A Self-Made Genius

We were on the Interstate in Michigan yesterday morning (listening to an American Top 40 show I’d brought along for the trip) when The Mrs. checked her phone and saw that Casey Kasem had passed. Although we had a few weeks to get ready, and a few days since we heard he’d gone to hospice, the news still hit hard when it came.

Tributes to Casey are thick on the ground right now. Neck Pickup had a take that’s unique, as far as I’ve seen—how Casey was never a Clod in the Way of the Music, understanding who the star of his show really was in a way that lots of people behind microphones do not. Yahoo Music put together a stellar collection of clips, from Casey doing his famous Shaggy voice on the Jerry Lewis Telethon to some favorite parodies of him to his final sign-off from American Top 40 in 2009. Our friend Jeffrey Thames will devote his show on KPFT in Houston to Casey tomorrow (Tuesday) between 1 and 3PM Central. I expect that my station, Magic 98, will do something to honor him as well.

I am not going to try plowing a field that others have already done better, except to say this: America extols its self-made genius entrepreneurs, people who saw something no one else did and whose vision changed the world as a result—Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Bill Gates—and Casey Kasem was certainly one of those. Although the radio countdown concept had existed before American Top 40, it was Casey’s vision to create what became the ultimate must-hear reality show, one you listened to with increasing interest hour by hour, week after week, year after year, the sort of thing that appealed equally to people who loved music and people who read the baseball box scores in the newspaper—people to whom certain types of applied numbers had great meaning.

Geeks like me, in other words, and if you’re reading this, probably you too.

This blog has a category devoted to American Top 40, which you’re welcome to browse. A post I wrote about Casey when he retired in 2009 is here. One about the very first edition of the show, which aired on the July 4th weekend in 1970, is here. One about a pivotal show in AT40 history—one Casey didn’t host—is here.

I will continue to tweet Casey-related stuff as I see it, and will probably put some stuff on my Tumblr, too, so check those sites also. Later this week, I’ll write a bit about the show we were listening to when we got the news about Casey’s death.

5 responses

  1. I’m very saddened by his passing, and the drama that accompanied it. Kasey meant a lot to me as a kid – I was a weekly listener.

    It’s a sign of my relentless aging that more and more folks on my “I’d really like to meet that person and tell them what they meant to me” list are passing away.

  2. Hey, thanks for the link. I knew you would have something to say.

    A question to chew on:
    If you buy the notion that AT40 is no longer an “ultimate must-hear reality show,” is that mainly due to Casey’s departure, changes in the music biz, or some of both?
    How much of the show’s mojo went when Casey left it, and how much of it went as the entire nature of the Top 40 chart business changed?

  3. Thank you for the promotion, sir. Your words on our mutual inspiration have been the ones I’ve awaited the most, and I continue to do so. Now off to the station with me…

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