Local radio host: Kasem the ‘voice of a generation’

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – America lost an entertainment icon when radio great Casey Kasem died Sunday at the age of 82. It is a loss that reverberated through all American music lovers – and especially those who shared Kasem’s passion for the airwaves.

Huntsville’s Bob Labbe has been in the radio biz fort nearly 4 decades. He’s been spinning the tunes of yesteryear on his  weekly, 4-hour, live program called ‘Reelin’ in the Years’ since 1990 on WLRH-89.3 FM. The program takes a look at the history of pop music from 1950-1990; the ear of the 45-rpm record – and an era defined in large part by a man synonymous with American radio.

“It’s a loss for radio, it’s a loss for our country,” Labbe laments. “Because he was kind of the voice of a generation if you want to put it that way,” the radio host says of Kasem.

Labbe says Kasem’s death can be viewed on a grander scale than the loss of one great, revered man – he says Kasem’s passing signifies the end of an era.

WLRH-89.3 FM radio host Bob Labbe talks losing an American radio icon. (PHOTO: David Wood, WHNT)

WLRH-89.3 FM radio host Bob Labbe talks losing an American radio icon. (PHOTO: David Wood, WHNT)

“We don’t have a Larry Lujack anymore, we don’t have a Dick Clark and now we don’t have a Casey Kasem –  who’s going to be next?” Labbe asks rhetorically. “I don’t think in today’s world, in today’s business – corporations won’t allow that to happen like we had back then.”

Labbe insists Kasem’s influence on American music and the American populous in general was that of an unwitting mentor and idol to thousands.

“Back in his heyday we always rushed to the radio to hear that American Top 40 –  we wanted to know the countdown of our favorite songs and the only way to get that is through Casey Kasem’s American Top 40,” Labbe remembers. “He was an inspiration for everybody outside radio –  we wanted to hear the music and the stories behind the songs – for us in radio, we wanted to be Casey Kasem.”

Labbe knows a lot about music, himself. He also knows a little about the science behind how music and the musings of radio hosts reach the listener’s ears. That radio waves, once broadcast and transmitted, never really go away. The sound may be absorbed and the signal strength may weaken, but somewhere, buzzing throughout the cosmos and through every particle of physical matter is that velvety, jaunty, much-loved voice announcing this week’s number one song – and that legacy will never be “off air.”