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

Fifty years ago today, the first episode of the syndicated radio institution American Top 40 aired. The first station to air it was KDEO, in El Cajon, CA, who presented it on the evening of July 3rd, 1970. It broadcast through six other stations on July 4th and its reach would grow exponentially throughout the years, airing on 1,000 different stations at its peak. Casey Kasem, its iconic longtime host, would count down the most popular songs on the Billboard charts every week.

“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” is how he introduced his first show. “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…”

The first song ever played on the show was Marvin Gaye’s “End Of Our Road,” in the #40 slot. The show’s first #1 song was Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me (Not To Come),” which we reviewed in our The Number Ones column (naturally). Other artists that would get airtime that first week included the Beatles, Elvis Presley, the Jackson Five, the Temptations, and the Carpenters. Crosby Stills Nash And Young’s “Ohio,” which had come out a couple months earlier, came in at #30.

Kasem hosted the show continuously until 1988; it was taken over by Shadoe Stevens until 1995. It then went off the air for a short period, but was revived in 1998 with Kasem as host. (Kasem spent the interim hosting his own Casey’s Top 40.) Ryan Seacrest took the show over in 2004, and it still airs every week.

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)”