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'Reach for the Stars'

While watching American Dreams
one Sunday evening, I recalled separate meetings I had years ago with its producer, Dick Clark, and that other "music man," Casey Kasem.

Clark personified pop music on TV for decades on ABC's American Bandstand, as Kasem did on radio with his syndicated American Top 40 countdowns.

During interviews with both men, I gleaned that much of their success owed to thinking young, loving their jobs and constantly changing with the times.

Clark's American Dreams
has melded his Bandstand
days with his producer career (among his many credits: Academy of Country Music Awards
and Golden Globe Awards).

One episode of that evocative NBC drama, set in the '60s, popped up last fall on VH1 —where Kasem used to host countdown-themed music specials.

While a Los Angeles deejay, Casey said he was stumped when his station bosses wanted him to freshen his format. Then one night, he spotted a music magazine in the trash, and reworked some of its articles into brief anecdotes about singers and songs. That formula later set his countdown apart from the others.

Kasem, who's also acted and done voiceovers for commercials and cartoons like Scooby-Doo
(as Shaggy), had difficulty launching AT40
in 1970 syndication, but gradually its lineup and ratings grew. Clark also took a risk in mounting American Music Awards
30 years ago for ABC, after CBS secured the Grammy Awards.

Just as Clark and Kasem have reinvented themselves often, so cable should continue to adapt to changing times. The technology informing that adaptability will be much discussed at this year's CAB gathering in Chicago.

Those who know me know I often look for musical hooks to my stories. So, in checking the Chicago Music Page on the Web, I found some acts "with Chicago connections" who were featured on one or both of these icons' shows — and whose song titles could be reinterpreted as advice for cable: "Feeling Stronger Everyday" (Chicago); "A Change Is Gonna Come" (Sam Cooke); and "Keep on Pushing" (the Impressions).

Two even contain a warning: "Only the Strong Survive" (Jerry Butler) and "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing" (Fontella Bass).

If he were a CAB speaker, Kasem no doubt would reprise his AT40 sign-off, "Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars."

Or as my high-school principal used to exhort us, "Aim high!"