Casey Kasem hosts first American Top 40 on July 4, 1970

2003 Radio Music Awards - Show
2003 Radio Music Awards - Show / Michael Caulfield Archive/GettyImages

On July 4, 1970, radio personality Casey Kasem hosted the first American Top 40 countdown, which he would host until 1988. This was a song countdown radio program listeners would tune into each weekend to find out where the top songs from their top bands ranked.

Over the years, the countdown has had several different hosts.

  • Casey Kasem 1970-1988
  • Shadoe Stevens 1988-1995
  • Casey Kasem 1998-2004
  • Ryan Seacrest 2004-present

Below is the monologue Kasem read for the very first episode.

"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 of Billboard magazine for the week ending July 11, 1970. In this hour at No. 32 in the countdown, a song that's been a hit 4 different times in 19 years! And we're just one tune away from the singer with the $10,000 gold hubcaps on his car! Now, on with the countdown!"

 Casey Kasem at the beginning of the ina

American Top 40 with Casey Kasem

During Kasem's run as host would bring many special features to the show. As always, it would be three hours until the 80s, when it was extended to four of the top 40 songs of the previous week, but Kasem added some fun extras. At the top of the hour, a group of singers would announce the song's position on the chart with a sing-song, "Number 40!" This was never done for the No. 1 song, as that would be introduced with a drumroll.

Other extras included Chart Trivia, a segment where listeners wrote in to ask a trivia question, often leading to an extra song being played. One favorite was the Long Distance Dedication segment, where listeners would write an emotional letter to Kasem with a specially requested song. This was inspired by the 1964 "Letter from Elaina," which chronicled her encounter with The Beatles.

At the beginning of the countdown, Kasem would recap the previous week's top three songs. When this began, he would play all three pieces, but as songs became longer, for time purposes, he would eventually only announce these songs before starting the new week's countdown.

Kasem would also run down the top songs on the soul/R&B and dance/disco charts. He would often predict the next week's No. 1 song, host a "Whatever happened to..." segment, and other additional tidbits about music.

During the 80s, listeners would wait patiently for their favorite song so they could hit the play/record button to make their mix tapes from the countdown in which Kasem always ended with:

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

Casey Kasem

Next. Look back at 15 amazing 80s one hit wonder rock songs. Look back at 15 amazing 80s one hit wonder rock songs. dark

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