Casey Kasem and American Top 40 were part of the fabric of hit music radio for years. And I’ve been told that I have filled in more times than any other guest host. It was always a rush.
Sometimes, the call came well in advance of the session and, occasionally, I was notified of the need to get to LA the afternoon before taping.
The crew that produced the show was top-flight…very professional and lots of fun to work with.
When I started my association with AT40, Don Bustany was the producer.
Don was all about details and the precise way the show was to be done. Interestingly, we always did the second hour first. Don felt that the host would be warmed up and in the groove so that the first hour would be stronger than if it was done at the beginning.
Each song was on cart…but only the beginning and the end. (It sounded a bit like an air check with the guts of the song cut out.) The idea was to get a better feel for the intensity of the tune and maybe hit a post. The actual show was produced once all the announcer tracks were finished.
I flew in to Burbank, which was close to the studio. Initially, I stayed at the Sheraton Universal hotel.
Upon check in, a package was always waiting for me. It was a copy of the script for the whole show. It gave me a chance to read through all the elements the evening before the taping.
When Casey was hosting, the show was done over the course of two evenings…sessions could be very long, I was told. When I filled in, we did the whole show in about 2 hours in one morning session. (That left time for drinks with the crew before I flew home.)
I’m guessing that my sessions were shorter because I did not have the kind of direction and input that Casey had in the creation of each show.
I’ve heard wild stories about Casey’s temper. And almost everyone has heard Casey melt down with the “dead dog” Long Distance Dedication. But I never saw that side of him. I was with Casey on several occasions and he was very even-tempered with me. We had frequent telephone conversations back in those days.
At one point, Casey had a penthouse condo that was part of the Beverly Wilshire hotel.
He hosted a holiday party each year and I was excited to be invited. That year, guests included Steve Allen, Robert Blake, and a room full of Hollywood celebrities. It was quite a bash.
When the next invitation came for a party with them, I had a conflict and couldn’t make it. I think Jean was offended and I was never invited again.
I was honored to sit in Casey’s chair many times and I felt complimented that Casey approved of my efforts. There was a distinct style that was required in the narration, but we also tried to avoid any imitation of Casey’s approach.
I was deeply saddened to hear about the last portion of his life. If even half of the horrible details were true, he certainly deserved better…much better.
Casey Kasem was one-of-a-kind and I remain grateful for his friendship and his kindness toward me.
“I credit God with giving me the idea of ‘Top 40.'” – Casey Kasem