Listening to NPR this past weekend, I learned that Casey Kasem’s radio show, “American Top 40,” debuted 50 years ago. I was lucky enough to meet and work with Casey Kasem early in my career, when my job producing children’s audio enabled me to brush up against Casey and other Hollywood types.
Here’s a link to the NPR piece. Make sure you listen as well as read, because Casey’s voice was one of the wonders of nature—warm, friendly, youthful, and utterly sincere.
Casey was born in Detroit to parents who had immigrated from Lebanon. At the time I knew him, in addition to his radio show, Casey was the busiest voice-over artist in Hollywood. You’d hear him, it seemed, on every radio and TV commercial, and he played dozens of parts in cartoons, most famously Shaggy in Scooby-Doo.
My projects were modest by comparison, and I could only pay union scale, but from the way Casey treated me, you’d think I was Orson Welles. He welcomed my fumbling direction, and he always delivered, whether acting a part in the Double Play Reading Series or narrating filmstrips on the American Revolution or the Five Food Groups.
Besides being unfailingly friendly and professional, Casey was smart. Every Christmas, he made the rounds of recording studios, including the one where I worked, the legendary Radio Recorders on Sunset Boulevard, and distributed generous gifts—not to producers, but to the real heroes behind the scenes, the ones who recommended him and then made him sound good, the recording engineers. Mine was Loring Read, who, yes, had recommended Casey to me and had assured me that he would take the job.
Casey Kasem died in 2014 of Parkinson’s disease, but I can still hear his youthful voice and feel the warm clasp of his hand. Happy 50th anniversary, Casey.