The Weekly Charts
The central premise of "American Top 40" was to count down the top 40 records in the United States every week. But many people didn't know exactly who determined the "top 40" or how it was determined.
"American Top 40" used the the Billboard "Hot 100" for its program, considered by many to be the most authoritative American music chart. The "Hot 100" began in August 1958 and is still around today.
To come up with the Hot 100 Billboard surveyed dozens of record stores and retail outlets as well as pop music stations. Record stores would submit a list of their top selling singles (usually about 30) and radio stations would send in a playlist of their most played songs (again usually about 30) Billboard would then gather the data, weigh it against factors such as size of the store or station (after all a large station has more impact on music than a small station) and come up with the Hot 100. I have always thought 40 positions for a radio countdown was ideal as it was around the position that a song could be safely assume to be a "national hit". Most of the radio stations would have most if not all the songs of that weeks Top 40 at the time on their current playlist, and most retail outlets would have these songs available for purchase.
In the early years, the chart was weighted slightly in favor of sales over airplay. But by the early 70s single sales were slowing down while radio's influence was increasing. Therefore in June 1973, Billboard revised its chart two ways. First they started to include sales data from One-Stops (which sell primarily to jukebox operators) and they also increased the influence of radio airplay on the chart. This continued until the Hot 100's major overall in November 1991, and American Top 40's decision to discontinue using that chart for it's program.
By 1991 pop stations (also called "Top 40" or "CHR" stations) began to fragment. In the 70s, a pop station would play most anything popular, but by the 90s these stations began to focus on a particular format - leaning towards R&B or Adult Contemporary or whatever). Also by 1991, pop radio was in a major slump. Its core audience - teens, were turning instead to Country or R&B stations. Where there was once over 600 pop stations in the US in the 80s, there was only about 350 or so in the nineties. Another factor was that radio began to play more and more songs that weren't available as singles. And what was selling well as singles were many times hard rap or hip-hop songs, not played much on pop radio. Taken together, AT40 in November 1991 decided to abandon the Hot 100 in favor of Billboard's "Hot 100 Airplay" chart - which ranked the most popular songs on CHR radio. (And was the airplay part of the Hot 100.)
This decision did not sit well with many listeners, and more than one of my friends abandoned AT40 at this point. Yet it was defended by the shows producers as being the only practical solution to a market of 3 major countdowns and a continuing shrinking list of appropriate stations. Unfortunately it didn't help in the long run and the show eventually died.
Note - The weekly charts, taken from the official Billboard charts, are copyrighted by Billboard/BPI Communications and I cannot place these countdowns on my page. There are several official Billboard Chart reference books, including actual chart reproduction books, produced by Record Research. If you are interested, you are encouraged to purchase these books or check them out at your local library.
Popular regular and semi-regular features
Long Distance Dedications - AT40's most popular feature didn't begin until the show went to a 4 hour format in 1978. The number of "LDD"s varied between one and two with each show, but there was at least one each week of a non-special countdown. Note: Casey's Top 40 and the new American Top 40 have 3 dedications per show, but I don't think the original AT40 ever had that many.
Review of last weeks Top 3 - Began when the show went to a 4 hour format in 1978. Each week's regular countdown began with the playing of the previous weeks top 3 songs. As song grew longer in the 80s sometimes only 1 or 2 of the top 3 would be played, although all would be named. By the late 80s, the show ceased playing any of the last weeks top 3 to begin the countdowns but still named them at the beginning of the show.
Where are they now - A semi-regular feature in which Casey would bring listeners up to date with a popular but no longer charting act - usually from the 1960s.
AT40 archives - Probably only 2nd to the "Long Distance Dedications" in terms of popularity. Beginning in 1978, when the show went to a 4 hour format, Casey counted down all the #1 records of the 1970s at the rate of three a week from January 1970 to December 1979 (First song played - "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" by B.J. Thomas. Last song played - "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes). This series ended in around July 1980.
Soon after, AT40 started playing all the #1 records of the 60s from January 1960 to December 1969 (First song played - "Why" by Frankie Avalon. Last song played - "Someday We'll Be Together" by Diana Ross and the Supremes) This series ended in 1982.
AT40 Extra - AT40's oldest feature. This was simply one to three songs played every week based around a story or event, such as the artists birthday or some trivia. Extras became less common in the 80s, although they did pop up from time to time.
What's On Top Of the Other Charts - Began as a regular feature around 1973 (although it may have appeared on semiregular basis before). During the last hour of the program, usually - but not always - around the naming of the weeks #1 - Casey and Shadoe would tell what was at #1 on the other music charts published by Billboard. At first it was the Album, R&B and Country charts. Briefly in the late 70s, the Disco chart #1 was also named. Later the Adult Contemporary chart was added.
AT40 Flashback - A Shadoe Steven's feature, each week Shadoe would look back and play parts of the top 5 songs "10 years ago this week" or whatever. Years flashbacked to varied from the 60s to a late as only a year ago from the countdown involved.
AT40 as you might expect was a 52 week a year job with no "off-season" or reruns. Every week brought a new show and even dedicated people like Casey Kasem or Shadoe Stevens needed some time off for other things. To fill their places, AT40 brought in various guest hosts who almost became identified with the show as much as Casey or Shadoe did. Guest hosts changed over the years and over some years the same guest host would be called back to do the show. Here is a very partial list of known guest hosts who did the program. If you have any information on a guest host who did the program and is not listed here, please let me know.
During Casey's run, the guest host slot was usually filled in by professional disc jockeys who were personal friends of Casey. Later in the show's run, the slot was sometimes filled by celebrities.
Alot of people helped me with this list of guest hosts. Thanks you one and all! If you know of any others please e-mail me :) Alot of info on this site was provided by other AT40 fans.
|25 March 1972||Dick Clark|
|13 July 1974||Humble Harv|
|Many shows (late 70s to early 80s)||Marc Elliott|
|9 June 1979||Bruce Phillip Miller|
|27 March 1982||Lee Sherwood|
|Many shows (mid to late 80s)||Charlie Van Dyke|
|16 April 1983||Bob Eubanks|
|13 August 1983||Keri Tombasian|
|13 April 1985||Chuck Britton|
|12 April 1986/12 March 1994||Dave Roberts|
|23 July 1988||Daryl Hall and John Oates|
|17 February 1990||Donny Osmond|
|12 January 1991||Matthew and Gunnar Nelson|
|11 January 1992||Richard Marx|
|7 March 1992||Jack Wagner|
|4 April 1992||Jody Wately|
|31 October 1992||Jay Thomas|
|1 May 1993||Martha Quinn|
|4 September 1993||Harry Anderson and Delaine Matthews|
|12 March 1994||David Hall|
|18 June 1994||MeShack Taylor and J.C. Wendall|
|23 July 1994||Joe Cipriano|
|30 July 1994||Adrienne Walker|
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