Although not a local story, but news of the death Sunday of Casey Kasem hit many in the Murfreesboro area by surprise. In earlier years, WGNS carried his popular weekend radio show American Top 40.
The 82 year old radio personality died in a California hospital after a long battle with dementia.
Born Kemal Amin Kasem in Detroit, the disc jockey began his career in nearby Flint before becoming an announcer on Armed Forces Radio Korea Network in 1952. Upon his return, he went on to work at radio stations in California, Ohio and New York before launching "American Top 40" in 1970. He hosted that show until 1988, and then a revived version from 1998 until 2004, when Ryan Seacrest took over. From 1988 until 1998, Kasem hosted a show called "Casey's Top 40."
"Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars," was how he ended every program.
"I just didn't want to say goodbye. Every station I was at, I never said goodbye," he later explained to the New York Times of his famous sign-off. "I don't know why."
Kasem, who was married twice and has four children, also had a colorful TV career, which included doing the voice for Shaggy on "Scooby-Doo" as well as voice-overs for many commercials. A devout vegan, he supported animal rights and environmental causes, as well as political organizations that spoke to him. Originally of Lebanese origin, Kasem felt it was important to improve Arab-Jewish relations.
In recent years, the radio personality's health declined and in 2013, his daughter Kerri said he was suffering from a form of dementia. Around that time, his three oldest children and brother launched a claim that his wife Jean was not letting them see their father. A court denied a petition his daughter Julie launched to take care of her father in October 2013, but just last month, Kerri was granted conservatorship amid a battle with Kasem's second wife, her stepmother, Jean.
“It’s a sad day for the broadcasting community and for radio listeners around the world,” said Ryan Seacrest, who took over "American Top 40" from Kasem in 2009, in a statement. “When I was a kid, I would listen to Casey Kasem’s AT40 show every weekend, and dream about someday becoming a radio DJ. So when decades later I took over his AT40 countdown show, it was a surreal moment. Casey had a distinctive friendly on-air voice, and he was just as affable and nice if you had the privilege to be in his company. He’ll be greatly missed by all of us.”