Thursday, June 19, 2014

Casey Kasem – Peace, Love, and #1 on our American Top 40

This is not the article I had intended to post next. The Universe, however, has its own plans for us as we learned again recently, when it welcomed another American icon into its Rock & Roll Heaven.

Casey Kasem, 82, the "Father of American Top 40" found his peace last Sunday – Father’s Day, a fitting tribute for his ascent – finally escaping the spectacle of family squabbles that dogged his final year(s) on Earth. 

Casey’s “guy next door” voice served him well from his start in Armed Forces Radio Network in 1950s’ Korea, to finish, as co-creator of the perpetual American Top 40 — which has endured for decades and leaves a fitting legacy for the man behind the microphone.

There was a lot of living in between. Let's celebrate Mr. Kasem's accomplishments, dedication, and contributions to Rock & Roll music!

In the mid-1950s that blasphemous, new-fangled boob-tube was taking the world by storm. Radio simply did not know what to do next.

A vital part of the early Pop and Rock music scene, Casey and other DJs of the era helped shape the genre, as a wave of technology enveloped our world.

Television threatened to drown radio in its salty wake. But Rock & Roll rescued radio

Though music genres made up a significant majority of radio shows, most notably, symphonies and Big Bands, it was the lucrative, long-running dramas and family variety shows that quickly found new homes on the baby screen.

Even Your Hit Parade, which broadcast the week’s most popular and best selling songs on the RADIO defected to television. Although it aired on both mediums for a while, it eventually abandoned radio altogether in 1955.

However, Bandstand (sound kinda familiar?), WFIL/Philadelphia’s bold radio show created by DJ Bob Horn, caught the new wave of Rock & Roll in the early ‘50s and rode it onto TV. It wasn’t long before Hollywood horned in and stole the show from Philly, along with the undisputed music icon, Dick Clark, as host, and making American Bandstand the “cool” teen’s fave show.

Rock was on a roll …

The 1960s and ‘70s was Rock’s proving ground and the decades proved radio was hotter than ever as Rock & Roll evolved from bubble gum music to war anthems.

Casey spun the platters for radio heavyweights like San Francisco’s KYA and KEWB (pictured: song chart for week of December 30, 1961), and popular KRLA in Los Angeles (see their “Expert Advice” article with commentary by the DJs, for week ending March 10, 1965, below).

During this time he rounded out his entertainment persona with stints on television that included parts in Hawaii 5-0 (yes, there was an original in the ‘60s/’70s!) and Ironside (ditto), and co-hosted Shebang, another dance show, in the swingin’ Sixties.

You young’uns may recognize his voice as the quirky dude, “Shaggy” in the Scooby-Doo animated series. Like, let’s have another slice of that extra-cheese pizza with pickles!

To most of us however, Casey Kasem is a legendary disc jockey, and since the ‘70s, music historian …

It was a glorious Independence Day (July 4) 1970 that we first became acquainted with his count-the-songs-backwards American Top 40. Radio has not been without it since. His homespun voice told behind-the-song-title stories about our singing idols that we might never have known without his eloquent narratives.

Originally created by Casey, with Don Bustany, Tom Rounds and Ron Jacobs, “AT40” as it’s been shortened to (like everything else in this texting-heavy society) was voiced by Casey during most of its heyday. Now, Ryan Seacrest is at the helm, trying to fill some awfully big broadcasting shoes.

Casey Kasem no longer walks amongst us, but with AT40 in syndication around the world, he will not soon be forgotten. Thank you, Casey.

Unfortunately, the memory of his last, sad, year on Earth will linger much too long.

Consider this a wake-up call, people …

It doesn't matter how much money you have or don't have, what matters is the respect we show our loved ones in their waning years, months, days, and minutes. You, too, will eventually walk with an aging gait – think about it.

All the laws in the world won’t compensate nor alleviate patient and elderly abuse. I beg you – especially the young’uns – to take note of the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

Some day, you most likely will need care from someone else … will it be loving and humanitarian? What will your care be as you cling to Earth by a guitar-string thread?

Cheers to all of us that we may journey to Rock & Roll Heaven with Peace & Love, and a song in our hearts!

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