In the Beginning
Kemal Amen “Casey” Kasem was born to Lebanese Druze immigrant parents working as grocers in Detroit, Michigan on April 27, 1932. He first began dreaming of a career in radio after listening to the 1940s show “Make Believe Ballroom.”
Acting out on his dreams in high school, Casey covered sports on Northwestern High School’s radio station. During college at Wayne State University, he did voice work for various radio shows to include The Lone Ranger. Casey’s radio career didn’t even stop when we was drafted into the US Army in 1952, he worked as the DJ on Armed Forces Radio, Korea Network. It’s safe to say Casey Kasem had found his niche in life.
After the war, Casey moved back to Flint, Michigan to begin his broadcasting career. He bounced around from Detroit, New York, and Cleveland doing various radio shows before settling down in California. In California he bounced a bit between Oakland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles earning the reputation of a host who offered biographical tidbits of musicians in addition to discussing the music. By 1963 Casey ruled the R&B music radio waves in East L.A. working on KRLA.
Most Known For
Ask anyone about Casey Kasem and they will most likely recall his smooth voice and his popular show, American Top 40. Recognizing his voice as an asset, Casey worked often as a voice actor, namely as the voice of Shaggy on Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!
The American Top 40 radio show (1970-1988), Casey’s Top 40 (1988-1998) and American Top 40, the second run (1998-2009) are what Casey Kasem is best known for: a weekly countdown of the top 40 songs on the Billboard Hot 100. With each song Casey would incorporate his signature biographical tidbits on the artists, ask trivia before commercial breaks, and read fans’ long distance dedications. He signed off every show with “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” Through the years the main concept of the show remained the same even with name changes due to contractual issues.
In 2004 Casey retired from the show, passing on the reins on American Top 40 to Ryan Seacrest. He took up various voice over jobs and appeared on his daughter’s podcast before completely retiring in 2009, although he did some more voice acting as Shaggy in Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated from 2010-2013.
Casey Kasem is a vegan and a political activist especially in Lebanese and Arab issues. These inclinations caused Kasem to leave shows that contradicted his beliefs like his role as Shaggy in 1997 due to a Burger King Commercial (he took the role back in 2009 when Shaggy became a vegetarian) and voice role on Transformers when the story line painted Arabs in a poor fashion.
He married twice- Linda Myers form 1972-1979 and Jean Thompson from 1980 until his death in 2014. He has four children: Mike, Julie, and Kerri Kasem (with Myers), and Liberty Jean Kasem (with Thompson).
Where Are They Now
The last years of Casey Kasem’s life were difficult. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2007, then with Lewy body dementia. He could not speak during his last few months. He died in Gig Harbor, Washington on June 15, 2014 at the age of 82.
Image credit: istockphoto.com