We request DJ/voiceover artist Casey Kasem be honored by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
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On the July 4th weekend of 1970, American radio broadcasting moved into a new era, as we know it. And a gentleman born Kemal Amin Kasem was part of that change, although most people know this gentleman by a different name, thanks to his love of the American sport, baseball. "Casey" Kasem, as we have come to know him, has been a staple of the American scene for years, thanks to a broadcast he helped co-found and hosted, the show called "American Top 40."
Casey began his broadcasting career right before he left high school to attend Wayne State University, even doing stints on radio while serving with the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Casey then worked on his style of doing DJ work at several stations across the U.S., before finally being advised to adopt a unique style of offering information on the stars, using little teasers and factoids, and since 1962, became well-known for using that type of radio broadcasting. That style attracted
the attention of two gentlemen who heard of a big project Casey wanted to get started-Casey and long-time friend/business partner Don Bustany met broadcasters Ron Jacobs and Tom "T.R." Rounds to get input and join forces on a new radio show that Casey had envisioned. The concept was pieced together, and with very little problems, set into motion. On July 3, 1970, the first of seven stations across the U.S. broadcast the first successful weekly modern radio music show, "American Top 40," based on the research of Billboard magazine's survey of record sales (and gradually added, radio station airplay), using their "Hot 100" singles chart
as the basis.
This would become the first of several shows-known as "countdowns"-that Casey would do over the years, but all of them would feature Casey's unique voice style, crafted thru his work of acting in TV, movies, and even cartoons, featuring bios of the artists, specialty facts about them, the stars, and the songs, and even some general trivia thrown in for good measure as well. Don Bustany, Tom Rounds,
and the team fine-tuned the original show well-enough to make Casey appear to be a friend, offering a chance to hear some great music and interesting facts. In later years, the show would also offer one of its most unique features-Casey began doing dedications for his listeners, knowing that certain songs could often bring people back to a certain time, place, or memory involving whatever reason. Casey
understood and respected the power of music to help ease a broken heart or celebrate new love, to make people dance or rock out, or even to find the power in oneself to make a change for themselves, or even the world. And that impact was heard, not just in the U.S., but all around the world, with the help of over 500 radio stations at one point, as well as the Armed Forces Radio Services.
At the time when Casey's show came about, AM radio was in a state of flux, especially with the advent of more rock friendly FM radio, and pop music seemed to be in trouble. But Casey proved to do nationally, what DJs had done in local markets for years before, to find out what was going on in the music world and do their best to offer the best music to their listening audience. That is something that sometimes even the biggest radio conglomerates seem to have a problem with, at present, making sure that one person can reach an audience like that, with just playing one simple hit song-and by making the person feel that the particular DJ, in this case, Casey, was speaking right to them, no matter what the demographics. In a world so divided on so many levels-political, ethnic, religious, social, and soon-Casey and his friends showed that you can bring people together, all it takes is one song, and one person talking about it. Broadcasters of every type would kill to have that power-and the fact it could be done on such a national level is when radio syndication reached new heights, allowing people such as Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, Delilah, Charlie Tuna, Wolfman Jack, Dick Clark, Tom Joyner, and so on, to reach new audiences with wildly successful contracts and shows that also reach their public, in their own way. If not for Casey, Tom, Don, and Ron, and their company Watermark, Inc., such broadcasting as we know today, even for the big conglomerates, would not be possible.
Today, the influence of these four gents can be heard on radio throughout the world, particularly with regards to shows that feature the best of just about any genre of music-pop, rock, country, R&B, adult contemporary, gospel, reggae, Latin, dance, heavy metal, and so on. Folks such as Shadoe Stevens, Mark Elliott, Charlie Van Dyke, John Leader, Dave Sholin, Chris Charles, Don Bowman, Walt "Baby" Love, and even today's top hosts-Tom Joyner, Rick Dees, Kix Brooks and Bob Kingsley (both of Watermark's second big music show, "American Country Countdown"), and current AT40 successor Ryan Seacrest-owe their work influence to what Casey Kasem and his friends have done. Even Dick Clark did a mini-countdown on American Bandstand before AT40 and his own countdown shows, but he'd also agree, what an impact Casey Kasem and company made on the music and radio industries.
Casey knew of the artists that were doing well on the national scene, and made sure that he and his staff made an effort to find out as much as he could about them, even before the advent of MTV, VH1, BET, CMT, GAC, and the Biography Channel. He knew what the hottest new acts were, way before the advent of shows like Star Search, X Factor, American Idol, and The Voice. And there were videos, even before the advent of MTV, as Casey noted, by featuring them on his television show, "America's Top 10," which also featured its look at the Billboard charts, and helped make it clear of the direction music started moving towards, providing sights, not just sounds. The fact is, any artist would tell you, just having their name read on one
of those shows was an honor, but having Casey tell you that your song is number 40 or number 1 was priceless. Even legendary artist Elton John admits his career would never have had an impact without Casey Kasem letting the public know about his music, and we're sure a lot of artists would have to feel the same way.
As mentioned, Casey had appeared on stage, in several movies and television shows, but also found work as one of the top commercial spokespersons, and
as the voice for several companies, even as NBC's voiceover. And Casey's work became more beloved, not just on radio, but as a cartoon voice for many
years. He's done several different shows, even as a holiday character on the Rankin-Bass animated cartoon "Here Comes Peter Cottontail." But it was two
voices that people often remember-the voice of Robin, Batman's sidekick, on the animated DC/ABC action series, "SuperFriends;" and the lovable ghost-phobic,
always snack-craving, Norville "Shaggy" Rogers, the sidekick of that ghost chasing Great Dane, Scooby-Doo. As some people have said, Shaggy may have given Casey a voice, but it was his radio shows that were the true genius, especially American Top 40, letting Casey's personality shine. (And that comes from three people who knew Casey well-AT40 researcher Guy Aoki, AT40 biographer Rob Durkee, and Casey's old friend, DJ "Shotgun Tom" Kelly.) And again, Casey was
known to use his well-trained ability doing cartoons and commercials to his big advantage, even on radio and television, while counting down the biggest
hits by the world's biggest stars. But talk about "Holy Multiple Personalities, Batman!"-Zoinks, indeed, that Casey would be loved for so much work by so
Casey also made an impact on the world, fighting for causes he believed in. He would participate in events that called attention to fighting stereotypes, such as Asian and Arab characters that were perceived as bad influences; and for the rights of groups he felt also were given a bad reputation. He even participated in events, along with AT40 co-founder Don Bustany, that focused on improving relations, especially among the Arab and Jewish communities. He was also a tireless worker in calling attention to the need to help the needy and homeless; and to challenge the need for constantly using nuclear energy and weapons, which he felt considerably dangerous to the modern world. And yet, Casey's broadcasts on radio welcomed a wide audience, that wasn't defined by race, religion, politics, and so on, an audience he fought hard to retain, because he knew of radio's-and music's-great ability to bridge those gaps. And that kind of ability to bridge the gaps is, honestly, a rare quality that the world needs today, and even lacking in the very industry that Casey excelled in.
Casey also spent years being a force for good in other ways, particularly his many appearances on the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, as a
sidekick to Lewis and Ed McMahon, raising funds to battle a crippling disease that affects both young and old alike. Casey Kasem was a fixture on the broadcasts
for many of its years, helping to use whatever talent he had available, from his radio and cartoon work, to help in the efforts. But sadly, Casey Kasem succumbed
to a form of the disease, known as Lewy body Dementia, which attacked his system in the late 2000's, causing his radio career to finally end in 2009, and causing
him to die on June 15, 2014, from the complications of the disease, and of enduring a long battle among members of his family, a battle many feared would overshadow
the good work Casey had accomplished.
To say all of the Kasem family lost their beloved father is an understatement, but the world also lost one of the dearest friends any radio station could ever have.
Casey proved to be as effective a force in major radio, broadcasting the hits and talking about them to his listeners, much like thousands of radio DJs have done in
their markets all across the U.S.A. and around the world. Very few radio personalities have EVER had this kind of an impact, and Casey Kasem is one of those people. But sadly, the world has not only lost Casey, but the other three gentlemen who made the impact of joining forces with Casey to create American Top 40-Tom "TR" Rounds also passed in 2014 (oddly enough, two exact weeks before Casey); Ron Jacobs passed in 2017; and now, this past April 23, 2018, Don Bustany, Casey's most trusted friend and partner, has also left us. If not for these people, and the good crew that has worked with them over the years-Bill Hergenson, Matt Wilson, Darryl Morden, Stu Jacobs, Guy Aoki, Alan Kaufman, Sandy Stert-Benjamin, and Ron Shapiro, just to name a few-the radio airwaves would be a lot less fun, a lot less entertaining, a lot less informative, and a lot less heartfelt, to be honest.
That is why I, and a number of Casey's colleagues, friends, admirers, and so on, are not just asking, we're TELLING the radio industry that supported Casey, and now seems to be in disarray, remember WHAT made radio great, offering the best information AND entertainment that supports its customers. And remember that was WHY Casey Kasem, Ron Jacobs, Tom "TR" Rounds, and Don Bustany did what they did, by offering us a look behind what was going on in the music world, and how it impacted not only the U.S., but all around the world, as well. And still does, even with the likes of Ryan Seacrest and such, bringing us the major hits of the week, from ALL types of genres. The DJs of today need to remember that being part of such a national consciousness all began with the work Casey Kasem and his colleagues put together. That is why Casey's old American Top 40 shows enjoy revived interest today, thanks to broadcasts sent out thru satellite and commercial radio (as well as edited snippets found on YouTube), with a little bit of help from Shannon Lynn, a long-time fan who helped bring the shows to the modern digital era, and from AT40 historians Pete Battistini and Rob Durkee, among others, who have constantly discussed about the shows thru online fan groups, on Facebook, Yahoo, and elsewhere.
That is why we've also mounted a campaign to have Casey be endorsed by one of the most well-known organizations out there, the Cleveland-based Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Before you ask about a "pop" DJ being endorsed by a "rock" organization such as the Hall of Fame, consider this....rock & roll music and pop music are terms that have been one and the same for years, off and on. And the fact that "rock & roll" is made up of many genres, as Billy Joel once sang-"hot funk, cool punk, even if it's old junk, it's still rock & roll to me." And Casey's music shows have often featured stories about many types of music, as the current shows still do, today. Even the most jaded critic will tell you only Dick Clark matched Casey Kasem as a powerful music insider and storyteller, both of them being on the cutting edge of what was going on in the music scene, and giving us the stories of yesterday and today, of
the songs and artists that had such impact.
We're not asking for a full induction, but for them to bestow upon Casey, and thus his colleagues and crew as well, an honor, now known since 2006, as the Ahmet Ertegun Award, named for the founder of Atlantic Records, which boasted among its artists over the years Led Zeppelin, CSNY (Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young), Genesis, and Hootie & The Blowfish. The award was created to honor folks who have helped support the music industry in whatever capacity, and also to those who have worked with the music industry to perform humanitarian work. Among those who've
received the award are Clive Davis, Quincy Jones, George Martin, Dick Clark, and DJ pioneer Alan Freed. Casey Kasem's credentials qualify him in BOTH those efforts, and anyone who listened to his shows will more than agree. And the fact the award has been named for Ahmet Ertegun since 2006, it makes even more sense that a fellow Arab-American like Casey be given this honor. And to some who have worked with Casey, the feeling is that the accolades are way overdue-and even more, that Casey should be remembered for the work he did, much more than his painful final years, a fact that Casey's millions of listeners over the years will agree upon.
Therefore, we ask that the radio broadcasting industry, which includes several of today's legendary broadcasters, and to the members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which boasts several musicians among its nominating board, to please LISTEN to the folks who grew up with great DJs like "The Real Don Steele," Robert W. Morgan, Dan Ingram, the great Alan Freed, and so on, that Casey Kasem embodies ALL of the local personalities we grew up finding our favorite songs and sharing the memories, and that Casey and his staff took them to a whole new level, on a worldwide scale. American Top 40 celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2020, and no finer final gift could be given to Casey and to his co-creators (TR, Ron, and Don), and to his staff, for their hard work, than to be commended with this nod of respect from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This is at least a nod Casey deserves, for celebrating the music that touched our lives, the stories behind the music (as VH1's Jim Forbes would be saying right now), and for the legacy that helped teach us to love the music, and to also, in Casey's words, "Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars..and keep your radio tuned right where it is."
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