Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.
It was an honor to count Casey Kasem among my many friends in radio and he will be remembered, especially in the Detroit area, as one of the kindest and nicest guys ever to grace the radio dial. He was a true gentleman in every aspect of his professional and personal life. In 1988, 1998 and 2005 Casey came back to the city he grew up in to be a part of three of our four Motor City Radio Reunions. He never forgot his roots.
In the past 24 hours much has been written and reported about this amazing man and I am not going to rehash all of the "bio-info" previously penned. Instead, I want to tell you about what was NOT told in other popular media venues.
I met Casey nearly thirty years ago when he was the network voice at NBC out in Burbank, CA. I left word that I wanted to meet him and he actually called me back while I was staying with a friend in LA. I laid down to take a quick nap and the phone rang with a voice that said "Hi, this Casey Kasem" and I thought it was a joke and nearly hung up the phone! It was really him and we've know each other ever since. I had his home address and phone number and even the "inside private line." That was very cool.
Because of the relationship I had with him, I was pressed into action to try to get him to come to Detroit for the 1988 Motor City Radio Reunion at the Michigan Inn in Southfield. He readily accepted. Prior to the big event Casey spent at least an hour at the studios of WCZY (Z-95.5) in Oak Park. That station is now WKQI (Channel 9-5-5). Dick Purtan was at the controls and the studio was jammed with Detroit radio stars who came back for the reunion party. People like: Gary Stevens, Scott Regan, Bob Green, Big Jim Edwards, Michael Stevens, and Paul Cannon. Casey was picked up at the airport by voice-guy Jim Ochs who regularly did an impersonation of Casey on Purtan's radio show. They went back and forth with a routine probably confusing the listeners as to who was the REAL Casey Kasem. It was outrageously entertaining radio!
Later that evening, at the main event, we held a "Casey-Off" to see who did the best impression with Casey being the judge. It was between Ochs from WCZY and Kevin O'Neill from (at the time) WOMC. Both are considered to be among the best in the nation at sounding like Casey. Being the consummate nice guy that he was, Mr. Kasem called it a tie and both walked away winners.
In 1998 Casey was recognized at his table, but no major showcasing was thrust upon him...just a few creative zingers from Dick Purtan, who wound up emceeing all four radio reunions.
However, in 2005 we did another sound-a-like contest with Ochs, O'Neill, and the popular 60's on 6 DJ from Sirius XM, Phlash Phelps. All three, plus Casey went behind closed doors and the audience had to guess which was the REAL one. It was tons of fun and an evening we will never forget. Casey really enjoyed being there that night, had his photo taken with dozens of attendees and then at the end of the evening said something that stunned me personally. While being interviewed by Phlash, he said "I have a long-distance dedication to Art (Vuolo) who is the Mr. Radio to all the world. He's so dedicated and thanks to him I can be with my friends I've been with tonight, that I haven't seen in years...thanks to him I'll carry these memories with me till the day I die...thanks Art." I recently watched that video and it gave me chills to realize that he is talking about yours truly. It was humbling and truly very special.
All of these special moments are on a special video tribute which I am proud to have been able to produce in memory of man who made countdowns more famous than the NASA engineers in Houston. The video has been posted on YouTube and the link to watch it is: http://youtu.be/hRgT6OyPgp8. It's labeled Casey Kasem Detroit Tribute.
On Father's Day I received an e-mail from a good friend by the name of Sean Compton who was with Clear Channel Radio at the time when Casey retired and the baton was passed to Ryan (How Many Jobs Can I Do) Seacrest. I want to share his posting with you because it truly sums up what kind of a man Casey Kasem really was.
Sean wrote: "Casey Kasem was the definition of a gentlemen. I was a kid with big radio dreams growing up in a small Indiana town, it was Casey's American Top 40 that became a constant part of my listening routine each weekend. By the time I was in my mid twenties I had the privilege of working with him and more importantly becoming a friend. When my wife was pregnant with my first of three sons I heard from Casey every week asking me how she was doing and when my he arrived it was Casey who was one of the first to congratulate us. Professionally, Casey was loyal, not one show ended in his 39 years of hosting America's most listened to program without him giving credit to his co-creators and entire producing staff. Casey was a perfectionist, it took him 18 hours to track his first 3 hour countdown, he read and edited every script in great detail. He was a great businessman and knew his value. He also never used his platform to promote a personal agenda or show favoritism. Personally, Casey was humble, funny and a great father to his children. I'm sad that we no longer have Casey Kasem with us but grateful he lived a long wonderful life that made our lives better."
I could not have said it better. Today Sean is President of Programming at cable super-station WGN America from Chicago.
Speaking of television I must say, in closing, something about Detroit TV news and their coverage of radio news and events. The WYCD Downtown Hoedown garnered an unprecedented 55 minutes of TV time over a three day run! Very impressive indeed.
The YouTube video highlighting Casey (linked above) was provided to all three local TV news departments. All three came out to my home on Sunday, June 15th to interview me and obtain a copy of video which showed Casey in LOCAL Detroit venues. Other than WDIV Local 4, none of the video clips on that DVD were used by any local station. Every station in town seemed to roll with stock footage from Hollywood that had nothing to do with Detroit.
I was very pleased they all cared enough to garner the footage but used less than 5% of it. I truly do not want to seem like a whining complainer, but why can't a story about a man who has more local ties to Detroit than any other city in America, feature LOCAL content to illustrate how, with all his fame and notoriety, Casey Kasem never forgot the city he called home.
Our beloved friend Casey is now counting 'em down up in Heaven with countless rock and roll stars already there, but for us still down here listening to radio and recalling the over three decades he entertained us, we thank God for those years and realize that for now the countdown has ended, but the signal and the memories will go on forever.
Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at email@example.com