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Thursday, April 27, 2017

April 27, 1932

This week's Throwback Thursday is brought to you by the letters A, T, and by the number 40.  And, no, this blog is NOT Sesame Street related either.

I'll let you all stew on that one as we take a look at some of the events that took place on this date.

1565 - Cebu is established, becoming the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines

1667 - John Milton sells the copyright of "Paradise Lost" for a mere ten pounds - by this time, Milton is blind and living in poverty

1777 - The Battle of Ridgefield takes place during the American Revolutionary War

1813 - American troops capture the settlement of York during the War of 1812

1861 - Abraham Lincoln suspends the writ of habeas corpus

1865 - Cornell University is established by the United States Senate

1882 - Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson dies at the age of 78

1899 - Woody Woodpecker creator Walter Lantz (d. 1994) is born in New Rochelle, New York

1922 - Actor Jack Klugman (d. 2012) is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1927 - Civil rights activist Coretta Scott King (d. 2006) is born in Heiberger, Alabama

1937 - Actress Sandy Dennis (d. 1992) is born in Hastings, Nebraska

1939 - Actress Judy Carne (d. 2015) is born in Northampton, England

1944 - Singer Cuba Gooding Sr. (d. 2017) is born in New York City

1945 - Benito Mussolini is arrested by Italian partisans in Dongo

1947 - Lead singer of Badfinger Pete Ham (d. 1975) is born in Swansea, Wales

1967 - Expo 67 opens in Montreal, Quebec with an opening ceremony broadcast on television all over the world

1974 - A march of approximately ten thousand people congregates in Washington D.C., demanding the resignation of President Richard Nixon

1981 - Xerox PARC introduces the computer mouse

1986 - The mass evacuation of Pripyat and its surrounding areas takes place due to the Chernobyl disaster

1989 - The April 27 demonstrations take place during the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989

1993 - Tragedy strikes when the entire Zambia national football team is killed in a plane crash enroute to a game

1994 - The first general election in South Africa in which black residents can vote for the first time is held

2006 - Construction begins on the new One World Trade Center in New York City

2011 - A whopping 205 tornadoes touch down in several states of the Southeastern United States, killing at least three hundred people

And for celebrity birthdays, we have the following famous faces turning one year older today; Anouk Aimee, Chuck Knox, Lee Roy Jordan, Ruth Glick, Helmut Marko, Kate Pierson, Ace Frehley, Larry Elder, Sheena Easton, Marco Pirroni, Anna Chancellor, Nigel Barker, Isobel Campbell, Sally Hawkins, and Patrick Stump.

So, what is going to be the date that we'll be revisiting today?

Looks like it's one that is way back in the past - April 27, 1932.  By my calculations, that would make it eighty-five years ago.

I thought that for today's post, I would talk about my personal memories of today's Throwback Thursday topic - which admittedly is going to be tough because he was born almost five decades before I was.  But he had such a presence in my childhood and early adulthood.  From Saturday Morning cartoons to the music heard on the radio, he was always there, and his distinctive voice brought happiness on the most dreary of days. 

Unfortunately, his passing was one of the weirdest to be reported on, and what happened to him in his final days sounds like something out of a soap opera or science fiction novel.  But we'll get to that a little bit later.

As I mentioned, this week's topic is brought to you by the letters A, T, and the number 40.  Put them together, and you have AT40.  Or American Top 40.  Now these days the radio show is hosted by "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest, and has been since 2004.  But when the show debuted on July 3, 1970, it was hosted by the man who essentially spent four decades teaching the world how to count backwards from 40 to 1.

A man who would have been 85 years old today. 

Let's have a look at what that very first broadcast intro was...from the mouth of Casey Kasem himself!

"Here we go with the Top 40 hits of the nation this week on American Top 40, the best-selling and most-played songs from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico.  This is Casey Kasem in Hollywood, and in the next three hours, we'll count down the 40 most popular hits in the United States this week, hot off the record charts from Billboard magazine for the week ending July 11, 1970.  In this hour at #32 in the countdown, a song that's been a hit four different times in the last nineteen years!  And we're just one tune away from the singer with the $10,000 gold hubcaps on his car!  And now, on with the countdown!"

Those iconic words kicked off one of the most iconic countdown shows ever to be broadcast on radio.  And Casey did the job beautifully.  He kept you guessing on what songs would be on the chart with his cryptic clues (the answers to the two questions were "It's All In The Game" by the Four Tops and Mark Lindsay's "Silver Bird").  He was filled with trivia and never known facts about the bands and artists featured on the countdown.  And of course, who could forget the long distance dedications in which listeners from all over the world would write letters to Casey asking him to play a song for a loved one?  Granted, there's a tale in which a long distance dedication caused Casey to lose it on the air...but I don't want to post it here because I am still unsure if it really happened or if it was an elaborate hoax.  It's still a funny tale.  Apparently it involved a listener writing a letter for Casey to play a song for his deceased pet right after he played an upbeat Pointer Sisters song. 

But yeah, that's a different topic for a different day.

I have to say that when it came down to it, I spent nearly every weekend listening to Casey's countdown.  MTV and MuchMusic may have had the video market covered, but Casey still managed to keep an audience together with his soothing voice which helped the countdown flow better.  I can safely say that Casey Kasem helped me get through seventeen history essays, eight geography projects, a slew of English assignments, and was the calm to my experience with algebraic hell.

And that's even during the period when he left AT40 and started his own countdown show called "Casey's Top 40".  While Casey hosted his own show, Shadoe Stevens took over AT40 for seven years before it went on hiatus in 1995.  Then when AT40 was revived in 1998, Casey came back as host and stayed there for another six years before leaving in 2004.  Of course, he stayed in the radio business for a few years after that, hosting American Top 20 and American Top 10 until he retired from the radio business in July 2009 - almost thirty-nine years to the day that he began his career.

Of course, his radio career wasn't the only thing that he did in his lengthy career.  He also dabbled in television as well.  In fact, I can remember when I was a kid and I used to watch his video countdown on NBC on Saturday mornings.  It was like the same format as the radio show only he featured ten songs instead of forty.  It was cool to see Casey hosting a video show, as back in the 1980s, video was starting to kill the radio star.  Of course, Casey's radio show lasted a lot longer than the television series.  That program only ran from 1982-1992 - and Casey only appeared in the finale during the show's final season.

And if you have ever watched any of the older episodes of the various incarnations of the Scooby-Doo cartoon series, you most certainly will recognize Casey Kasem as the voice of Shaggy.  From "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?" to "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo", Kasem voiced Shaggy from the show's debut in 1969 to 1997 (he left the role after refusing to voice Shaggy for a Burger King commercial because Kasem was vegan), and again from 2002-2009.

I can still totally remember watching Scooby-Doo as a kid when our CBS affiliate aired "The Danny Burgess Show" every afternoon, and wanting to be one of those kids drinking the McDonald's milkshakes in the audience watching Scooby-Doo cartoons.  Unfortunately, that show got cancelled because Oprah Winfrey decided she wanted that time slot to host her brand new talk show.  But Scooby-Doo is one of those shows that is on the air on some channel.  You just have to search for it.

I also remember Casey Kasem starring on a couple of episodes of "Saved By The Bell" - which makes sense, given that his television countdown aired on the same network that "Saved By The Bell" was on.  In one episode, he hosted the dance contest at the Max where Lisa and Screech won by performing the "Sprain", while in the other, Kasem chronicled the rise and fall of the fictional band Zack Attack.  You can guess who the lead singer of that band was.

Casey Kasem was certainly a man who had a huge voice, but he also had a huge heart as well - and up until his death, he supported Jerry Lewis and his MDA Telethon for many years.  I still remember him appearing on the telethon every Labour Day introducing acts that were performing on the show as well as accepting donations from various organizations and businesses all over the country.

He absolutely was a part of my childhood...and I suppose in the back of my mind, I always thought that he'd always be around.

Sadly, Casey passed away on June 15, 2014 after a battle with Lewy body dementia - a disease that mimics many of the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease, and that golden voice of his was one of the many casualties of the disease before he died.

But it was in his final months that made his death seem like a family feud.  There were battles between Casey's second wife, Jean, and the three children Casey had during his first marriage, over who would take care of Casey during his final months.  Casey's children claimed that Jean had kept Casey hidden and that she refused to let them see him.  Even after his death, the feud continued, with Jean reportedly moving his remains to a funeral home in Montreal to keep Casey's children from performing an autopsy on him.  Even stranger was the fact that Casey's final resting place ended up being in Oslo, Norway!  Again, the tale of the family feud between Casey Kasem's wife and children is a lengthy that I could talk about in length in a future blog.  But for now, let's just celebrate Casey's life with one final that he would say at the conclusion of every broadcast he ever did.

"Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars."

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