Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 was a radio show where Kasem played the top 40 records of the week.  The program first went on the air nationwide on July 4, 1970.  The show presented “the best selling and most-played songs from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico,” as Kasem stated on the first program.

From an NPR report, July 3, 2020:

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.”

By the early 1980s, the show was heard on more than 500 stations across America and on the Armed Forces Radio Network around the world. The show succeeded not just because it was a list of popular songs, but because of the humanity that Casey Kasem brought between the songs.

Chris Molanphy credits the show’s use of trivia and biographical information for that connection, including a recurring segment called Long Distance Dedications. Kasem read letters sent in from around the world that dedicated songs to loved ones. In one such instance, a soldier stationed overseas wrote that his wife had sent him a handwritten copy of the lyrics to “Faithfully” by Journey and asked Kasem to play the song for her.

“The thing about Kasem was that he had such a warm vibe and he was such a good storyteller that he could read the most mawkish letter and make it very powerfully relatable,” Molanphy says. “You find yourself getting choked up listening to these little stories.”

Photo by Gary Friedman


Kasem hosted American Top 40 from 1970 to 1988, and again from 1998 to 2004. From January 1989 to early 1998, he was the host of Casey’s Top 40, Casey’s Hot 20 and Casey’s Countdown. From 1998 to 2009, he also hosted two adult contemporary spinoffs of American Top 40: American Top 20 and American Top 10. He helped found the American Video Awards in 1983, and continued to co-produce and host it until its final show in 1987.

Kemal AminCaseyKasem died on June 15, 2014, at the age of 82.



The Twin Cities was a latecomer to the American Top 40 family.  According to local radio expert Drew Durigan:

It was first aired on Sunday, January 6, 1974, from 7 to 10 pm, on KDWB  AM. 

By the summer of 1974, by mid-June, the show had been moved to Sunday mornings, 7 to – 10 am.

Less than a year later, it moved back to Sunday nights, 7 to – 10 pm. When the show expanded to four hours, it became 7 to 11 pm.

KDWB was AM only until they purchased the 101.3 FM frequency from Fairchild. Their first day on FM was Thursday, September 16, 1976. Which would mean AT40 first aired on Twin Cities FM dials Sunday, September 19, 1976.   #1 that week was Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music.”

KDWB AM and FM were simulcast at first, so the show was aired on both stations.

After KDWB AM & FM split in 1979, the AM continued to run AT40 in the same timeslot.

When KDWB FM returned to Contemporary Hit Radio in 1984, AT40 remained at 7 to 11 pm Sunday nights.

1978 Ad courtesy Jeff Lonto