50 Years of American Top 40

“Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”

Casey Kasem, Host of the American Top 40
Casey Kasem was the original host American Top 40, which premiered 50 years ago this week.
Gary Friedman/Getty Images

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.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

On With the Countdown: Happy 50th Birthday to the ‘American Top 40’ Program

AT40 counted down the top 40 hits from the Billboard Hot 100 for its first 21 years. The show switched to Hot 100 Airplay (now called Radio Songs) in November 1991 and switched again to another Billboard airplay chart, the mainstream top 40-based Pop Songs survey, in January 1993. The show’s rationale for the change was to have more “mainstream” hits and fewer urban, dance and rap songs. The 2 Live Crew’s 1989 single “Me So Horny,” which reached No. 26 on the Hot 100 with relatively little pop radio play, is often cited as the type of record that vexed AT40 listeners.

American Top 40 With Casey Kasem Debuted 50 Years Ago Today — This Was Its Countdown

Check out the first-ever American Top 40 countdown below.

40 Marvin Gaye – “End Of Our Road”
39 Mark Lindsey – “Silver Bird”
38 Eric Burden – “Spill The Wine”
37 Crabby Appleton – “Go Back”
36 B.J. Thomas – “I Just Can’t Help Believing”
35 Aretha Franklin – “Spirit In The Dark”
34 John Phillips – “Mississippi”
33 Flaming Ember – “Westbound #9″
32 Four Tops – “It’s All In The Game”
31 Fifth Dimension – “Save The Country”
30 Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young – “Ohio”
29 Ray Stevens – “Everything Is Beautiful”
28 The Impressions – “Check Out Your Mind”
27 Moody Blues – “Question”
26 Stevie Wonder – “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”
25 Wilson Pickett – “Sugar, Sugar”
24 Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young – “Teach Your Children”
23 The Poppy Family – “Which Way You Goin’ Billy”
(Oldie: Bill Cosby – “Little Ole Man”)
22 The Moments – “Love On A Two Way Street”
21 Mountain – “Mississippi Queen”
20 Bread – “Make It With You”
19 Pacific Gas & Electric – “Are You Ready”
18 Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – “Love Land”
17 Alive And Kicking – “Tighter & Tighter”
16 White Plains – “My Baby Loves Lovin’”
15 Miguel Rios – “A Song Of Joy”
(Oldie: Louis Armstrong – “Hello Dolly”)
14 Brotherhood Of Man – “United We Stand”
13 Rare Earth – “Get Ready”
12 The Five Stairsteps – “O-o-oh Child”
11 The Pipkins – “Gimme Dat Ding”
10 Vanity Fair – “Hitchin’ A Ride”
(Oldie: Blood, Sweat & Tears – “Spinning Wheel”)
09 Elvis Presley – “The Wonder Of You”
08 The Beatles – “The Long And Winding Road”
07 The Carpenters – “Close To You”
06 Melanie – “Lay Down (Candles In The Wind)”
05 Freda Payne – “Band Of Gold”
04 Blues Image – “Ride Captain Ride”
03 The Temptations – “Ball Of Confusion”
02 The Jackson Five – “The Love You Save”
(Oldie: The Rolling Stones – “Satisfaction”
01 Three Dog Night – “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)”

Legendary radio personality Casey Kasem dies at 82

Jean and Casey Kasem in Beverly Hills, California, on Nov. 10, 2003.Doug Benc / Getty Images file

Police open investigation into Casey Kasem’s death four years later

Children of Casey Kasem settle lawsuit with widow over death


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