Casey Kasem's Biography
Millions of fans around the world find the name Casey Kasem synonymous with musical countdowns. Now celebrating his 37th year as “King of the Countdowns,” he continues his unique style as host of American Top 20, in the Hot Adult Contemporary format, American Top 10, in the Adult Contemporary format, and America’s Top Hits, a daily five-minute show, all syndicated nationwide by Premiere Radio Networks. In 2003, he retired from the helm of American Top 40 – the show he created in 1970 that became the gold standard of music programming.
Kasem’s friendly, “crackling” voice style has taken him to the top of his profession. The man, who once dreamed of being a baseball player but ended up as a radio sports announcer instead, is the youngest member ever inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. He has his own star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame. In 1997, Billboard Magazine honored him with its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award. Kasem was honored with the first ever Radio Icon award at the Radio Music Awards in 2003. He also received the first Lifetime Achievement Award from Clear Channel Communications, parent company of Premiere, in 2004.
Kasem has also released his own series of music CDs entitled, Casey Kasem Presents America’s Top Ten Through The Years, highlighting 20 top ten hits from each decade of the rock and roll era, the 1950s – 1990s.
Throughout his career, Kasem has worked as a character actor in films and television. He has voiced countless commercials and Saturday morning cartoon-show characters, including the voice of Shaggy in the evergreen Scooby Doo television and film franchise.
All this is a long way from when young Kemal Amen Kasem, son of Lebanese Druze parents, was a sportscaster for his Detroit high school’s radio club. It was a short hop to radio acting. While majoring in speech and English at Wayne State University, he landed roles in national shows like “The Lone Ranger” and “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.” During military service in Korea, he coordinated and acted in radio drama on the Armed Forces Network.
A civilian again in 1954, Kasem became a disc jockey, moving from Detroit to Cleveland, Buffalo, Oakland and eventually Los Angeles. The easy-going vocal style that is his trademark came about as the result of a station manager in Oakland telling him to change his format from wild, improvised comedy characters – just minutes before he was to go on the air. With only moments to spare and still stuck for a new format idea, he spied a discarded magazine, Who’s Who in Pop Music, 1962, in a trash barrel at the studio. It was full of facts about recording artists – exactly what he needed. That night he began telling stories about the true lives of popular musicians – teased with lead-ins a few minutes before each story was told. This “teaser/bio” format became a familiar part of American Top 40 and a standard in the radio industry.
Away from radio, Kasem has co-hosted Jerry Lewis’ annual Labor Day Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association since 1981. He has received the prestigious Founder’s Award for aiding Danny Thomas’ St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. A vegetarian, he does TV spots and specials aimed at combating alcohol abuse, drunk driving and hunger, as well as a major campaign against smoking for the National Cancer Institute.
Kasem is a member of FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting). He has spent much of his time since 1986 calling the entertainment industry’s attention to ethnic stereotyping. He has also helped promote and support workshops like the Cousins Club that brings Arabs, Jews and others together to discuss conflict resolutions. Kasem aided the Great Peace March in the U.S.A. (1986), and participated in the American-Soviet Walk to End an Arms Race Nobody Wants, held in the U.S.S.R. (1987). He returned to Moscow in 1992 to emcee a pop music concert on behalf of the Children of Chernobyl charity project.
His old alma mater, Wayne State University, presented him with its Distinguished Alumni Award. He received the 1989 Martin Luther King Drum Major Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and, in 1990, the NAACP’s Image Award and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award.
Kasem has three children by a former marriage. He is presently married to Jean, an actress who co-starred in the 1987 NBC-TV comedy series “The Tortellis.” They have one daughter.
Chart Date: September 21, 1985
#40 “SUNSET GRILL” – Don Henley
#39 “HEAD OVER HEELS” – Tears For Fears
#38 “I’M GONNA TEAR YOUR PLAYHOUSE DOWN” – Paul Young
#37 “MIAMI VICE THEME” – Jan Hammer
#36 “NO LOOKIN’ BACK” – Michael McDonald
#35 “FOUR IN THE MORNING (I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE)” – Night Ranger
#34 “LIFE IN ONE DAY” – Howard Jones
#33 “NEVER SURRENDER” – Corey Hart
#32 “SHOUT” – Tears For Fears
#31 “THE WAY YOU DO THE THINGS YOU DO/MY GIRL (LIVE AT THE APOLLO)” – Daryl
Hall, John Oates, David Ruffin & Eddie Kendrick
#30 “LOVIN’ EVERY MINUTE OF IT” – Loverboy
#29 “I’M GOIN’ DOWN” – Bruce Springsteen
#28 “I GOT YOU BABE” – UB40 w/Chrissie Hynde
#27 “SHAME” – The Motels
#26 “EVERY STEP OF THE WAY” – John Waite
#25 “C-I-T-Y” – John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band
#24 “PART-TIME LOVER” – Stevie Wonder
#23 “FORTRESS AROUND YOUR HEART” – Sting
#22 “THERE MUST BE AN ANGEL (PLAYING WITH MY HEART)” – Eurythmics
#21 “SUMMER OF ’69” – Bryan Adams
#20 “SMOKIN’ IN THE BOYS ROOM” – Mötley Crüe
#19 “CRY” – Godley & Creme
#18 “YOU’RE ONLY HUMAN (SECOND WIND)” – Billy Joel
#17 “DANCING IN THE STREET” – Mick Jagger & David Bowie
#16 “FREEWAY OF LOVE” – Aretha Franklin
#15 “LONELY ‘OL NIGHT” – John Cougar Mellencamp
#14 “SAVING ALL MY LOVE FOR YOU” – Whitney Houston
#13 “TAKE ON ME” – a-ha
#12 “INVINCIBLE” – Pat Benatar
#11 “DARE ME” – the Pointer Sisters
#10 “DRESS YOU UP” – Madonna
#9 “OH SHEILA” – Ready For The World
#8 “THE POWER OF LOVE” – Huey Lewis & The News
#7 “POP LIFE” – Prince & The Revolution
#6 “FREEDOM” – Wham!
#5 “DON’T LOSE MY NUMBER” – Phil Collins
#4 “WE DON’T NEED ANOTHER HERO (THUNDERDOME)” – Tina Turner
#3 “ST. ELMO’S FIRE (MAN IN MOTION)” – John Parr
#2 “CHERISH” – Kool & The Gang
#1 “MONEY FOR NOTHING” – Dire Straits