On July 4, 1970, Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 debuted, and the Detroit native quickly became synonymous with the countdown format.
The format, reminiscent of the immensely popular Your Hit Parade program in the 1930s and 1940s, allowed Kasem to blend human-interest stories with the top songs of the day.
Kasem’s radio career began as a young actor on The Lone Ranger during his student years at Wayne State University in Detroit. During his military service in Korea, Kasem worked with the Armed Forces Radio Service. Following his discharge in 1954, he worked as a disc jockey in Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
One day in 1962, while struggling with the idea for a new format for his show, Kasem found a discarded magazine which contained facts about recording artists. That evening he began introducing songs with stories about the lives of musicians and singers with “teaser” lead-ins. This “teaser” biography is now a standard in the industry.
The undisputed “King of the Countdowns” has worked for ABC, Westwood One, and currently for the AMFM Radio Networks. Kasem has also frequently served as host of the annual Radio Hall of Fame awards broadcast.
On the week of July 4, 2009, after 39 years on air, Casey Kasem ended his run on the radio. American Top 20 and American Top 10 aired their final shows, with Casey giving a brief retrospective of his 39 years of counting down the hits.
Casey Kasem was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1992.
He died on June 15, 2014.