Every Sunday through much of the 1970s, my radio found it’s way to 98 WTRY for at least part of American Top 40 with Casey Kasem. When I started listening, I was maybe ten or eleven. My parents listened to WGY–which I considered old people radio–except when they had the trivia show at night and after Joe Gallagher came…another story for another day.
Anyway, Casey Kasem’s voice was like butter. And though I didn’t know it at the time, it was listening to him and guys like him that made me aspire to work in radio. As a kid, I was a freak–I played at radio, recording songs on my cassette recorder, then announcing and back announcing them. In the fall of 1981, I got to sit in front of a live microphone and say things that beamed out to other people–albeit probably no more than a couple miles away. WGFR was the 10-watt station at Adirondack Community College, with stacks and stack of wax and wax. And though we brawled internally about what to play, it was a hell of a lot of fun.
By then, I was past Casey Kasem and AT40, though I shouldn’t have been. Even though I still listened to what my co-horts at 92 Rock considered top 40 shit, my musical boundaries were expanding. I even knew that Eddie Van Halen was what made Michael Jackson’s Thriller album extra special, though personally, I was into Billy Joel (for one thing, Michael Jackson didn’t have Christie Brinkley in his videos).
And with the advent of MTV, who needed some stupid four-hour countdown each weekend? Alan Hunter was cooler than anyone on the radio, and Nina Blackwood and Martha Quinn were way hotter.
A few years ago, I got to hear the reconstituted American Top 40 with Casey. But it wasn’t the same. That voice–that amazing, wonderful rich voice that filled my memories, was thin and thready. And really, Casey Kasem back announcing Eminem was just wrong somehow. All it did was point out how much time had gone by.
It was important to me not to like old things when I was a kid. I thought big band music was stupid. And by the time I discovered Eddie Murphy, Fonzie was stupid (and an ass). Winnie the Pooh was for babies. And American Top 40…who liked that?
As it turned out, I did. Listening to the classic countdowns (otherwise known as reruns) on I Heart Radio and hearing that velvety voice again takes me back to a time when everything was simpler and in some ways, better.
Casey Kasem has been sick for a while. And it’s been a few days since it’s been obvious he was at the end of his life. Obviously, I never knew him, but listening to him every week made me feel like I did–like he was a gentle uncle who liked the same type of music I did. It brought home the first thing I learned about radio, on the first day of my broadcasting class that fall–that radio is and was a personal medium.
As you grow older, one of the things you experience is when the things you took for granted as a kid disappear. Another one just did.
Damn I’m getting old.