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Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem

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Also Known As: Kemal Amin Kasem Died:
Born: April 27, 1932 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Detroit, Michigan, USA Profession: Cast ...
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BIOGRAPHY

With his warm, mellifluous voice and velvet-like delivery, disc jockey Casey Kasem built the foundation for one of radio's most popular programs "American Top 40" (syndicated, 1970- ). Kasem's format of counting down the most popular songs, with the inclusion of fun facts and personal long-distance dedications, captivated a nation of radio listeners who found his enviable music knowledge and Everyman appeal a comforting constant in their lives. Kasem was also a prominent voice actor, adding humor and life to the affable slacker Shaggy on the Saturday morning staple, "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!" (CBS, 1969-1972, 1974-76; ABC, 1976-78, 1982-84) and subsequent series from the popular franchise. Weathering decades of shifting musical styles, declining ratings, and contractual issues, Kasem remained as the host and driving force behind "American Top 40" for 39 years, an unparalleled achievement by a true icon of the entertainment industry. Sadly, the end of his life was marred by a feud between his wife, actress Jean Kasem, and his children from his first marriage, who went to court accusing their stepmother of restricting their access to their father, who was suffering from Lewy body dementia. The case was still proceeding when Casey Kasem died on Father's Day, June 15, 2014.

Kemal Amin Kasem was born on April 27, 1932 in Detroit, MI to a Lebanese grocer father and a Lebanese-American mother. As a young man, he dreamed of playing professional baseball while attending Northwestern High School in the Motor City, but instead discovered his true calling after joining the school's radio club and delivering their sportscast. Kasem was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1952 and deployed to Korea, where he worked as an announcer and disc jockey on the Armed Forces Radio Korea Network. His shows included a teaser and biography about the artist or band he was about to play on air, an idea he came up with while DJ-ing in Oakland, CA. Kasem reportedly found a magazine titled Who's Who in Pop Music in a trash can and began reading the facts to listeners. He further established his radio persona in the early 1960s working as a DJ for various stations across the country, including KYA in San Francisco, CA; WJW in Cleveland, OH; and KRLA 1110 in Los Angeles. Kasem's move to the latter in 1963 also made it possible for Kasem to pursue a career in front of the camera. The following year, no less than Dick Clark discovered Kasem while hosting local dance events and offered him a hosting job for a musical television show he was producing called "Shebang."

Kasem made his onscreen acting debut with a supporting role in the film "The Girls from Thunder Strip" (1966), followed by the action drama "The Glory Stompers" (1968) opposite Dennis Hopper. However, Kasem's experience as a radio DJ and his unique vocal chops landed him voiceover stints on animated television shows. He began his career as a voice actor on "The Batman/Superman Hour" (CBS, 1968-69) before Hanna-Barbera studios hired Kasem to provide the voice for the character of Shaggy on "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!" (CBS, 1969-1972, 1974-76; ABC, 1976-78, 1982-84). The Saturday morning cartoon series followed a group of friends and their loyal pooch, Scooby Doo, as they solve supernatural mysteries. His role of Shaggy - the cowardly slacker and Scooby Doo's best friend - showcased Kasem's comedic knack. He provided the voice for Shaggy over the years, reprising it on multiple series reincarnations from "Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo" (ABC, 1979-1983) to "What's New, Scooby-Doo?" (Cartoon Network, 2002- ). Kasem also voiced the DC Comics superhero Robin on the animated action series "Super Friends" (ABC, 1973-76), the snobby band manager Alexander Cabot III on "Josie and the Pussycats" (CBS, 1970-72, 1974-75; NBC, 1975-76), and various characters on the educational program "Sesame Street" (NET, 1969-1970; PBS, 1970- ). Because of his wide appeal as America's favorite DJ, Kasem often made onscreen cameos in feature films like "Ghost Busters" (1984) and on various TV sitcoms, including "Saved by the Bell" (1989-1993).

On July 4, 1970, Kasem launched the nationally syndicated radio program "American Top 40." As the title implied, Kasem counted down in descending order the most popular songs in the country, based on the track's sales and airplay. The format of "American Top 40" was reminiscent of the popular 1930s radio show "Your Hit Parade," only with Kasem's signature teaser introductions and trivia about the artists and songs. The DJ also added the sometimes laughable long-distance dedications, countdown predictions and song flashbacks. Most famously, he ended every program with his signature sign-off: "Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars." Kasem left "American Top 40" in 1988 and was promptly replaced by Shadoe Stevens after a salary dispute with the show's owner ABC Radio. He returned to radio a decade later and changed the program's name to "Casey's Top 40."

While possessing the smoothest voice on radio, Kasem could also be a hotheaded perfectionist. There were two incidents when Kasem reportedly lost his temper in the studio launching into a profanity-laced tirade over playing an up-tempo Pointer Sisters track, and the other one about introducing a song by Irish rockers U2. Still, for his enduring efforts and contributions to the radio industry, Kasem received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1981 and was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1992. On July 4, 2009 - 39 years to the day after "American Top 40" debuted - Kasem retired from his beloved radio program to enjoy his golden years with longtime wife, blonde bombshell actress Jean Kasem, whom he had married in 1980. In 2010, Kasem made a guest appearance on "Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated" (Cartoon Network, 2010- ) as Shaggy's father Colton Rogers. Kasem died June 15, 2014, at a nursing home in Gig Harbor, Washington. He had been in the news for several weeks after his children Mike, Julie and Kerri Kasem publicly accused their stepmother Jean of deliberately keeping their hidden from them as he was dying from complications of Lewy body dementia.

By Marc Cuenco

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