Born on April 27, 1932, in Detroit, Michigan, Casey Kasem took to the radio waves for the first time in high school, and honed his skills during the Korean War on Armed Forces Radio. Once he returned to the United States, Kasem jumped into radio with verve, working at stations across the country. In the late 1960s, he put his skills to work on television, performing the voice of Batman's Robin and Scooby-Doo's Shaggy, among other notable animated characters. In 1970, Kasem launched American Top 40, a syndicated radio show that would send him to the top of his field and into the American pop-music consciousness for the next four decades.
Iconic radio host Casey Kasem was born Kemal Amin Kasem on April 27, 1932, in Detroit, Michigan, of Lebanese descent. Kasem grew up wanting to become a professional baseball player, but at Detroit's Northwestern High School, he turned to what would become a lifelong pursuit when he joined the school's radio club.
When he was 20 years old, Kasem was drafted into the U.S. Army and headed to Korea. There, he continued to utilize his broadcast skills as both a DJ and an announcer at the Armed Forces Radio Korea Network. In this unlikely arena, he began truly developing his on-air skills, sprinkling factoids about the music he played into his broadcasts.
After leaving Korea, Kasem moved around the United States, working on his craft at radio stations in San Francisco, Cleveland and Oakland, among other cities. Notable at this time was Kasem's introduction of his famous "teaser and bio" feature, which he used to lead into the next song on his playlist; this feature would set his later shows apart from the competition.
Radio, TV and Movies
In 1963, Kasem moved to the Los Angeles and worked at KRLA, which both allowed him to continue to develop his radio work while also pursuing acting. His desire to get on camera didn't go unfulfilled for long, as in 1964, Dick Clark discovered Kasem and offered him a job hosting a musical TV show called Shebang.
Other offers started to come in, and Kasem appeared in a few low-budget movies before hitting the Saturday morning world of The Batman/Superman Hour, on which he voiced the Boy Wonder himself, Robin (1968-1969). Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! hit the air in 1969, and Kasem was hired on as the voice of Scooby-Doo's sidekick, Shaggy, a role he would occupy and own on and off until 2009.
His true calling, radio, took Casey Kasem to the top in July 1970, when he launched the nationally syndicated radio program American Top 40. On the show, Kasem counted down the most popular songs in the country until he hit No. 1. The show was a smash hit, and Kasem's years of experimenting with format and approach found him consistently at the top of his industry. At one point, the show was broadcast to more than 1,000 radio stations worldwide, with Kasem becoming something of a tastemaker along the way. Also emerging from the show was what would become Kasem's signature sign-off message: "Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars."
American Top 40 ran for nearly two decades, ending in 1988.
Later Life and Legacy
For his years of pioneering work in radio, Kasem was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1981. Nearly a decade later, in 1992, he became the youngest inductee into the Radio Hall of Fame. Billboard magazine honored Kasem with its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. In recent years, however, he has made headlines for his failing health and family troubles. In 2007, Kasem was diagnosed with Lewy body disease, a form of progressive dementia. In the ensuing years, his children from his first marriage battled with his second wife Jean over access to the ailing radio icon. Both parties seemed to work out their issues, reaching an agreement regarding visitation.
In May 2014, however, Kasem's daughter Kerri went back to court over her concerns about her father. His illness had progressed by this time, leaving him unable to speak. Kerri Kasem had visited her father on May 6 at a California hospital, but he was soon moved away to an unknown location reportedly by his wife. A judge ordered an investigation into Kasem's whereabouts and appointed his daughter Kerri as Kasem's temporary conservator. Kasem was later found to be in Washington state. Later that month, Kerri was granted her visitation rights in Washington and was allowed to make medical decisions on her father's behalf.
The conflict between Kerri and Jean Kasem came to a head in early June. Jean clashed with Kerri's efforts to take her father to a hospital in Washington state, but Casey was eventually transported to an undisclosed medical facility. On Jun 15, 2014, the legendary broadcast personality died at the age of 82 from complications of Lewy body disease at a hospital in Gig Harbor, Washington.
We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!