Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem
Casey Kasem. Photo by Ann Johansson / Corbis Entertainment

Born

April 27, 1932 - Detroit, Michigan.

Quote from Casey Kasem

"Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars." This was Casey Kasem's weekly signoff as host of American Top 40.

College and Early Career

Born Kemal Amen Kasem, Casey Kasem grew up in a Lebanese-American household in Detroit, Michigan. His Lebanese Druze immigrant parents had settled there to work as grocers. Casey Kasem made his radio debut while in high school and studied radio broadcasting while a student at Wayne State University.

He became involved in radio acting with roles on shows like The Lone Ranger. In 1952 he was drafted into the U.S. Army where he was a successful announcer for the Armed Forces Radio Korea Network.

Casey Kasem and American Top 40

After returning from Korea, Casey Kasem spent most of the next two decades working his way up to national prominence as a radio announcer. While working at KEWB in Oakland, California, he put together a show that included bits of biographical information on the artists who recorded the records he played. His national reputation grew after he began working for KRLA in Los Angeles in 1963. 

Casey Kasem drew the attention of Dick Clark, host of American Bandstand, and was hired to a co-host a daily teen-oriented music show called Shebang that began in 1964. During the late 1960s Casey Kasem also appeared in a variety of acting roles on TV and in movies. 

In 1970, working with childhood friend and Hollywood producer Don Bustany, Kasem proposed a countdown radio show loosely based on the 1940's and 1950's hit show Your Hit Parade.

It would focus on the top 40 pop hit songs of the week. Casey Kasem mixed in biographical information on the artists, trivia about the songs and music charts, and weekly "long distance dedications" from listeners. The result was American Top 40 which debuted on July 4, 1970 on 7 radio stations. By the late 1970s American Top 40 could be heard on radio stations around the world.

Trivia Fact About Casey Kasem

From 1977 to 1981 Casey Kasem narrated all of the national promotional announcements for shows on NBC television.

The Success of American Top 40

American Top 40 quickly became one of the most popular syndicated radio shows in the country and then around the world. By 1986 the show was featured on more than 1,000 radio stations in 50 countries around the world as well as Armed Forces Radio and the Voice of America. American Top 40 spawned a television spin-off, America's Top 10, that ran from 1980 through 1990 and featured Casey Kasem counting down the week's top 10 hits and playing music videos.

Voice-Over Actor

Casey Kasem is not only well-known for his radio work, but also as a voice-over actor. His best-known voice-over work has been in the role of Shaggy in various incarnations of the Scooby-Doo show. He left the role of Scooby-Doo in 1995 in a dispute over a Burger King commercial, but Casey Kasem returned in 2002 when it was determined Shaggy would be a vegetarian like Kasem. His final credited appearance as the voice of Shaggy took place in 2009 for Scooby-Doo! and the Samurai Sword. He has also appeared in a wide range of other shows including The Adventures of Batman and Josie and the Pussycats.

The Demise and Rebirth of American Top 40

When his contract with ABC Radio, owners of American Top 40, expired in 1989, Casey Kasem left after the two parties could not reach financial agreement on a new contract. Shadoe Stevens took over as new host, and Casey Kasem began his own competing show Casey's Top 40. Casey Kasem proved the most popular, and American Top 40 folded in 1995. Legal control of the name reverted to Kasem, and American Top 40 returned in 1998 with its original host.

Casey Kasem Honors

In 1981 Casey Kasem was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1992 and the National Broadcaster's Hall of Fame in 1995. Casey Kasem was presented the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) Presidential Award for Sustained Executive Achievement in 2001.

In addition, Casey Kasem was continually recognized for his many efforts to fight discrimination against the Arab-American community, his own ethnic group.

Retirement

In 2004 Casey Kasem retired from hosting American Top 40. He passed the hosting duties on to Ryan Seacrest. However, Kasem did not resign completely from radio countdowns. He continued to produce American Top 20 and American Top 10, both adult contemporary countdown shows, for Premiere Radio Networks. Into his mid-70's, Casey Kasem was a radio and top 40 living legend. He credits his success to a "guy next door" voice and his interest in telling the stories behind artists and songs with a focus on the positive. On the 4th of July weekend in 2009 Casey Kasem announced to his listeners that the countdowns of that weekend would be his last.

Death and Controversy

Announcements were made in 2013 that Casey Kasem had grown very ill. On October 1, 2013, his three children from his first marriage Kerri, Mike and Julie protested in front of is home claiming that his second wife Jean Kasem was preventing them from contact with their father. As of June 2014, Casey Kasem was reported to be in critical condition and a judge ordered separate visitation times for his wife and the children. He died June 15, 2014. For six months his family fought legal battles over his burial. Finally, on December 16, 2014, Casey Kasem was buried in Oslo, Norway.

In November 2015 three of Casey Kasem's children and his brother sued his second wife for wrongful death.

The suit charged her with elder abuse and inflicting emotional distress on his children by preventing them from seeing him.