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The rich legacy of Casey Kasem

by Greg Belfrage

It was hardly a shock to learn about the death of Casey Kasem over the weekend. The legendary radio personality and voice actor had been ill and in declining health for many months.

However, news of Kasem's death filled me with a real sense of sadness.

Kasem was a household name during the 1970's and 80's for his work on American Top 40. He played the top selling pop songs each week, as rated by Billboard Magazine.

However, Kasem was never overshadowed by the great music on the show. He offered wonderful bios and profiles on the show's featured bands and musicians. Kasem's "long distance dedication" became a highly anticipated segment of the show every week.

Kasem's distinctive voice was always upbeat and personable, as he smoothly segued from one song to another with insightful music news, personality and style. Listeners were as likely to tune into American Top 40 to hear Kasem as they were to hear the country's most popular music.He ended the show each week with his signature slogan, "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."

Casey Kasem and American Top 40 became such a part of the country's pop culture, that Kasem received a brief cameo in 1984's "Ghostbusters" . (roll clip to 1:05 to hear Kasem)

However, Kasem's success didn't end there. He also worked his way into the hearts of fans as the voice of Shaggy, the scruffy and beloved pal of television's Scooby Doo.

I was there when the original "Scooby Doo, Where are you?" was first broadcast in 1969 on CBS. That show was not to be missed on Saturday morning. I would wake up early every Saturday, much to the chagrin of my parents, just to watch that show each week.

I loved Scooby-Doo most for the hilarious antics of Scooby and Shaggy. Their scared reactions to the ghosts and insatiable appetites never grew tiresome. And every kid could understand the bond between a boy and his dog.

However, it was Kasem's voice that really brought the show to life for over 40 years. He created such an entertaining personality for Shaggy that you wished he was your best friend.

Kasem voiced a number of other cartoon characters over the decades. He was the voice of Robin, the Boy Wonder in "The Adventures of Batman" and "Superfriends" cartoons throughout the 60's and 70's.

Fans of "The Transformers" will recognize Kasem as the voices of Cliffjumper, Bluestreak and Teletran-1. And the list goes on.

Kasem leaves behind a rich legacy of work that will be enjoyed by kids of all ages for generations to come. However, during last radio broadcast in 2009, Kasem was humble as he reflected on his long career.

"Success doesn't happen in a vacuum. You're only as good as the people you work with and the people you work for. I've been lucky, I've worked for and with the very best."

Casey Kasem was 82.

Greg Belfrage @belfrageshow is heard 6am-9am on KELO 1320 AM and 107.9 FM. Greg can be contacted at greg.belfrage@mwcradio.com.


Teaser image photo credit: Youtube.com