Radio Icon Casey Kasem Dies At 82
CBS News – Casey Kasem, the radio personality who rose to fame with the music countdown shows “American Top 40” and “Casey’s Top 40,” has died, family spokesman Danny Deraney confirmed to CBS News. He was 82.
The radio pioneer died early Sunday morning, daughter Kerri Kasem said in a Father’s Day post on Facebook and Twitter.
Shortly before his death a judge ruled that his daughter Kerri Kasem could begin end-of-life measures, giving her the authority to withhold medication, food and fluids from her ailing father, who suffered from a form of Lewy body dementia.
Born Kemal Amin Kasem on April 27, 1932, Kasem was the son of a Lebanese grocer father and a Lebanese-American mother. He got his start in the entertainment field early, joining the radio club while attending Northwestern High School in Detroit. A graduate of Wayne State University, Kasem continued to pursue radio during the Korean War on the Armed Forces Radio Korea Network before returning to the U.S. to work at various radio stations in San Francisco and Cleveland, among others cities. It was during that time that Kasem started making a name for himself, developing a listener favorite “teaser and bio” feature, which he used to segue into the next track on the station’s playlist.
Kasem’s popularity continued to grow, and on July 4, 1970, Kasem launched the syndicated “American Top 40” show, counting down the most popular singles in the country – all the way to the No. 1 song.
During the program, Kasem, known for the phrase “details coming up,” would rattle off chart, song and artist trivia and stories. He would also feature a “Long Distance Dedication” from listeners on the radio show, which helped reinvigorate the Top 40 format. The show became such a hit that in the early ’80s, it even had a television spinoff.
“American Top 40” stayed on the airwaves with Kasem at the helm until 1988; a salary dispute found him replaced by host Shadoe Stevens. But Kasem wasn’t out of work for long. Less than a year later, he signed with Westwood One Radio Network to launch the rival “Casey’s Top 40.” And in 1998, he ended up resurrecting his “American Top 40” show.
In early 2004, he retired from “American Top 40,” passing the torch current host Ryan Seacrest. Kasem, though, continued to host the syndicated spinoffs “American Top 20” and “American Top 10” until his retirement in July 2009. During his final broadcast, he counted down one last time, telling listeners, “I’d like to share with you something I’ve learned over the years: Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You’re only as good as the people you work with, and the people you work for. I’ve been lucky; I’ve worked for and with the very best.”
Throughout his career, Kasem also worked in television, lending his voice to countless cartoons. He did the character of Robin in “The Batman/Superman Hour” from 1968-1969 and served as the voice of Scooby-Doo’s sidekick, Shaggy, on and off since 1969. He played characters in animated TV series “The Transformers,” “Josie and Pussycats,” and others — and voiced countless TV commercials, too. He served as the promo announcer for NBC-TV from 1977 to 1981.
Kasem got a taste of the big screen, too, appearing in the 1972 Bruce Dern film, “The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant” and playing himself in the hit movie “Ghostbusters.”
The Hollywood Walk of Fame gave Kasem a star in 1981, and in 1992, he became the youngest inductee into the Radio Hall of Fame. Billboard magazine gave Kasem its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.
Kasem began to succumb to health problems in recent years. In October 2013, Kasem announced that he had advanced Parkinson’s disease.
Kasem was married twice – first to singer/actress Linda Myers from 1969 – 1980. They had three children together. Since 1980, he’s been married to Jean Myers, who played Loretta on ”Cheers.” The couple share one child.
Near the end of his life, Kasem’s family members made headlines over an ongoing family dispute where Kasem’s children from his first marriage were at odds with his second wife, Jean, over access and care. Jean Kasem has been in control of his medical care and has controlled access to him, preventing three of his children from seeing him in recent months, according to court filings. Kerri Kasem said in court that her father was suffering from bedsores along with lung and bladder infections. At one point there was also confusion about the entertainer’s whereabouts.
And during the last months of his life, he lost that voice we all knew so well. According to family, he could no longer speak.
But anyone who listened to radio in the 1970s and ’80s can likely easily recall that unmistakable voice that brought America the hits week after week.
In 1990, Kasem spoke to the New York Times about his radio delivery: “It’s a natural quality of huskiness in the midrange of my voice that I call ‘garbage.’ It’s not a clear-toned announcer’s voice. It’s more like the voice of the guy next door.”
In the words of Kasem — his signature sign-off: “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.”