The adventures of “those meddling kids and that dog” are out of the time-frame of this blog, but an exception must be made to mark the sad demise of Casey Kasem.
Kasem was one of a number of Los Angeles disc jockeys hired by the Hanna-Barbera studio. Elliot Field was the first (the original voice of Blabber Mouse); Gary Owens, Jerry Dexter and Kasem followed. Despite his work in cartoons and films (as you can see to the right), he didn’t really achieve his huge fame until “American Top 40” was syndicated in seemingly every city in North America and broadcast on Armed Forces Radio around the world.
Endless numbers of web and news sites are talking about his passing and there are, no doubt, plenty of fan-art tributes out there. There’s little for me to add, so I’ll just pass on these few notes.
Kasem’s first bit of national fame, outside of the broadcasting trade press, may have come in this little story from United Press International, dated September 16, 1959:
DJ CLAIMS LONGEST ‘ON THE AIR’ KISS
CLEVELAND, Ohio (UPI) — Disc jockey Casey Kasem yesterday claimed a record for the longest “on the air” kiss in radio history.
Kasem, 26, of station WJW, said he kissed recording star Diana Trask for 85 seconds during his program last night.
By 1961, Kasem was working 9 p.m. to midnight on KEWB in Oakland (Gary Owens was there at the time). He arrived at KRLA in Los Angeles in July 1963. The Pasadena Star-News of October 9, 1963 reveals he hosted a teen dance party at Duarte Fiesta Day with the Righteous Brothers and the Surf Bunnies headlining; emcee jobs like that weren’t uncommon at one time for rock jocks.
He talked to the New York Times’ Neil Strauss in 2004 about his approach to his radio audiences when he moved on to the next stop. “I just didn’t want to say goodbye,” he revealed. “Every station I was at, I never said goodbye—when I was in Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Oakland, and L.A. I don’t know why.”
Kasem never really said “goodbye” to his fans when he departed this world for his next stop. But as long as his cartoons are on the air, and as long as there are memories of them, it really isn’t “goodbye,” is it? A part of him will still be here.