Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Casey's Coast To Coast: The Tribute Continues

Honestly, “Casey's Coast To Coast” was somewhat of a misnomer …

It was a WHOLE lot more than that!

At its peak, American Top 40 was heard on over 500 stations across America … and around the world thanks to Armed Forces Radio.  (Not a bad bit of expansion for a little syndicated series that kicked off on only seven stations on July 4th, 1970!)

In fact, by 1980 it was estimated that AT40 had been broadcast in virtually every country in the world and had been heard by over one billion people.  With this kind of exposure, Casey had, without a doubt, one of the most recognizable voices on the planet ... and his smooth and unique delivery was a HUGE part of American Top 40's success.

And, based on the amount of comments that continue to come in, I’d have to say you guys are lovin’ all the attention we’ve been giving to Casey Kasem and American Top 40 of late …

Here are just a few more of the accolades we’ve received …

Absolutely LOVED the page today on AT40.  You covered all decades basically.  Tom Cuddy’s comments were cool and Scott Paton's whole story was just wonderful.  Loved the inside scoop.  Another great FH scoop!
Clark Besch    

Really enjoyed your salute to Casey Kasem.  
I read it as I was in final production for my 19th book, Docs That Rock, Music That Matters, which Otherworld Cottage Industries will publish July 30th.    
It’s a 500 page volume with my 1975-2019 periodical and online director / producer / artist interviews, dialogues with Oscar winners, never published multi-voice narratives, just penned 2020 essays, non-edited content from my catalog and archives, memoir tributes to television music hosts like Dick Clark, Don Webster, Jack Good and Casey Kasem, plus examinations on outdoor festival culture, events and movie soundtracks.   
When Casey Kasem left us on June 15, 2014, Billboard magazine asked me to write an appreciation about him.  It’s included in this collection.  Thought your readers would like a preview and learn even more about Casey.
Harvey Kubernik  

Top of the Pops 
By Harvey Kubernik 
I first remember hearing the smooth, dulcet tones of Casey Kasem on the Pasadena, California-based radio station KRLA in the summer of 1963 while living in West Hollywood, where the disc jockey shared the dial with Bob Eubanks, Dave Hull and Jimmy O‘Neill. In 1964-1965, Dick Biondi was on the staff.   
During Kasem's 1963 - ‘69 tenure at the Top 40 powerhouse, Casey introduced us to the sounds of Sonny & Cher, the Bobby Fuller Four and Thee Midniters. He was an early advocate of the R&B music coming from East Los Angeles, spinning the Premiers’ “Farmer John” and Cannibal and the Headhunters’ “Land of a 1000 Dances.”  
In the ‘60s, I would occasionally see Casey at events in the San Fernando Valley or at the annual Teenage Fair held at the Hollywood Palladium. He was an accessible radio personality who had the rare ability to establish a firm connection to our ears. His vocals were perfectly attuned to our newly acquired transistor radios. 
Kasem’s approach was not frenetic like many of his peers, but pleasant, conversational and confessional. We trusted him, even when he was reading on-air spots for Coppertone suntan lotion.    
On his afternoon shift, Casey would offer biographical information and anecdotes about each record. He’d mention that those who wrote or recorded the songs were former dishwashers and soldiers, often the guys and gals next door. His narrative glued us to the KRLA dial button just to hear what hit songs he would play next.  
In 1966, I danced on the KTLA television program Shebang!, a live daily afternoon teenage music show from Hollywood hosted by Kasem and produced by fellow DJ-turned-entrepreneur Dick Clark.
During breaks off-camera, Casey would discuss current tunes on the Top 40 with the enthralled audience. He told Bob Kushner and I how he originally wanted to be an actor. I really thought he was cool when I saw him in the 1967 outlaw biker movie The Glory Stompers with Dennis Hopper and Jock Mahoney at the Gilmore Drive-In.    
The Doors, The Beau Brummels, The Seeds, Ian Whitcomb, The Turtles, Rudy Vallee and Brenton Wood all appeared on Shebang! Casey and Dick introduced us to dancers like Famous Hooks and two-step king Buddy Schwimmer.       
In 1970, Kasem, his friend Don Bustany, former KHJ program director Ron Jacobs, along with veteran radio executive Tom Rounds, jointly created the American Top 40 syndicated format, where Casey served as host from 1970-‘88.
In 1979, working as West Coast Director of A&R for MCA Records, I crossed paths with Casey. I was toying with the idea of producing spoken-word albums with Charles Bukowski and Allen Ginsberg. Various company executives frowned on the idea, but Casey was encouraging, and informed me about the Caedmon Records label, which released albums by poets Dylan Thomas and Robert Frost.  

He explained it all in that wonderful story-telling style that can only be compared to another local legend, Vin Scully, the Dodger announcer, describing the action on the baseball diamond.  
Casey Kasem was just as influential as a figure in L.A. radio lore, a regional discovery who became a national treasure.
Looking forward to your latest book, Harvey.  (Travis Pike sent me an advance PDF copy but I need to get a hard-copy edition that I can carry around with me … when I’m on the computer, I’m here to work!  Lol)  It already sounds fascinating … thanks for sharing this advance “sneak peek” with our readers.  (kk)

Love all the AT40 coverage. I was a big fan.
One of the songs that immediately comes to mind when I think of AT40 is Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones. The first time I heard it was on AT40. In my memory, it premiered at #40. 
We had a DJ at our local radio Station KILO in Grand Forks, North Dakota, named Jefferson K. I believe he is the guy that later went on to be Shadoe Stevens. He was a great jock, even in his early days.
We also had a guy named R. Thomas Thumb, who became True Don Bleu. I won my share of records from those guys since I was glued both to the radio and to the phone. 
Bill Scherer
Yep, that was Stevens, broadcasting as Jefferson K. on KILO, where he gigged as a deejay in order to help put himself thru college.  His real name is Terry Keith Instad and he hosted American Top 40 from 1988 to 1995.  (He also has a few acting notches on his belt, including parts in Kentucky Fried Movie, Mr. Saturday Night, Dave’s World, Caroline In The City and Max Monroe: Loose Cannon.)  He was also the on-air announcer for Hollywood Squares (TWICE!  First from 1986 – 1989 and then again from 1998 – 2004), The Late, Late Show starring Craig Ferguson and Antenna TV, where he took over this position after the death of Gary Owens.
And, for the record, “Brown Sugar” DID premier at #40 on the chart dated “Week Ending May 1, 1971.”  Not only was that its premier week on American Top 40 … but that’s where it debuted on Billboard’s Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart.  Four weeks later it would start a two week run at #1.  (kk)

Scott Paton's writing about his experience with AT40 was absolutely riveting ... I was hanging on every word.  Would love to see him put all of these memories down in a book.
Sam Tallerico 
He's been talking about doing a book and said that the opportunity to document some of these memories in FH just might help him to determine if he should move forward with this idea or not.
It's interesting that he chose NOT to participate with any of the online American Top 40 - 50-Year Reunions ... but came onboard to share some of those memories with us here in Forgotten Hits.  (Let's not forget that I gave him an excuse not to cut the grass!!!  lol  That HAD to count for something!)
He has done literally HUNDREDS of interviews with artists during his time with AT40 ... and I'm still hoping that he'll share some of these with our readers here thru Forgotten Hits.  Stay tuned!  (kk)

Hi Kent,
I first heard American Top 40 in early 1974, when the show was picked up by our local Top 40 powerhouse, KDWB-AM 630 in Minneapolis / St. Paul.  I was only 8 years-old at the time, but I had two older twin brothers who were constantly listening to the radio and I soaked it up like a sponge.
In August of 1974, me and my brother Kevin figured that if we wrote down the Top 40 each week, we could keep track of our favorite songs.  After a couple of years, Kevin lost interest, but I continued to listen to AT40 every single week and I hung on every word Casey uttered.  Soon, I started keeping my own chart stats, such as peak position and weeks charted (this was a few years before I even heard of Record Research.)  Little did I know it at the time, but I was actually preparing for my future career at Record Research. 
I listened to the show every week until Casey left in 1988.  After so many years of listening to Casey, I just couldn't adjust to the new "style" of Shadoe Stevens. 
I had the honor of sitting in on an online conference call last week with several fellow fans and former staff members of American Top 40; Casey's daughter Kerri Kasem even showed up.  I got the chance to thank them for all of the memories the show provided for me over the years.
American Top 40 and Record Research had a mutually beneficial relationship over the years.  Before his first book was released in June of 1970, Joel Whitburn placed some classified ads in Billboard magazine (the first one appeared in the issue dated July 13, 1968) offering individual artist chart listings for $1 apiece (see attached image).  One of his very first customers was Casey Kasem.  Casey ordered a copy of each one available and asked for more.  When Joel's first book was published (on June 6, 1970), Casey was once again one of the first customers.  Just one month later, he launched American Top 40.  Over the years, Casey would call Joel on occasion and ask what they could do together.  Sadly, nothing ever really came of it.  However, I'm sure that both companies benefited from one another's existence over the years.
Paul Haney
Record Research

One more thing …
I was a special guest this past Friday night (7/10) on Ron Gerber's "Crap From The Past" radio show in Minneapolis.  We spent two hours discussing the 50th Anniversary of both Record Research and American Top 40.

In the Fall of 1973, I was the G.M. of KEVA, Evanston, WY.  We got Billboard every week and I would take it home after the staff read it.  Evanston was only about 70 miles east from Salt Lake City and the nearest radio station that carried AT40 (KCPX), but that signal was directional north and south, so we didn't get it.  However, one Sunday morning I was driving through Utah and I happened to locate KCPX 
While I was listening, Casey announced that "Monster Mash" was about to set the (then) record for most weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, 14 weeks in 1962, 3 in 1970 and 23 in 1973.  That caught my attention because earlier that week I had been researching the charts and had noticed that Billboard had included the 3 weeks in 1970 with the 20 in 1973, making it look like 23 weeks. 
As soon as I got to work Monday morning, I sent a note to Casey on my station letterhead about the mistake, dropped it in the mail and forgot about it.  About 10 days later, I'm working my shift at the station when my secretary hollered at me "Jim, Casey Kasem's on the phone for you!"  I about fainted.  Sure enough, it was Casey.  He was as friendly on the phone as he was on the air.  He thanked me for the note, said that I was right and then we chatted for about 10 minutes about music and radio.
The next week, in the mail I get the package from AT40, dated 11/2/73.  On the first side of the first disc, Casey reads my letter on the program, tells the audience that I had caught the mistake and thanked me.  As you might guess, I still have that package and I listen to it every now and then.  A few years later, I again had the chance to visit with Casey on the phone.  He it was just as pleasant as the first time.
As an afterthought, when I was at KXLF in Butte, MT, in the fall of 1964, we played Casey's "Letter From Elaina" (I think that was the title).  I even visited the KRLA studios in 1965 and watched Casey as he worked his shift.  No interaction but still a thrill.
Jim Pritchard (aka Jim Southern)
Gladstone, OR     

Thanks for this fascinating issue on Casey Kasem ... What an icon! 
I never saw that ad you ran for Vehicle, Kent ...  
Ride it! Indeed.

Hey Kent,
A big THANK YOU to you and the contributors for the Casey Kasem tribute. He's a big reason I pursued a career in broadcasting. I've said this before … along with Ed Sullivan, Casey really needs to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Somehow, I hope his family can finally bring his body back to Hollywood.
John LaPuzza

Speaking of Casey’s family, FH Reader Frank B sent in this news clip from the archives …

kk …
One of those magazine shows re-played the episode about Casey Kasem … his wife and kids going to war … it really got ugly.
You'd think there was enough money to go around and keep everybody happy.
They were talking about his health care when you know they were really interested in his money.  Very sad story.
Frank B. 

DIDJAKNOW?:  Casey Kasem uttered his catchphrase “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars” for the very first time in 1956 when he worked as a disc jockey for WJBK in Detroit.  Fourteen years later … and for the next eighteen years … he closed every episode of American Top 40 using those very same words.

Reiterating an interesting point: 

I am in the process of re-reading Rob Durkee's book "American Top 40: The Countdown of the Century" ... 
In fact, I have even reached out to Rob to see if he might share a few words with our readers ... but I haven't heard anything back from him yet.
One comment that I just HAD to share appears as early as Page 10 in the book and addresses a topic covered in great length recently here in Forgotten Hits ...
Durkee writes:  "Although there are many opinions about the start of the 'rock era,' American Top 40's original 1970 staff ... co-founders Casey Kasem and Don Bustany and statistician Ben Marichal ... decided after studying music trends and Billboard charts, on the year 1955.  The most significant evidence for the staff's determination was 'Rock Around The Clock'; originally recorded by Bill Haley and the Comets in 1954, the record soared to Number 1 in the Summer of 1955, thanks to its inclusion in the movie 'The Blackboard Jungle.'  Accordingly, the AT40 staff proclaimed 'Rock Around The Clock' rock and roll's first Number 1 single."  

Agreed.  (kk)