Tag Archive | Radio

Casey Kasem

“Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”

April 27, 2021

For anyone who was a teenager in the 1970’s, these words were said by the one person who – each week – united millions of baby boomers.

That person was Kasey Kasem, born April 27, 1932.

Casey Kasem in the early days of American Top 40

For those who are younger than about 40, you can be forgiven for not knowing WHO Kasey Kasem was. But for the rest of us he was the voice of American Top 40, a weekly radio countdown show which began in the summer of 1970.

Kasem began his career in radio, but branched out to pursue acting. He only found limited success in television and movie roles. It was his distinctive voice, however, which catapulted him to fame.

From the ever Infallible Wikipedia:

“Kasem acted in a number of low-budget movies and radio drama. While hosting “dance hops” on local television, he attracted the attention of Dick Clark, who hired him as co-host of a daily teenage music show called Shebang, starting in 1964. Kasem’s roles on network TV series included Hawaii Five-O and Ironside In 1967, he appeared on The Dating Game, and played the role of “Mouth” in the motorcycle gang film The Glory Stompers. In 1969, he played the role of Knife in the film Wild Wheels, and had a small role in another biker movie, The Cycle Savages, starring Bruce Dern and Melody Patterson, and The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (also with Dern).

Kasem’s voice was the key to his career. In 1964 during the Beatlemania craze, Kasem had a minor hit single called “Letter from Elaina”, a spoken-word recording that told the story of a girl who met George Harrison after a San Francisco Beatles concert. At the end of the 1960s, he began working as a voice actor. In 1969, he started one of his most famous roles, the voice of Shaggy on Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! He also voiced the drummer Groove from The Cattanooga Cats that year.”

The creation of American Top 40 – which he devised in collaboration with three other individuals – is what made him a household name. He was the on-air voice of the program for the next 18 years.

For many Baby Boomers, Kasem was like a friend we’d never met or an older brother. None of us probably realized he was of our parents’ generation. He seemed to ‘get’ us and our music.

When he left AT40 in 1988 it was due to a contract dispute. He then created a competing countdown known as Kasey’s Top 40.

He later regained an ownership interest in AT40, once again doing the countdown for several years. Additionally, he continued his voice acting work well into his late 70’s.

Ad for AT40 in a trade publication

By the fall of 2013, it became known that Kasem was suffering from either Parkinson’s disease or Lewy Body Dementia (it’s unclear which it was). From then until his death in June 2014, a fight over his care erupted between his second wife and his children from his first marriage; the travails of that fight spilled into the pages of the tabloid press for the next six months.

It would have been exactly the sort of story he would have shared on AT40; one filled with conflict and intrigue, definitely tabloid worthy.

I think, perhaps, it was his storytelling ability which was most compelling. He ferreted out interesting facts about the musical artists, the songs, and songwriters and you could tell he was truly interested in what he was sharing. This, to me, is much like writing Tuesday Newsday each week as great part of the enjoyment of writing is in researching and learning new things.

Despite the rather messy situation at the end of his life, I think Kasem filled his years doing what he loved. There is no better way, in my opinion, to live one’s life except to find and pursue the thing which brings you joy and fulfillment. Certainly he faced challenges – just like all of us – but on whole it would seem that his chosen path led him to the top of the charts . We should all be so lucky to live such a life.

The link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casey_Kasem

Answer to the Facebook question is for the other three besides the ATF photo, are all voice characters of Casey Kasem: Shaggy, Robin, Cliffjumper

WKRP in Cincinnati

… I thought Turkey’s could fly!

October 30, 2018

“As God is my witness, I thought Turkeys could fly.”

And thus ended one of the most memorable TV episodes in history.

wkrpIt was October 30, 1978, and the TV show “WKRP” had been on the air for a mere six weeks. But in that brief time it had become a hit due to the stellar ensemble cast of characters and excellent writing.

The premise of the show is that newly hired program director, Andy Travis (played by Gary Sandy), takes on the challenge of turning around Cincinnati radio station WKRP by changing it from an easy listening to a rock and roll format. Along with disc jockeys Johnny Fever (Howard Hessman) and Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid), he encounters an uphill cultural battle and deals with incompetent management.

Two of the more memorable characters are station manager Arthur ‘Big Guy’ Carlson (Howard Jump) and the milquetoast newsman Les Nessman (Richard Sanders).

A very brief description of the episode from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Mr. Carlson decides to take a more hands-on managerial approach by doing the greatest Thanksgiving promotion in radio history – dropping live turkeys from a helicopter. Trivia: In 1997 TV Guide ranked this episode at number 40 on its ‘100 Greatest Episodes of All Time’ list. In 2009, it moved to #65. It is based on a real event that happened at WQXI, the station many of the WKRP characters were based on.”

What’s amazing about the October 30th episode, titled ‘Turkey Drop,’ is that the release of the birds – from a helicopter – is never shown. What the viewers saw, however, were the reactions of the cast members to the event as it ‘happened’ in real time. Its classic storytelling as characters stay in character the entire time and the viewer knows without a doubt everything which occurs.

I am including two clips. The first is of Les Nessman in his newsman role reporting live from the scene as the turkeys start falling from the sky. What makes this so very funny is that we also see the staff back at the radio station being appalled at the disaster of the promotion.

Here’s clip one of the turkey drop:

And the classic line:

For those who have the time, watch the entire episode. Even to this day, I laugh whenever I see the second clip which – this time of year – is likely to be several times on social media.

Here’s the entire episode (I apologize for it being backwards – no sooner than these go up and they seem to get taken down):

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I give credit to my brother for bringing it up the other night; he can confirm that I was truly giddy to think I would get to do my blog about this episode. It was appropriate that he was the one who reminded me of it as he has spent his entire adult life working in radio as a disc jockey. He attests to the fact that radio really is that crazy of a business. He’s been fired from more jobs than most people will ever hold. Why? Because the station decides to change format and, boom, you’re gone because you’re not the sound they want. Or because of budget cuts. Or because the program director simply does not like you. As one program director once said “it would be a great business if it weren’t for the jocks (disc jockeys).” He had a point as most of the DJ’s have strong personalities.

My brother has lived in North Bend, Oregon; Eugene, Oregon; Tacoma; Seattle; Denver; Dallas; and Yakima. He’s called some of the places home more than once. I probably have missed a few but he’s truly lived ‘up and down’ the dial like the show’s theme song says!

Nowadays many of the voices you hear on the radio are recorded earlier and are no longer live; in fact many of them are not even in the same city.

Stations like WKRP rarely exist any longer. Thank goodness they produced the show for four seasons, catching a little piece of Americana for all time. What a treasure.

About the show: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WKRP_in_Cincinnati