Casey's Top 40

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Casey's Top 40
Genre Music chart show
Running time 4 hrs. (including commercials)
3hrs. + 15 min. (w/out commercials)
Country United States
Syndicates Westwood One
Host(s) Casey Kasem
various guest hosts
Air dates January 21, 1989 to March 21, 1998

Casey's Top 40 was a syndicated radio music program that was distributed by the Westwood One radio network. The show was a vehicle for then-former American Top 40 host and co-creator Casey Kasem and ran for over nine years. Like Kasem's prior show, Casey's Top 40 aired on weekends and was a countdown of the forty biggest hits of the week.


Beginning on July 4, 1970, Kasem hosted American Top 40 for what was then known as Watermark Inc. and which would later, through a merger, become ABC Watermark. In 1988, Kasem's contract expired and ABC Watermark did not renew it, choosing instead to replace the 56-year old host with Hollywood Squares announcer Shadoe Stevens, who was fifteen years younger than Kasem. The last AT40 with Kasem aired August 6, 1988.

A free agent after eighteen years, Kasem quickly signed with Westwood One. After developing the show for the remainder of 1988, Casey's Top 40 made its debut on January 21, 1989 on stations from coast to coast. This included a number of stations that dropped AT40 to air Kasem's new show.

Similarities between CT40 and AT40[edit]

Casey's Top 40 was similar to Kasem's old AT40 show featuring Kasem's trademark voice, teasers, and trivia on the songs and artists (including the "stretch" stories). The difference was that while American Top 40 always used charts published by Billboard, Casey's Top 40 used the Contemporary hit radio/Pop survey that was published every week by Westwood One's then-subsidiary Radio & Records. The major difference between the two shows at the time of Kasem's debut on Westwood One was that American Top 40 was using the Billboard Hot 100 chart, which tracked sales of singles in addition to airplay, while the Radio & Records charts strictly tracked airplay. (It would take AT40 two more years to switch to a Billboard airplay list.)


  • Last Week's Top 3: As he'd done for some time on his previous show, Kasem would preface each countdown with the top three songs from the previous week's survey. When Casey's Top 40 premiered, Kasem also brought back an old American Top 40 practice that he had stopped doing several years earlier and played the previous week's chart topper to begin the show; that song was "Two Hearts" by Phil Collins, which had just reached the top spot the week before Casey's Top 40 premiered (and would retain its spot atop the chart at the end of the show). Although not every show received this treatment, many episodes of Casey's Top 40 did. Eventually, as on AT40, the show stopped playing the #1 from the previous week and Kasem stuck to recounting the top three songs at the top of the show.
  • Jingles: A new set of jingles was recorded for Casey's Top 40 by JAM Creative Productions, which included the usual number jingles and title jingles leading into and out of breaks as well as the trademark "Casey's coast to coast" jingle from AT40 recorded in a different rhythm and key.
    • Initially, some of these jingles included references to Kasem's abbreviated name for the show, which was "CT40". ABC Watermark would eventually win an injunction forcing Kasem and Westwood One to refrain from using that name as the court ruled it was too similar to their abbreviation "AT40".
  • Droppers: For each song that debuted on the countdown in a given week, one had to fall out of the top 40 to make room. Kasem referred to these as "droppers" and would identify the songs that the show had to "say goodbye to" that week.
  • Request and Dedication: Kasem continued to take requests from fans who wrote in, sent a fax to, or (later on) e-mailed the show asking to have certain songs played and dedicated to someone who affected their lives. Since he could not use the title "Long Distance Dedication", as that was still in use on American Top 40, these became known as "Requests and Dedications". There were usually three of these segments per show.
    • Request and Dedication Update: Later in the show's run, the producers of Casey's Top 40 asked former Request and Dedication writers to send postcards to the show if they had updates on their situation since their song was played. Kasem would then call one of them and conduct an interview, of which a snippet would play during the next week's show.
  • Affiliate mentions: This was another old AT40 staple that made its way to Casey's Top 40. Once every hour, Kasem would briefly break from the proceedings to identify some of what he called the "great radio stations" carrying his show. He would usually include an overseas station.
  • Other charts: Kasem continued his old AT40 tradition of relaying other songs topping Radio & Records charts. Two charts that were always featured were the R&B and adult contemporary charts, with the former being referred to as the Black chart in early years. Originally, the third chart was the country chart, but later this was replaced by the alternative rock chart. The rundown always took place during the final hour of each countdown and led into one of the next songs on the countdown. If one of the three songs happened to be the next song on the survey, Kasem would identify the chart it topped and its position on the pop chart before giving the title and artist.
  • Special reports: Usually at least once an episode, Kasem would break from the countdown to report on something. Usually this would be a snippet of music news, but on occasion he would field a question from a listener who was curious about a piece of trivia and answer it for them.
  • Trivia Quiz: Once an episode, Kasem would lead into a commercial with a music question with three multiple choice answers. After the commercial played, he would give the answer.
  • Casey's Top 40 Concert Calendar: Unique to Casey's Top 40, Kasem would inform listeners what bands would be playing in concerts in the coming week.
  • Casey's Biggest Hits: Every week, a series of five interstitial segments would be sent out to affiliates along with the weekly countdown. Each one consisted of a chart hit from the recent past accompanied by Kasem providing background information. These sponsored segments were intended to air once per day in the week to follow.


Like AT40 and most other similar countdown programs, Casey's Top 40 was four hours in length from beginning to end. Usually, each hour was divided into several segments with an average of about two songs played per segment. Most shows tried to fit ten songs into one hour, so that each subsequent hour began with the #30, #20, and #10 songs of the week.

The show was blocked in such a way that for each of the first three hours, a wraparound segment would feed into the top of the next hour. First, Kasem would tease or preview an upcoming song or a Request and Dedication subject. This would be followed by a short piece of bumper music, which was designed to give affiliates a chance to identify themselves as they are required to at the top of every hour. Kasem then immediately picked up where he left off and played the next song on the countdown, followed by the one he offered the teaser or preview for. This wraparound method would carry over to AT40 when it was relaunched in 1998.

As on AT40, the final segment of every show consisted of the top two songs of the week. Kasem would introduce the #2 song with little to no fanfare, saving that for the #1 song for which he provided one more teaser/preview. After the song was over, Kasem closed the show by reading the credits and finishing with his trademark "keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars" sign off.

Special shows[edit]

On occasion, Kasem would host special countdowns focusing on past hits, such as his countdown of the greatest summer songs of the 1980s that aired on July 7, 1990.

One constant special was the annual top 100 countdown Kasem hosted. Near the end of the year, a list of the biggest hits of the previous year would be tabulated and the 100 songs that made the cut would be revealed over two programs, with half of the list played one week and the second half the following week. Kasem did a total of nine of these year-end countdowns, with the last airing over the weekends of December 27, 1997 and January 3, 1998.[1]

Expansion into adult contemporary music tracking[edit]

In 1992, Kasem added a second countdown show to his dossier. Since some adult contemporary-formatted stations had been carrying Casey's Top 40, pop radio was in a general decline at the time, and Radio & Records had its own AC chart, Westwood One put together a three-hour, twenty-five song survey for these stations called Casey's Countdown. In addition to counting down the biggest AC hits of the week, the staple "Request and Dedication" songs were played along with some hits from the past to round out the show.

In April 1994, Radio & Records added a hot adult contemporary chart to its tracking. Seven months later, Westwood One premiered Casey's Hot 20 and Kasem began his third concurrent weekly chart survey. Like Casey's Countdown, which was reduced to 20 songs at the time, Casey's Hot 20 included past chart hits and Requests and Dedications.

However, Westwood One would treat all three programs as if they were a single program, for purposes of exclusive programming rights in a given market; when a station picked up one of these programs, the other two programs would be shut out of the market.

Casey Kasem leaves Westwood One[edit]

As 1997 ended, Kasem and ABC Radio were in talks to transfer the rights to the American Top 40 name and branding to Kasem; the name had not been used since the original series was cancelled in January 1995 but ABC still owned the copyright on the name. The two sides struck an agreement and Kasem was given control over the name and branding of the show he had helped launch twenty-seven years earlier. Since he had those rights, Kasem wanted to exploit them but Westwood One was not receptive of the idea to change the name of Casey's Top 40.

As this was going on, Kasem's contract was coming up for renewal and there were other issues at play. The ratings for CT40 were not as strong as they had been earlier in the show's run and as such, Westwood One was not garnering as much outside advertising revenue for its owner Infinity Broadcasting's satisfaction; in fact, by this time many if not most of the sold ad time had been purchased by Infinity's parent company CBS. Thus, the network decided to try to tie Kasem's future compensation to the declining revenue. Kasem, meanwhile, was not happy with what he saw as Westwood One not making an effort to promote his show as they once had. Further exacerbating the issue was that Kasem had no presence in either the New York or Los Angeles media markets at the time; stations WHTZ and KPWR were charter affiliates of CT40 but the show had been dropped on both stations years before.

Despite that, Kasem was still a popular figure on the stations carrying him and possessed enough name recognition that a competing syndicator would have been more than willing to bring him to their network, which gave him leverage in the negotiations. In December 1997, Westwood One decided they did not want to risk losing the 65-year old Kasem, with Casey's Top 40 approaching its ninth anniversary, and the two sides agreed on a one-year renewal of all three of Kasem's weekly countdowns.[2]

On February 21, 1998, Kasem hosted an edition of CT40 that aired the weekend before the annual Grammy Awards and he made several references to the show during the broadcast noting several of the chart residents who were nominated. After closing the show by playing "Truly Madly Deeply" by Savage Garden, which had been knocked out of the top spot one week earlier and had remained at #2, and "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion, which finished at #1 for the second consecutive week, Kasem signed off and told the audience to join him next week for the next installment of the countdown. However, when the February 28, 1998 edition of the show aired, substitute David Perry was heard instead of Kasem, who had not said he would not be coming back the next week.

As it turned out, Kasem's departure was to be permanent. Around this time, Kasem signed with an upstart syndicator which would eventually grow into Premiere Radio Networks. The move, undertaken by Chancellor Media, proved to be a significant coup as the network now had a prominent radio figure to launch their national branding with and Kasem could once again host American Top 40, as he transferred the rights to the name to his new employer.[3] The move came nearly three months after the renewal of his Westwood One deal and the network, along with Infinity and its parent CBS, sued Kasem for breach of contract, while Kasem claimed the language in his contract was vague and that Westwood One had failed to make good on promises for more promotion of his shows.[4] Despite this, Westwood One continued to use Kasem's name in its branding for their weekly countdowns through March 7 and Kasem was referred to as "vacationing".

On March 14, 1998, all three of Kasem's countdowns were rebranded. They became The Top 40 Countdown, The Hot 20 Countdown, and The Top 20 Countdown. Meanwhile, Kasem was set to launch the new American Top 40 in the face of the legal action CBS and Westwood One had taken against him. One week after their rebranding, all three of Westwood One's weekly countdowns came to an end. The following week saw the debut of the brand new AT40 with Kasem at the helm, and although the legal wrangling was still ongoing Westwood One did not object to Kasem's continued use of the Radio & Records chart data for his new show. As a result of that, Kasem's first AT40 closed the same way his last CT40 had, as "My Heart Will Go On" stayed at #1 for an eighth straight week. Casey's Countdown and Casey's Hot 20 would follow Kasem over to his new syndicator, with both shows rebranded as American Top 20.

After he stepped down as host of AT40 in early January 2004, Kasem remained with his AC countdowns until he retired in 2009 on the thirty-ninth anniversary of his first AT40 broadcast.



  • Durkee, Rob. American Top 40: The Countdown of the Century. ISBN 0-02-864895-1. New York City: Schirmer Books, 1999. Accessed December 10, 2007.