Monday, June 16, 2014
A tribute to Casey Kasem
I did know Casey but not well. We traveled in the same radio circles and he always came to tapings of CHEERS when Jean guested. He was friendly, gracious, and as warm as his voice.
In many ways he was a trailblazer.
Casey began in radio just as local stations, specifically Top 40 stations , were starting to take off in a big way. At the time, the preferred style for disc jockeys was do anything to get attention. They were loud, they talked fast, they assumed hipster personas, they rang cowbells and inserted sound effects, or they talked in phony voices (known as puking). Casey did none of that. He spoke in a normal voice, never shouted, never pretended to be anyone other than who he was – he just communicated. He talked one-on-one to the listener. He never referred to them as “gang,” or “everybody,” or “cousins.” The smile in is voice was sincere.
But I always thought that Casey’s content blended with KHJ’s streamlined format would produce one of the great radio shows ever.
And I was right.
Because in 1970, Casey would collaborate with Ron Jacobs, the program director and creative mastermind of KHJ on a new project called AMERICAN TOP 40. For three hours a week Casey would countdown the Top 40 hits of the day and weave in stories, dedications, and other nuggets. The show became a huge smash, heard in just about every market in the country. And it still survives to this day (now hosted by someone named Seacrest). Historical note: These were the days long before just emailing mp3s or zip drives. Radio stations would receive three pressed vinyl albums each week that contained the full show.
So Casey blazed new trails for syndication as well.
And then he took on voice overs. At the time, everyone doing voice over commercials had huge rumbling deep pipes. They were all the Voice of God. Casey had a breathy voice. But he also had that warmth and sincerity. You believed him when he recommended a product. Within a few years of doing voice overs, Casey changed the whole game plan. Basso profondos were out, natural relaxed voices were in. And they’re still in to this day. Again, thank you, Casey.
Casey branched out into animation, notably providing the voice of Shaggy on SCOOBY-DOO.
Needless to say, Casey was quite wealthy as a result of his success. But you’d never know it. He never came off pompous, or entitled, or self-important. He was always just a regular guy. Casey will be greatly missed. In this crazy angry world, don’t you wish everybody spoke to you the way Casey Kasem did?
And now he and God can audition for the same spots.