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 of origin United States
Syndicates Westwood One
Hosted by Casey Kasem
Mark Elliot (original substitute)
David Perry (later substitute)
Created by Westwood One
Produced by Karen Sheir (1989)
Bert Kleinman (1989-1996)
Lorre Crimi (1996-February 1998)
Ben Harris (February 1998-cancellation)
Executive producer(s) Norman Pattiz
Original release January 21, 1989 – 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 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, emanated from Hollywood, California, and was a countdown of the 40 biggest hits of the week on the popular music chart.

Background[edit]

In January 1988, Kasem was entering the final year of a seven-year contract as host of American Top 40 with syndicator ABC Watermark. The sides were unable to strike an agreement for a renewal, so on February 9, ABC Watermark announced that it would begin searching for a replacement.

Westwood One, which at the time was already home to several weekly music programs including those broadcast by its sister company Mutual, began aggressively pursuing Kasem and offered him a five-year contract worth triple his current salary. Kasem signed with Westwood One in April 1988, and Shadoe Stevens was named Kasem's replacement the following month. On August 13, 1988, Stevens debuted as host of AT40.

Despite the split, Kasem's contract with ABC Watermark was in force until the end of the year and thus he could not begin the new show until early 1989. In the interim period between Kasem's signing and debut, Westwood One made a significant effort to promote his signing with the network. This included a "Westwood One Survival Kit" that was sent to affiliates. Included in the package was a "Casey in '89" button, a pin displaying the premiere date and a flashlight called a "Shadow Simulator", perhaps taking a shot at Stevens.[1]

Casey's Top 40 premiered on the weekend of January 21, 1989 on stations from coast to coast and overseas. The initial list of affiliates included several stations that carried American Top 40; in most of these cases, Kasem's new show served as a replacement for his old show, but some stations carried both Casey's Top 40 and AT40.

Substitute hosts[edit]

As on AT40, Kasem would require substitute hosts from time to time. In the early years of the show, the role was filled by voiceover artist Mark Elliot, who had also been one of many substitutes for Kasem on AT40. From 1993 until 1998, veteran Los Angeles DJ David Perry was the designated fill-in.

Similarities between Casey's Top 40 and AT40[edit]

Casey's Top 40 was similar to Kasem's old AT40 show, featuring Kasem's trademark voice, teasers and trivia about songs and artists (including the "stretch" stories). However, while American Top 40 used the Billboard Hot 100 as its source, Casey's Top 40 used the weekly CHR/pop airplay-based survey produced by Westwood One's then-subsidiary Radio & Records. AT40 would eventually follow suit by moving to airplay-only charts, switching first to the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart and then to its Mainstream Top 40 chart. When it launched, Casey's Top 40 was one of several shows using the Radio & Records chart, joining Mutual Broadcasting System's National Music Survey, Scott Shannon's Rockin' America Top 30 Countdown (also a Westwood One production) and Rick Dees' Weekly Top 40 (produced by the Unistar Radio Network).

In 1994, Radio & Records split its weekly CHR/pop survey into two different trackers. One focused on stations with a dance/rap/R&B-centered playlist, called the "Rhythmic" chart. The "Mainstream" chart, which tracked more traditional pop music, became the new chart source for Kasem's countdown, beginning with the program airing the weekend of April 30, 1994.

Like AT40, Casey's Top 40 was timed to generally fit ten songs per one hour. However, Casey's Top 40 ended each hour differently from the manner used by AT40. After the last song played in an hour, Kasem would preview something to come in the next segment. A brief musical bumper was then played for affiliates to provide their hourly station identification, usually with a prerecorded plug for the station by Kasem himself.

Features[edit]

  • Last Week's Top 3: As he had done on American Top 40, Kasem would begin each countdown a rundown of the top three songs from the previous week's survey, often playing the previous week's chart topper to begin the show. The first of these was "Two Hearts" by Phil Collins, which had reached the top spot the week before Casey's Top 40 premiered and would retain its #1 spot that week.
  • Jingles: A new set of jingles was recorded for Casey's Top 40 by JAM Creative Productions, which included the usual song-number and title bumper jingles as well as the trademark "Casey's coast to coast" jingle from AT40 recorded in a different rhythm and key. JAM also composed the show's opening theme, which included singers counting down from ten over the music, something that would follow Kasem for the rest of his career. His mainstream AC spinoff Casey's Countdown also had its slogan jingle created by JAM ("Casey Counts Them Down"), which would be later used on his other countdown shows. Initially, some of these jingles refererred to the show as "CT40", but ABC Watermark won an injunction preventing this reference for being too similar to "AT40".
  • Droppers, Biggest Movers and Longest-Charting Song: For each song that debuted on the countdown, 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. He would also identify the song making the largest leap up the chart and the longest-charting song still in the Top 40.
  • Request and Dedication: Kasem continued to take requests from fans requesting songs dedicated to others who affected their lives. Since he could not use the AT40 title "Long Distance Dedication", these became known as "Requests and Dedications", with typically three of these segments airing per show. Originally, these requests were received entirely by postal mail, but listeners were later provided the ability to fax in their requests. Beginning with the countdown airing the weekend of July 8, 1995, listeners could also submit requests through an America Online email account created specifically for Kasem's program.
  • Request and Dedication Update: Later in the show's run, the producers began reaching out to the listeners who had their Requests and Dedications fulfilled. Those same people were encouraged to follow up with the show by sending postcards to the producers with their telephone numbers if they had updates on their situation. If one was selected, Kasem would phone that person and conduct a brief interview, of which a snippet would play during the following countdown.
  • Affiliate mentions: Another AT40 staple included in Casey's Top 40 was Kasem's hourly recitation of the call letters and cities of some "great radio stations" carrying his show.
  • Other charts: Kasem continued his AT40 tradition of announcing the songs topping other Radio & Records charts during the final hour of each countdown. He usually made mention of the R&B (originally Black) and country charts, later adding the adult contemporary chart and the alternative rock chart once those launched. If any of those songs appeared in the top 40, Kasem would make note of it before playing the song.
  • Special reports: Usually at least once per episode, Kasem would break from the countdown to report on an item of relevance, such as a snippet of music news, or field a listener question.
  • Trivia Quiz: Once per 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 give a rundown of prominent bands with upcoming concerts.
  • Closing: The final segment of each countdown featured the top two songs on the survey, just as Kasem had done on AT40. After playing the #1 song of the week, Kasem would read the show's credits and sign off with his trademark "keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars". He would also usually add "and keep your dial/radio tuned right where it is" to encourage listeners to keep listening to their Casey's Top 40 affiliate.

Casey's Biggest Hits[edit]

As a further promotional tool for the show, Westwood One added a weekly strip of interstitial segments featuring past chart hits to the countdown package shipped to the affiliates. Five segments for each week were produced, each usually longer than five minutes, with Kasem offering a teaser for the past hit. After a 60-second commercial break, he would return with the story behind the teaser and then play the song.

Special shows[edit]

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

Year-end Top 100[edit]

As with AT40, each December, Kasem presented a two-part, eight-hour, 100-song countdown of the past year's hits. These episodes were usually aired around Christmas and New Year's Day, with the first 50 songs comprising one episode and the rest airing 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.[2]

Below is a chart of the songs that finished the year at #1. For the first year CT40 was on the air, only a Top 40 list was compiled.

Year Song Artist Source
1989 "Miss You Much" Janet Jackson [1]
1990 "Vision of Love" Mariah Carey [2]
1991 "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" Bryan Adams [3]
1992 "End of the Road" Boyz II Men [4]
1993 "Dreamlover" Mariah Carey [5]
1994 "The Sign" Ace of Base [6]
1995 "I Know" Dionne Farris [7]
1996 "Missing" Everything but the Girl [8]
1997 "You Were Meant for Me" Jewel [9]

Expansion into adult contemporary music tracking[edit]

In 1992, Kasem added a second countdown show. With pop radio in decline, and many Casey's Top 40 affiliates having an adult contemporary format, Westwood One launched Casey's Countdown on May 2, 1992 as a three-hour, 25-song countdown (later reduced to 20), using the Radio & Records AC chart. In addition to the weekly hits and "Request and Dedication" pieces, some past hits were played, along with Kasem's anecdotes related to the songs or artists.

On November 5, 1994, Kasem began yet another show, Casey's Hot 20, a three-hour countdown that used a new Radio & Records hot adult contemporary chart that had launched in April.

As on the parent program, both Casey's Countdown and Casey's Hot 20 concluded their years with an annual special featuring the top hits of the year. Casey's Countdown originally featured a two-part, seventy-song countdown, which was later reduced to thirty-five. Casey's Hot 20 only featured thirty-five songs in its abbreviated first year countdown, but beginning in 1995 this was expanded to sixty over two programs.

The songs that finished the year atop the charts are as follows[3]:

Year Casey's Countdown Casey's Hot 20
1992 "The One", Elton John n/a
1993 "Love Is", Vanessa Williams and Brian McKnight n/a
1994 "Now and Forever", Richard Marx "Now and Forever", Richard Marx*
1995 "Love Will Keep Us Alive", The Eagles "In the House of Stone and Light", Martin Page
1996 "Because You Loved Me", Celine Dion "Give Me One Reason", Tracy Chapman
1997 "Un-Break My Heart", Toni Braxton "Barely Breathing", Duncan Sheik
  • In 1994, Radio & Records did not compile a year end Hot AC list. The countdown was instead based on data gathered by the producers of Casey's Hot 20.

Conflict, departure, and cancellation[edit]

Toward the end of 1997, Kasem had regained a significant piece of his radio past. As part of his exit deal with ABC, the network agreed that if, at any time, it canceled American Top 40, it would retain the rights as long as it made an effort in an intervening period to relaunch the show. ABC eventually stopped carrying AT40 in July 1994 (it continued internationally under Radio Express until January 1995) and picked up Rick Dees Weekly Top 40, which by then had joined CT40 under the Westwood One umbrella, to replace it.

Since ABC had let its ownership of the rights lapse, having no need to launch a competitor to its own property, the exit agreement dictated that the production company owned by Kasem and his partner Don Bustany would obtain the rights to AT40. However, Bustany had also departed from ABC Watermark soon after Kasem's 1988 exit and elected to have no further involvement with the program he co-created. As such, Kasem acquired sole control of the American Top 40 branding and wanted to exploit it. Westwood One, however, did not want to change the name of Casey's Top 40.

Negotiations with Westwood One[edit]

As this was going on, Kasem was nearing the end of his second contract with Westwood One, which he had signed in 1993. Casey's Top 40 was still a successful property for Westwood One as it continued to be carried across the nation and around the world. However, the ratings were not as strong as they once had been and the program was not even airing in some large American markets, including the largest of them all in New York. As a consequence, advertising revenue generated by the show was slipping.

Further complicating matters was a deterioration in the relationship between Kasem and his employer. In 1993, the same year Kasem renewed his contract, Westwood One became a subsidiary of Infinity Broadcasting. This resulted in Kasem being added to a talent lineup that included Howard Stern, Don Imus and several other high-profile personalities who got more promotion than did Kasem. Following a merger between Infinity and CBS Corporation in 1997, Kasem felt that cross-promotion opportunities for the show were missed.

As news began to emerge about the contract dispute, other radio networks began showing interest in luring Kasem away from Westwood One. In December 1997, Westwood One decided that despite the decline of Casey's Top 40, it did not wish to see Kasem employed by a competitor. The two sides struck a deal to bring Kasem back to Westwood One for a ninth year. It included a one-year renewal of all three of Kasem's weekly countdowns,[4] contingent on an advertising revenue target of $6 million being reached. If this figure was not achieved, either side could opt out of the deal.

On February 21, 1998, Kasem hosted an edition of Casey's Top 40 that aired the weekend before the annual Grammy Awards. "Truly Madly Deeply" by Savage Garden and "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion, the two most recent chart toppers, were played in the final segment. Kasem signed off and told the audience to join him the next week for the next installment of the countdown.

A new syndicator lures Kasem away[edit]

On February 28, 1998, Casey's Top 40 listeners tuned in to hear Kasem's regular substitute at the time, David Perry, at the microphone. As noted above, Kasem's absence was unannounced. Unbeknownst to Westwood One, it was also not intended to be temporary as Kasem intended to try to find a way out of his newly signed contract.

In January 1998, Chancellor Media, a large station group that included Kasem's former New York home, had formed a syndication arm that has since become Premiere Networks but was originally called AMFM Radio Networks. Immediately, the company sought big-name radio talent and piqued the interest of the disgruntled 65-year old Kasem, who signed with the upstart network. Chancellor took over the AT40 branding and relaunched the show with Kasem as host.[5]

Westwood One and its corporate parents Infinity and CBS responded by suing Kasem for breach of contract and filing to block the new American Top 40 from launching. Kasem, in turn, cited the continued broken promises Westwood One made to him and claimed the contract that he signed in December 1997 had vague language. Specifically, Kasem claimed that the contract's advertising-revenue clause only applied to 1997's final figures and not toward the current year; thus he was allowed him to seek a new syndication deal somewhere else.[6]

Westwood One tries to go forward[edit]

Westwood One made an effort to continue CT40 and its spinoffs in Kasem's absence, making the following changes:

  • After the March 7, 1998 editions aired, Kasem's name was removed from the three countdowns and they were given new names. CT40 became The Top 40 Countdown, while Casey's Countdown became The Top 20 Countdown and Casey's Hot 20 was renamed The Hot 20 Countdown.
  • Ben Harris, a long time staffer, was named the producer for all three countdowns. Previous producer Lorre Crimi, who had joined Kasem in 1996, followed him to his new radio home.
  • The interstitial segments sent to stations with the weekly countdowns removed Kasem's name from them and simply became known as "The Biggest Hits".
  • JAM Creative Productions re-recorded the theme and jingles for all three countdowns to remove any mention of Kasem (they were otherwise unchanged musically).
  • Requests and Dedications continued to be featured but no mention of Kasem accompanied them. Instead, the "Dear Casey" open was simply omitted as was any mention of his name in the body of the letter.

Despite the changes, Westwood One would ultimately discontinue the programs on March 21 after only two weeks. David Perry hosted all three countdowns the week of March 14, then was absent the following week; on March 21, The Top 40 Countdown and Top 20 Countdown were both hosted by Jeff Wyatt, the former host of American Dance Traxx for Westwood One, and The Hot 20 Countdown was hosted by John Tesh. Like Kasem's last show before his abrupt exit, there was no mention made of the cancellation of any of the three countdowns; in fact, on the former CT40 Wyatt continued to solicit Request and Dedication letters as well as updates on previous featured requests, and signed off encouraging listeners to join him on the next program.

On March 28, one week later, the new AT40 launched on AMFM Radio Networks with Kasem again behind the microphone of his creation. Many of his Westwood One staff would follow him there (including Perry, who continued briefly in his role as Kasem's designated sub host, and Merrill Shindler, who Kasem had brought over from AT40 when he left ABC Watermark). The legal wrangling between the two sides continued. However, Westwood One did not object to Kasem's continued use of the Radio & Records CHR/pop survey as its chart source. As such, Kasem's first and second #1 songs on the new AT40 were the same as his last two with Westwood One. That week, "My Heart Will Go On" finished its seventh week atop the chart. Three weeks later, "Truly Madly Deeply" reclaimed the #1 spot for a third non-consecutive and last week at the top. (The song that succeeded "Truly Madly Deeply" after its second run to #1 also proved to be a longstanding #1; that song, Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn", would become the longest running #1 of the year as it topped the chart for eleven consecutive weeks.)

Kasem's AC countdowns also found a new home at AMFM under the name American Top 20. These shows also launched on March 28, 1998 and Kasem continued to host them even after leaving AT40 at the beginning of 2004. The mainstream AC show would undergo a 2004 format change that would reduce it to a countdown of ten songs and add a special weekly spotlight feature to the chart extras and dedication segments. Both American Top 20 and the reformatted American Top 10 ended on July 4, 2009 after Kasem retired from broadcasting.

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • 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.