50 years ago today, Casey Kasem debuted his American Top 40 countdown

It was fifty years ago today when Casey Kasem hosted the first American Top 40 countdown. It quickly grew into one of the most-syndicated radio programs in history. NPR takes a look.

“On July 4, 1970, the countdown started. Originally hosted by Casey Kasem, American Top 40 played “the best selling and most-played songs from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico,” as he stated on the first program broadcast 50 years ago as of tomorrow.

“On any given week, American Top 40 could feature a ballad, next to a country song, next to a funk song, next to a rock song. The show became a national obsession but 50 years ago, it was considered a risky idea.

“‘You remember, at the end of the ’60s, Top 40 was not the most popular format,’ Casey Kasem told NPR in 1982. ‘And here we were coming along with a show called American Top 40, and people said, “You must be nuts!”

“‘When American Top 40 launched, it was only played on seven stations,’ says Chris Molanphy, a pop music critic and host of the podcast Hit Parade. ‘The Top 40 format, which dates back to early-to-mid ’50s, was starting to wane as FM radio was taking off. It would be a stretch to say that American Top 40 made Top 40 music cool again, but it certainly made it viable again.'”

Keep reading. Meanwhile, here’s the first show from 50 years ago.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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