One of my heroes has passed away. Without him, I would not have learned many facts or chart positions for "The Lost 45s" at lost45.com. The legendary Casey Kasem, who was literally the voice of a generation as host and co-creator of the AMERICAN TOP 40 syndicated radio show, has died at age 82 after complications from Lewy Body Dementia, a degenerative condition similar to Parkinson's Disease.
Daughter Kerri: "Early this Father’s Day morning, our dad Casey Kasem passed away surrounded by family and friends. Even though we know he is in a better place and no longer suffering, we are heartbroken. Thank you for all your love, support and prayers."
Kasem was born April 27th, 1932 in Detroit. Drafted into the US Army in 1952, Kasem was a DJ for Armed Forces radio while serving in Korea. There were stops in Cleveland, Buffalo and L.A. before his fame would grow exponentially. On July 4th, 1970, AMERICAN TOP 40 was born. Kasem would later say that first show took 18 hours to record and had only seven affiliates. He hosted the weekly countdown until 1988, and again from 1998 to 2004. On his last broadcast of AMERICAN TOP 20, one of two AC spinoffs he hosted until 2009, Kasem reflected on the beginnings of AT40, saying "Don Bustany, (longtime business partner) and I believed, and so did a growing number of listeners."
The countdown featured the popular segment "Long Distance Dedication." But Kasem said it wasn't part of the show until 1978 when a staffer found the letter in the mail. Over the years, more than 3,000 dedications were read on the show. At the height of his popularity -- the 1980s -- Kasem took a version of his syndicated radio countdown to TV. He used the burgeoning music video craze on AMERICA'S TOP 10. His signature line was "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."
Kasem's voice wasn't only familiar for spinning records. He was an accomplished voice-over artist. Kasem was heard on numerous commercials and on the NBC-TV promos in the 1980s. But he was predominantly known as the voice of Shaggy on the SCOOBY-DOO cartoons, a role he maintained for 40 years.
In his goodbye to radio fans in 2009, Kasem said, "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."