One of my prized possessions are the original LPs that comprised the very first “American Top 40” program. It had it’s debut on July 4th, 1970, hosted by fellow Detroit area native, Casey Kasem. An early radio gig I had included running the control board during “Casey’s Coast to Coast” and when the boss tossed the original records in our dumpster, I was right behind him to retrieve them.
Casey hosted AT40 from until August 6, 1988. Shadoe Stevens took over the following week, hosting until January 28, 1995 when the original series came to an end. Three years later, Casey relaunched AT40 on March 28, 1998. Current host, Ryan Seacrest took over the program on January 10, 2004 when Casey retired.
In addition to the weekly countdowns, Casey would occasionally do special countdowns. “The Top 40 Disappearing Acts” (one hit wonder groups) is an example along with two part year enders where he counted down the top tunes of the previous year, and another prized possession, “The All-Time Christmas Countdown”.
At the height of the show’s popularity, Casey also hosted a TV verison, “America’s Top 10”.
We got a sense of the intense pressure that came with the gig when a tape circulated of Casey losing his temper during a taping. Anyone who has ever had to create an excellent audio product week after week could empathize, even though the recording’s circulation generated controversy.
I spent time with Casey on several occasions, the last being a couple of years before his passing on June 15, 2014. He was always a gentleman, a mentor to aspiring announcers like me and a total pro.
For many of our generation, Casey Kasem’s voice is an iconic presence that takes us back to memories of our youth and the musical soundtrack of our lives.
Here’s a taste of that very first AT40 program, which aired 49 years ago today.