Broadcasting Legend Casey Kasem Counts Down for Final Time
Broadcasting legend made 'American Top 40' a household staple fo 39 years.
July 5, 2009— -- The news came as a shock to Casey Kasem's fans.
"We began the weekend of July 4, 1970, and after 39 years this will be our final countdown," Kasem said matter-of-factly on his "American Top 20" radio show over the weekend.
And so, with no hoopla and hardly any advance notice, the 77-year-old broadcasting legend counted down the hits one last time, quietly pulling the plug on a weekly ritual for his legion of loyal listeners.
It is, in many ways, the end of an era
Kasem was the last of the big-time DJs, a legacy that includes Alan Freed and Wolfman Jack, personalities who brought music to Americans when radio was king.
"Casey Kasem ... Dick Clark ... I really felt like these guys were a part of my family. You get this connection when you're listening to them or when you're watching them," said Ryan Seacrest, who took the mic as host of Kasem's signature "American Top 40" show five years ago. Kasem continued to host two spinoffs, "American Top 20" and "American Top 10."
Kasem pioneered the countdown format on radio. He always included biographical details, little tidbits mainly, about the musicians. And there were those long-distance dedications, thousands of them, through the years.
Kasem also has voiced over countless commercials and given life to so many cartoon characters, most famously as the voice of Scooby-Doo's faithful sidekick, Shaggy.
But it was his work as the king of countdowns that brought him a star, in 1981, on Hollywood's Walk of Fame and entry, in 1992, into the Radio Hall of Fame.
Jeannie Kasem said her husband ended "American Top 20" and "American Top 10," both of which counted down adult contemporary music hits, because he wanted time to pursue other projects, including possibly writing a memoir.
Radical changes in the radio business also were a factor, associates said. Adult contemporary music charts no longer change much from week to week, in part because stations that play such music have adopted smaller and smaller playlists. That brought a degree of monotony to Kasem's countdowns in recent years.