Sunday, June 15, 2014

Casey Kasem

The first memory I have of listening to American Top 40 was when I lived in Germany.  The first time I can remember hearing the countdown was in 1973 on Armed Forces Radio.  There weren't many channel choices back then.  Not on Military radio.  At least from what I could tell.  My sister controlled the car and house radio.  I just tuned in to what was being played.

But I remembered AT 40.  It always came on Saturday & Sunday.
I remember it mostly because of the types of songs heard:  novelty records and Country songs.  Things my sister never listened to on her radio. And I was fascinated how songs went up and down the countdown.  And the chart facts!  Unless you were a Billboard subscriber, you never knew any of that stuff. While those Long distance dedications were often ridiculed, I have to admit to always waiting for them.

When we moved to California in 1975, I began to seek out the countdown.  But I couldn't find it.  The local AM Top 40 stations didn't run it.  So, one Saturday I scanned the AM dial looking for it, and eventually finding it.  The reception was very good, but I heard it and tuned in when I could.

And bonus point for a legendary life because he was the voice of Shaggy in Scooby-Doo.  Another thing I didn't learn about him until much later.

Thanks to AT 40, I subscribed to Billboard magazine.  I was all of 13 when I first got a subscription.
There was no turning back from there.  At 40 + Billboard meant I had to know what was happening on the charts.  I became infatuated with the weekly debuts on the countdown.

By the late 80's, Casey's countdown began to lose steam.  Times had changed, because radio formats changed.  There were very little AT 40 channels around.  Radio became a corporate jungle, branching off into genre only channels.

The Internet and satellite radio brought me back to Casey.  There was a time when I couldn't find it anymore.  Thanks to Sirius' 70's channel, which rebroadcasts his old shows, and Internet streaming of his shows, I fell in love with the countdown all over again.  You don't have to go far today to listen to him. Inside the  iHeart radio app is a channel that replays some of those shows.  Called Classic American Top 40, and I would listen now while it's still active.  But a google search of stations will get you to others streaming AT40.

Casey, along with Wolfman Jack, belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The Hall needs to start inducting pioneering DJ's.

Casey Kasem's voice was a reassuring part of my life for a long time.  AT 40 helped change how we listened to music.  I hope it did for you what it did for me:  made me appreciate a wide variety of genres. It ruled when AM Top 40 ruled.

We should all tip our hat to Kasem.  Long distance dedications, highest debut of the week, and good old chart trivia.  It was all there for a few hours every weekend.  Sometimes nostalgia was very good indeed.
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