they were doing on the charts, so I guess you could of called me a "stat geek" in that respect.

I only listened to his show for a few years, I think the station that was carrying it stopped and I couldn't find another station that carried it that was close enough to get a good signal (this was before internet radio, people!), but by this time I was busy having my own countdowns.

But some of my most significant childhood memories are sitting on my bed listening to Casey Kasem and American Top 40.

Thank you Mr. Kasem. Rest in Peace.


  1. I discovered Casey Kasem in January 1980. I remember the exact time because there was another countdown show that I heard first (remember Rick Dees?) that I would tune in on the radio in the fall of 1979. But once I found Kasem, I ditched Dees.

    The best were the end of the year countdown shows and like you I remember them airing on Saturday morning/afternoons, possibly repeated on Sundays. I hated it when I missed a show. And later, like you, I'd write up my own weekly countdowns as they SHOULD BE because there was no way Lionel Richie should be rated that high!

    The only thing getting me through Casey Kasem's death is that our local station started airing random Top 40 countdowns from the '70s and '80s a couple years ago. I try to catch those on the weekends as often as I can. And now that I can play any Billboard top 100 chart that I want to on the ol' computer, Casey will always be with me.

    (I also recorded my own mixed tapes by putting the tape player next to the stereo speaker. Disc jockeys drove me crazy by talking over songs).

    1. I didn't listen to the Rick Dees countdown until around 1984. There was a radio station a stone's throw from my house, but the format was country or something like that. It changed to Top 40 in 1982, and since I wasn't able to get American Top 40 anymore, I listened to that on Saturday mornings for awhile.

  2. How could you totally leave out that he was the voice of Scooby-Doo's, Shaggy?

    1. I was a huge Scooby Doo fan as a kid, but since my post was about music, it didn't really fit in.
      He was also Robin in Super Friends, another one of my favorite cartoons.

  3. I was like you -- Saturday listening to Casey counting down the Top 40, the often deeply touching "long distance dedications," waiting to see where my favorite songs would be in the countdown -- all that is what I remember too. Thankfully, I didn't have to tape songs off the radio in the same way that you did -- I didn't get into it until I had a tape player attached to a radio and record player.

    I think he made me the music freak I am today too.