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Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.
American Top 40 is a weekly, long-running, syndicated radio program, originally hosted by Casey Kasem and currently hosted by Ryan Seacrest, which counts down the forty most popular radio songs in the United States.
In addition to playing the week's most popular songs, AT40 frequently included various extra segments. Perhaps most famous among these was Kasem's "Long Distance Dedication": a write-in request from a listener for a particular song, always sentimental in nature, typically directed at a person the listener had not seen in a considerable amount of time (such as a long-distance romantic couple, wife to overseas-based military husband, someone's birth parent on the other side of the country, etc). These particular segments were probably best remembered for the almost narmish tone with which Kasem would read the requests on air.
In 1988, Kasem left the show and was replaced by Shadoe Stevens. The change, as well as an altered format, went over poorly, and AT40 was eventually cancelled in 1995. Kasem, though, had in the meantime started up a rival program, Casey's Top 40, and eventually managed to acquire the rights to the American Top 40 title, and the show was Un Cancelled in 1998. Kasem subsequently retired from the program in 2004; Ryan Seacrest took over hosting duties and helms AT40 to this day.
Song-ranking data was originally derived from Billboard Magazine's "Hot 100" pop/rock singles chart before switching over to Radio and Records (which Kasem had used in his competing program) in 1998. Currently, songs are ranked by data from Mediabase.
In the mid-1980s, American Top 40 also had a Music Video equivalent: America's Top 10, which was basically the last hour of the radio program -- that is, the ten most popular songs on the Billboard chart -- translated to television, using clips from the songs' videos, natch. Other similar programs have included:
- Weekly Top 40, hosted by radio personality Rick Dees;
- Casey's Top 40, hosted by Kasem himself when he left AT40 in 1988;
- MTV's (later VH-1's) Top 20 Video Countdown.
Reruns of the program, mostly from the mid and late '70s, are syndicated weekly on "oldies" stations, typically late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
American Top 40 provides examples of:
- Bowdlerization: Chuck Berry's "My Ding-A-Ling" was replaced with a different song in several markets when it reached #1 in 1972, and reruns of those weeks' programs have featured a different song in the #1 position in certain markets.
- Catch Phrase: "Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars!" in the Kasem years.
- Dueling Shows: Rick Dees' Weekly Top 40 and, ironically enough, Casey's Top 40 in the early 1990s. For the Music Video side of things, Top 20 Video Countdown for America's Top 10.
- The Eighties: When the show was arguably at the height of its power, although it actually started in The Seventies.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Casey "Zoinks, Scoob!" Kasem, Shadoe Stevens, Ryan Seacrest
- Long List / Top Ten List: Forty songs, plus a couple of extras, in four hours (originally three).
- Long Runner: The program debuted in 1970 and has been going strong ever since. Well, except for that hiatus in the mid-1990s.
- Nothing but Hits: The entire premise of the program. Averted in hindsight by the syndicated reruns, featuring hit songs of their day which have been all but forgotten by now.
- Rearrange the Song: Some songs would be cut in half to control the show's running time; this typically happened to songs that were on their way down the charts.
- Spin-Off: American Country Countdown, a country music-version of AT40 that premiered in 1973 and is still going strong today. The current host is Kix Brooks (one half of the long-running duo Brooks & Dunn); before him were original host Don Bowman (who once guest-hosted AT40) and later, Bob Kingsley (the host at the height of ACC's run).
- Quietly Performing Sister Show: See above. ACC is radio's longest-running, continuously produced syndicated program, outlasting AT40 (whose current run dates from 1998, the year it returned from a three-year hiatus).
- Suspiciously Similar Song: Through the years, a few of the commercial bumpers, most notably, a 1977 cue styled after the Starlight Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight." Additionally, the show ending theme used from 1979-1984, a synthesizer-heavy piece, had a few of its bars inspired by Ray Parker Jr. & Raydio's 1978 hit "Jack and Jill."