UPDATE: Casey Kasem passed away Father’s Day morning, at the age of 82.
When I was really young, maybe 9 years old, I can remember when I started to get the bug to be in radio. My mom and I were living on the east side of Des Moines. I spent much of the summer months hanging out in my room doing things that kids did. I would play with toys, play video games on my Atari, and listen to the radio.
I didn’t have much of a radio back then. I had just a simple clock radio with a manual tuning dial and red LED clock digits. I can still remember listening to great 80s music and singing along to the likes of Michael Jackson, Culture Club, and Prince. When you’re an only child, music makes for a great friend in the room.
The voice of the friend in my room often times belonged to Casey Kasem. I loved listening to the America’s Top 40 Countdown on the weekends. They were my favorite songs on the radio, put in ORDER! Even as a child, I had tendencies toward order and organization.
Casey Kasem was one of the first voices I truly remember hearing on the radio. If I think really hard, I could probably come up with some old Des Moines DJ names, but Casey Kasem was definitely one that stuck with me. I would mimic his tone and delivery when introducing songs in my bedroom. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve uttered the phrase, “Here’s your request… and dedication.” You could say that I credit Casey Kasem as the first person to start me down the road to my radio dreams.
That’s why, these days, it’s heartbreaking to see what’s happening to this true icon and my one time radio idol. His family has been locked in a bitter battle over Casey’s care in his final years. The last great moments of a wonderful man are being hashed out in courtrooms and through lawyers. It makes for a sad end to an incredible life. A life that deserved to end with dignity. I fear that Casey will be robbed of some of that dignity and that even after he’s gone, his family will continue to argue and bicker over who was really in the right when it came to his care.
It’s a sad way to remember one of the first real “superjocks” in our industry. Casey Kasem came in to all of our homes once a week to count down the most popular songs in the land, as well as doing it on TV. He would even make guest appearances on TV shows. One such appearance was on a favorite show of mine growing up, “Saved By the Bell.” In fact, he made two appearances. Once where he hosted a dance contest at the local hangout, The Max, and another in a “Behind the Music”-style story about Zack Morris’ fictional band, The Zack Attack.
I will always equate Casey Kasem with my earliest radio memories. These memories would build the foundation to what is now a career I truly love. I should be so lucky to have even a fraction of the success that Casey Kasem had. That’s why I will choose to remember him as the voice that helped me find MY radio voice. Not a man whose care was debated until his final breath. He deserves much more than that.