Legendary DJ Casey Kasem has passed away after a long illness and much family drama. Like many people, I grew up listening to Kasem’s iconic countdown program, America’s Top Forty, on the radio. He adapted his countdown to the video age by playing America’s Top Ten in syndication television. Kasem’s countdown’s was a great introduction to popular music, and his voice made everything a little easier to listen to.
Of course, Casey Kasem was more than just a DJ to my generation. He was an accomplished voice actor in a number of cartoons, including voicing Shaggy on the many incarnations of the beloved Scooby Doo cartoons. (His final performance as Shaggy was in 2009’s Scooby Doo! and the Samurai Sword.)
Kasem seemed to be a man who held good values, although I don’t know much about him personally. I used to see him and wife Jean Kasem on the entertainment news as “personalities” and “celebrities.” It was sad to see all the family infighting over his declining health and medical care. I hope his family can make some peace with each other, and find comfort in knowing that the man they all loved enough to go to court over is at rest.
Jim Ladd represents everything I love about the way radio used to be. He is his own programmer, playing “freeform radio,” which is just a cool way to say he picks all the songs he plays. He’s DJ’d at some of the best radio stations in SoCal, and made appearances in numerous other projects.
Of course, he also irritates the living hell out of me. He rambles on and on incessantly, often interrupting the instrumental breaks in songs to spout off some psuedo-hippie, new age style blather about auras and vibrations. He plays way too much Doors music, especially “Riders on the Storm.” And he has an odd fondness for Bob Dylan’s “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts.” (That’s a strange, peevish story song from Blood on the Tracks that has never quite fit with the rest of that album.) Ladd thinks far too much of himself, and his role in Rock History.
Of course, he was the inspiration for this song. The whole album, really.
I might find him irritating, especially when I just want to hear music and not some dude blathering on about nothing special and dropping names. But he’s never said anything that isn’t true, at least not as far as I can tell. And he managed to piss off the management at his last local station, 95.5 KLOS, so much that they fired him. That’s sad, because there was a time when guys like Jim Ladd were a little bit like Rock stars, when they were celebrities in their own right. In an ironic twist on his radio purism, he’s taken a job with Sirius. He still does the same thing, but now he does it on satellite radio. If you want to hear Ladd now, you have to “pay for what you used to get for free.”