Casey Kasem (1932-2014)
Casey Kasem changed radio. It wasn't just through counting down the most popular hits every weekend but essentially creating "Top 40" as a 24-hour radio station format. Local radio countdowns can be traced back to the 1940s, but when "American Top 40" hit the airwaves on July 4, 1970, popular music would truly reach "coast to coast" for the first time. As the show's popularity increased nationwide, many radio stations began changing their format to "Top 40" and for the first time, playing singles regardless of their genre.
As America's premiere countdown show, "American Top 40" also spawned many spinoffs over the years. In 1973, "Amercian Country Countdown" hit the airwaves hosted by Don Bowman and continues to this day with host Kix Brooks. As music videos rose to popularity in the mid 70s, AT40 expanded to television in 1980 with America's Top 10. The 30 minute syndicated program hosted by Kasem would highlight not just the pop charts, but also music videos from the country, R&B, dance, and album charts. As MTV came on seen in 1981, America's Top 10 gained momentum and would continue to air through 1992. AT40 would again branch out this time on the radio in 1992 with "American Top 20" and "American Top 10" tailored specifically to adult contemporary radio stations.
his final radio broadcast in 2009.
My musical taste was definitely impacted by Casey Kasem's programs. It seemed like our household always had the countdown on over the weekends in the '80s, whether it was on the 2-hour drive to see my grandparents or in the garage while my dad was working on something. When the Columbia House/BMG era came about in the early 90s, my CD selections seemed to be mainly greatest hits albums which were the songs I heard on AT40. But even as the Top 40 format stations slowly drifted away from my music taste over the past 20 years, I definitely don't regret the music I enjoyed in the '80s and early '90s via AT40.
Over the past couple years, I've made it a point to venture outside the Top 40. For the first time, I'm enjoying some '80s albums in their entirety and I'm loving it. I feel like I've almost discovered a hidden channel to new '80s music and now that Casey Kasem has finally "reached the stars," I feel like my journey is finally "okay." I feel like I need to dedicate this journey to his memory. Thank you Casey for bringing all that great music into my life and now, I look forward to exploring more and more of the music that didn't quite make it onto your show.
Image credits: pdxretro.com, wtkm.com, hollywoodreporter.com