Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem attends Fred Segal's birthday charity event and auction at a Private Residence on August 29, 2009 in Malibu, California.

Michael Bezjian/WireImage

Shadoe Stevens, who took over the American Top 40 mantle from Casey Kasem in 1989, says the late DJ was genuinely the likeable guy you heard on the radio.

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"It's a cynical world, and cynicism has become the mark of intellectual sophistication. Somehow everyone has to be hipper than everyone else," Stevens tells The Hollywood Reporter. "He wasn't any of that. He wasn't mean-spirited. He wasn't self-important. He was a genuine, nice man and kind."

Kasem died Sunday at 82. 

Stevens says Kasem really meant what he said in his American Top 40 signoff, “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”

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When Stevens moved from Boston to Los Angeles to break into the city's radio scene, he sought Kasem's advice.

"I talked to Casey about how to make that adjustment from the bombastic, over-enthused Top 40 disc jockey to a more realistic thing. He gave me this advice about projection: 'It's not quite a whisper – a little more than a whisper – but less air.' It was a revelation to me that I had to think in terms as something so subtle."

The pair would be friendly for decades – including when Stevens took over  American Top 40 in 1989 – but they didn't become true friends until the late 90s when they'd have play dates for their daughters, Liberty Kasem and Chyna Rose Stevens.

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He says in addition to being an radio innovator, Kasem had a voice few could match.

"It's unusual a person can be identified completely by his voice. Like Ryan Seacrest – he's really successful, he's good at what he does, but when you're trying to mimic him on Saturday Night Live, what do you do? Casey was very distinct."

  • This story first appeared on THR.com