Tom Rounds, Pioneer of Music Videos and Rock Fests, Dead At 77

Tom Rounds, the man who put on the first rock festival, produced the first music videos and co-created “American Top 40,” the syndicated radio countdown program hosted by Casey Kasem for most of its run, died yesterday, June 1. He was 77.

Along with Kasem, Ron Jacobs and Don Bustany, Rounds developed what was the first national countdown show in 1969. “American Top 40,” which originally counted down the forty top songs as ranked on Billboard’s Hot 100, was the first and most popular radio program offered by Watermark Inc., the syndication company formed by Rounds and Jacobs.

Although the first “Amercian Top 40” was heard on just a few stations when it debuted on July 4, 1970 with Kasem at the helm, Rounds brought that total to the 500-station mark by the time ABC purchased Watermark in 1982.

Rounds had been successful in radio for a decade prior to “American Top 40” as a news reporter on WINS New York, air personality on KPOI Honolulu (where he worked with Jacobs) and program director at top 40 KFRC San Francisco. It was there he created the concept of a live outdoor concert as station promotion and charity event. In June 1967, KFRC’s Fantasy Fair And Magic Mountain Music Festival became the first rock festival, pre-dating both the Monterey Pop Festival (a week later) and The Woodstock Music & Art Fair (in 1969). The festival included the first major concert appearance by The Doors, whose single “Light My Fire” would top the Hot 100 seven weeks later.


Rounds left KFRC to form Charlatan Productions where, with Jacobs, he not only produced other rock festivals but worked with record companies to develop films to match songs as a promotional tool for artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Steppenwolf. These were the first music videos, pre-dating MTV’s birth by over a decade.

In 1985 Rounds formed Radio Express, which to this day handles all aspects of radio for clients worldwide, including format imaging and production, music scheduling and syndication of over 40 programs including “American Top 40 With Ryan Seacrest,” “American Country Countdown” and “The World Chart Show.”


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