American Top 40 (commonly abbreviated to AT40) is an internationally syndicated, independent song countdown radio program created by Casey Kasem, Don Bustany, Tom Rounds and Ron Jacobs. The program is hosted by Ryan Seacrest, who took over the program from Kasem upon his 2004 departure.
Originally a production of Watermark Inc. (later a division of ABC Radio, now Cumulus Media Networks), AT40 is now distributed by Premiere Radio Networks in the United States, Canada, Australia, the Philippines, Singapore, China, India, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and several other territories worldwide. It can also be heard on both the iHeartRadio application and the AT40 Mobile application on mobile smartphones and tablets.
Co-creator Casey Kasem hosted the original AT40 from its inauguration on July 4, 1970 until August 6, 1988 and returned to host the revived version from March 28, 1998 to January 3, 2004 (for much of the interim, he hosted the competing Casey's Top 40). AT40's other two regular hosts have beenShadoe Stevens, who replaced Kasem on the original AT40 and hosted until its 1994 cancellation, and the aforementioned Ryan Seacrest. Currently,AT40 with Seacrest airs in two different formats, with one distributed to Contemporary Hit Radio (Top 40) stations and the other to Adult Contemporary(formerly Hot Adult Contemporary) stations (which were previously served by two different Kasem-hosted shows; see below). There is no differentiation between the Top 40 and AC versions of AT40 made on air. Kasem is still heard in two weekly replays of vintage shows from the '70s and '80s, respectively.
In its early years, the AT40 used the Billboard charts to compile the countdown, touting it as "the only source". The program subsequently switched to being based on Radio and Records airplay data upon its late 1990s return. Currently the AT40 is based on data from Mediabase, which is also published in the Tuesday Edition of USA Today.
- 2 Reairing of older shows
- 3 Chart data used by American Top 40
- 4 Spin-off programming
- 5 Censorship, offensive songs and affiliate standards
- 6 Special Countdowns
- 7 Substitute hosts
- 8 Notable songs played on American Top 40
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
|“||Here we go with the Top 40 hits of the nation this week on American Top 40, the best-selling and most-played songs from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. This is Casey Kasem in Hollywood, and in the next three hours, we'll count down the 40 most popular hits in the United States this week, hot off the record charts of Billboard magazine for the week ending July 11, 1970. In this hour at #32 in the countdown, a song that's been a hit 4 different times in 19 years! And we're just one tune away from the singer with the $10,000 gold hubcaps on his car! Now, on with the countdown!||”|
|— Casey Kasem at the beginning of the inaugural AT40 broadcast|
American Top 40 began on the Independence Day weekend in 1970, on seven radio stations, the very first being KDEO in El Cajon, California (now KECR), which broadcast the inaugural show the evening of July 3, 1970. The chart data broadcast actually included the top 40 songs from the week ending July 11, 1970. The very first show featured the very last time both Elvis Presley and The Beatles had songs simultaneously in the Top 10. It was originally distributed by Watermark Inc., and was first presented in mono until it started recording in stereo in September 1972. In early 1982, Watermark was purchased by ABC Radio and AT40 became a program of the "ABC Contemporary Radio Network". The program was hosted by Casey Kasem and co-created by Kasem; Don Bustany, Kasem's childhhood friend from Detroit, MI; radio veteran Tom Rounds; and 93/KHJ Program Director Ron Jacobs, who produced and directed the various production elements. Rounds was also the marketing director; the initial funder was California strawberry grower Tom Driscoll.
The show began as a three-hour program written and directed by Bustany, counting down the top 40 songs on Billboards Hot 100 Singles chart. The show quickly gained popularity once it was commissioned, and expanded to a four hour-program on October 7, 1978, to reflect the increasing average length of singles on Billboards Hot 100 chart. The producing staff expanded to eight people, some of them still in the business: Nikki Wine, Ben Marichal, Scott Paton, Matt Wilson, Merrill Shindler, Guy Aoki, Ronnie Allen and Sandy Stert Benjamin. (Bustany retired from AT40 in 1989; since 1994, he has hosted a political talk show on listener-sponsored KPFK.) By the early 1980s, the show could be heard on 520 stations in the United States and at its zenith, the show was broadcast on 1,000-plus stations in some 50 countries. Kasem told the New York Times in 1990 "I accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. That is the timeless thing."
- Bios & stories: Most segments of the show included two countdown songs. Often, Kasem introduced the second song in the segment with a "story" about the song, its recording artist, or both (oftenteased at the preceding commercial break), with the No. 1 song frequently preceded by a story. Here is an example from the week of October 8, 1983:
- Stunning achievement for 33-year-old New York-born Jim Steinman. Jim was writing musicals when he was going to Amherst College in Massachusetts. But not just your basic rock & roll tunes, but words and music for a full-blown musical called The Dream Engine. That show was seen by a man who heads up the New York Shakespeare Festival, Joseph Papp, and he was so impressed, that he bought the rights to it and commissioned Jim Steinman to write another musical. Jim came up with a show called More Than You Deserve. And it was at auditions for that show, that he met a singer calling himself Meat Loaf. The two men started working together and that collaboration resulted in Jim's writing and arranging songs for Meat Loaf, including the big hit "Two out of Three Ain't Bad". In 1981, Jim Steinman released his first solo album Bad for Good. It featured the Top 40 hit "Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through". But, so far it seems, as though the thing that Jim Steinman does best, is write and arrange songs for other artists. And his latest productions are his biggest yet: the number 2 and the number 1 song this week. Probably first time on the chart for one individual. We just heard the number 2 song he wrote and produced for Air Supply, "Making Love out of Nothing at All". Now, here is the other one, the one at the very top. (drumroll) The most popular song in the land for the second consecutive week, is a hit written and produced by Jim Steinman. At number 1, Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart".
- "Number" jingles: Occasionally, a song was preceded by a brief audio clip of a group of singers announcing the song's position on the chart (e.g. "Number 40!"). This was especially common for the first song played in each hour of the show, but was usually not done for the #1 song (which was usually introduced with a drum roll), or for songs preceded by a story. The "number" jingles were updated and re-recorded from time to time, and by the mid-1980s, the show began using two sets of "number" jingles: the standard set, to be used with up-tempo songs; and a softer alternate set, usually used with low-key or romantic songs.
- Chart trivia: AT40 also featured several letters in each show where a listener wrote to ask a chart trivia question. Sometimes these letters led to an extra song being played, though this became less common as songs increased in length in the 1980s.
- Long Distance Dedication: This feature evolved from a spoken-word 45 single that Kasem had recorded in 1964, "Letter from Elaina". The LDD feature began with the August 26, 1978 broadcast, two months before the show expanded to four hours (the first LDD, located in the mail by staffer Matt Wilson, was "Desiree" by Neil Diamond, sent in by a man whose girlfriend, named Desiree, was moving to Germany to live with parents on an American air base). When that show was rebroadcast the weekend of August 25–26, 2007, Kasem recorded two optional segments (played at the discretion of the station) in which he did phone interviews with the man and his former girlfriend about the LDD. Most shows featured two long distance dedications, usually with one during each half of the show. (Sometimes, a song currently in the countdown was requested as a LDD; in such cases, Kasem would typically read the dedication first, and sometimes not even announce the song's chart status until after the song was played.) This feature endured on AT40 into Shadoe Stevens' run as host of the show, from 1988 to 1995, and also followed Kasem on his Westwood One shows, first as "Request and Dedication", and then back to LDD when he returned to AT40 in 1998. Long Distance Dedications were dropped after Ryan Seacrest became host in 2004, but they continued as part of Kasem's adult contemporary countdowns.
- Top Three recaps: Beginning the weekend of February 24–25, 1979, a recap of the previous week's top three songs started off each AT40 episode. Originally all three songs would be played before the countdown began in earnest, but when time constraints became an issue, Kasem would simply announce the #3 and #2 songs and play only the #1 song, or just announce all three songs. By mid-1983, abbreviated recaps became the norm.
- #1's on other Billboard charts: Kasem gave a rundown on songs and albums that were #1 on other Billboard charts, such as country, soul/R&B, and dance/disco. These were typically announced during the Top 10, often before the #1 song on AT40. When Kasem relaunched the show in 1998, he brought this feature back albeit with the chart the show was currently using. However, it was limited to songs and only covered the Mediabase alternative, adult contemporary, and R&B charts.
- Predicting next week's #1 song: For a time in 1972 and 1973, following the week's #1 song, Kasem tried to predict what the #1 song would be on the following week's countdown, based on a poll of theAT40 staff. During the 46-week period that these predictions were used, the poll was successful only 22 weeks, and failed 24 weeks. The final song predicted, on the December 8, 1973 broadcast, wasThe Most Beautiful Girl by Charlie Rich, which was #1 the next week.
- Great Radio Stations: Once an hour, generally halfway into the hour, Kasem relayed three or four radio stations that carried AT40, beginning each list with "American Top 40" is heard in the fifty states and around the world every week on great radio stations like.... One foreign AT40 affiliate, or mention of Armed Forces Radio, was often included, usually as the last station in the list. In addition, new AT40affiliates were mentioned at the top of one of the hours (never the first hour). The multiple station mentions became a regular feature in 1972; prior to then, only one station was mentioned per hour. The first station mentioned on AT40 was KMEN (now KKDD) in San Bernardino, California, on the August 29, 1970 program. Kasem would also do this for the spinoff versions of AT40 he did for adult contemporary stations (see below)
- Special Reports: Occasionally, Kasem did a special report on a particular subject involving the music industry, usually related to a particular song or artist on the week's countdown. For example, whenMusical Youth were in the countdown in 1983 with Pass the Dutchie, he reported on the history of reggae music.
- Whatever happened to...: Kasem periodically did a segment giving an update on an artist who had not been on the charts for some time.
- Oldies: During its first year, each AT40 show featured 3 or 4 "oldies", or chart-topping songs of the past. Normally, one old song aired per hour, which at the time mirrored the format of many Top 40 stations. Most of the oldies included were from the Rock 'N Roll era (post 1955). But occasionally, songs by pre-rock artists like Kay Starr, Perry Como or Nat King Cole were included. Each song was heavily promoted by Kasem and contained a story about the artist or some fact making it relevant to the contemporary audience. By the fall of 1971, only one old song appeared per show. The following year, the "oldie" feature was dropped altogether. Oldies were brought back to AT40 in the fall of 1975 under the title "AT40 Extra". But the feature was phased out again by the end of 1976. Old songs rarely appeared again until the "AT40 Archives" feature began in 1978. Today, some classic rock stations airing re-runs of these early shows will edit some of the "oldies" features out of the broadcast, as songs from the '40s, '50s and '60s do not reflect the stations' mostly '70s and '80s music format.
- AT40 Archives: Once the show expanded to four hours, each of the first three hours ended with the "AT40 Archives" segment that looked back at number one songs of the past. From October 1978 to June 1980, the number one songs of the 1970s were featured in this segment, chronologically, and from June 1980 to November 1981 the number one songs of the 1960s were featured. The "AT40 Archives" feature ended in November 1981; for a short time in 1985, however, the show did feature a segment known as the "AT40 Hall of Fame", spotlighting a noteworthy artist (who may or may not have been charting that week).
- Commercial bumpers: Many commercial breaks generally had a singing jingle at the start and end of each one. At the start of the break was either "Casey's coast to coast" or "The hits from coast to coast"; both were used interchangeably. The end of the break was marked by the name of the program, "American Top 40". The bumpers were originally designed so that stations with no local ads at that point could continue straight to the next segment, with the bumpers changing to a mere jingle: "Casey's coast to coast ... American Top 40".
- Bumper music: The end of each hour's worth of programming was typically indicated by an approximately one-minute-long piece of nondescript bumper music. For the first few years of the program, it was merely the AT40 theme, but beginning in 1978, different pieces began to be used. Like the "number" jingles and the AT40 theme music, the bumpers were occasionally updated and re-recorded, but its only distinguishing feature was the occasional use of the AT40 theme as a leitmotif. The bumper music was typically and often cut short by the local station carrying the program, usually to give thestation identification before starting the next hour, and was also used by stations to "pad out" the show so that it would always end on time. (The first weekend XM Satellite Radio played AT40 shows, the entire bumper music was played, as they were all played completely uncut, but later they played the station identification for the XM channels they were on.) When AT40 returned in 1998, the bumper music was preceded by a preview of the next song, and the lyrics "countin' down the hits with Casey Kasem" were added and played twice. The bumper was then followed by the station ID, with Kasem introducing the next song immediately after.
- Sign-off: After the #1 song was played, the bumper music began playing, and over that, Kasem typically reported that week's chart date and read the end credits, then signed off with what became his, and the show's, unofficial motto: "Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars." Beginning with the June 25, 1977 show, he usually added "and keep your radio tuned right where it is", as a way to help its affiliated stations improve listener loyalty; this phrase had returned to the show when the AT40 brand name was revived in the late 1990s (Kasem had also used it on Casey's Top 40and its Adult Contemporary-format spinoffs). Even his sign-on and sign-off music became popular, as "Shuckatoom" (composed by James R. Kirk) became a highly requested song, although it was never used apart from the show; "Shuckatoom" was first used to close AT40 with the "Top 40 Rock & Roll Acts of the 1950s" on October 4, 1975, and first used to open AT40 on November 8, 1975.
Although the show's format implied an average of ten countdown songs per hour (once the show had gone to a four-hour format), this was not rigidly enforced; however, by the mid-1980s, it had become increasingly rare for the final hour of the show to have any more than the top eleven or any fewer than the top nine songs left to play. The songs' run times determined how many would comfortably fit into each hour. The show bent to fit the Billboard rankings, and some songs had to be edited (in addition to whatever edits had been done for the single release), with a verse or chorus cut (usually for songs on their way out of the countdown), in order to fit into the show. But Kasem and his producers never lost sight of the stations carrying their show, and that the stories behind the songs were the chief reason that listeners tuned to AT40.
In 1988, Kasem left the show over contract concerns with ABC. Industry trade paper Billboard magazine reported that the main disputes between Kasem and Watermark/ABC were over his salary, because of declining ratings and a smaller group of stations airing the show. Casey's final AT40 show aired on August 6, 1988. At no point during that final show did Kasem ever let on that any changes were afoot, and simply omitted the phrase "join me next week" while closing the show.
Kasem was replaced by Shadoe Stevens, whose first American Top 40 show aired on August 13, 1988, on 1,014 stations. Kasem joined the Westwood One radio network less than a year later to start a rival show, Casey's Top 40. Many AT40 listeners were upset by Kasem's departure and, as a result, many stations dropped American Top 40 in favor of Casey's Top 40 once it hit the airwaves on January 21, 1989. In an attempt to win back an audience, AT40 tried new show features, including interview clips, music news, top 5 flashbacks, and previews of upcoming chart hits (called the "AT40 Sneek Peek"). AT40 in its later Shadoe years frequently used a "No Nuttin'" gimmick, in which the number jingle was followed by the song, with no introduction by Shadoe; this tactic irked critics of the show.
Casey's Top 40 was based on the Contemporary Hit Radio/Pop tracks chart in Radio & Records magazine, which at the time was the same chart source as Rick Dees' Weekly Top 40. American Top 40was briefly canceled in the USA on July 9, 1994, when then-owner ABC withdrew the show and acquired the rights to rival Rick Dees Weekly Top 40 (since headed back to ABC Radio/Citadel Media).AT40 ended up in the hands of Radio Express (its overseas distributors since the 1980s, founded by AT40 co-founder Tom Rounds), and was also canceled in the remaining foreign markets on January 28, 1995. These foreign markets replaced it with a similar format called The World Chart Show.
In 1997, Casey Kasem acquired the rights to the American Top 40 name. At the time, Kasem was still doing Casey's Top 40 and he went to his syndicator looking to change the name of his program, as the name had not been used since Shadoe Stevens' AT40 was cancelled in 1995. Westwood One would not grant Kasem's request and as a result, Kasem ended his program and left Westwood One. In 1998, he pitched the revived AT40 idea to AMFM Radio Networks, which was owned by Chancellor Media, and on March 28, 1998 the brand new American Top 40 began airing. In addition to the revived AT40, Kasem's other programs done for adult contemporary stations moved with him to AMFM and most Chancellor-owned stations with Top 40 and AC formats began airing the shows (see Spin-off programmingbelow).
The resurrected American Top 40 kept the Radio and Records CHR/Pop chart previously used for "Casey's Top 40" and was used as the basis for the show for the majority of this period. The only exception was a brief period from October 2000 to August 2001 when an obscure Mediabase chart was used. This chart had a rather ambiguous recurrent rule, which would see songs removed weekly from the chart from as high as #10. By the time Kasem's last show aired, the show had gone back to using Mediabase's charts.
On January 10, 2004, Ryan Seacrest took over the hosting duties of American Top 40 from Kasem, although Kasem would continue to host American Top 20 and American Top 10 until his retirement in July 2009. With the host change, AT40 underwent a makeover, using a new theme song and introducing several new features. These extras included interviews with celebrities (which were not restricted to musical or countdown artists), a gossip section, and an update on movies screening in cinemas. Other extras inducted on a regular basis include "AT40 Breakout", a song predicted to crack the chart within the next few weeks (formerly known as the "Out of The Box" hit); "Request Line", a segment in which Ryan Seacrest will play a song requested by a listener; "Double Play", a former hit from the artist just played; "AT40 Sleaze" (inspired by the "Dees Sleaze" segment of the Rick Dees Weekly Top 40 radio show); and "AT40 Rewind", a hit song from the past decade or so. In between songs, Seacrest and his guest hosts often make deadpan one-liners while writers and producers can be heard laughing frequently, including the security guard "Roger". Additionally, Seacrest initially opened most shows by playing the previous week's #1 song, as Kasem often did in the 1980s; this was discontinued after 2006, but in mid-2009 Seacrest began including a shorter recap segment in the show's introduction, in which he would play brief segments of the previous week's top three hits.
The show also began using a new chart that used no recurrent rule. On the first show with Ryan Seacrest, this led to several older songs reappearing after having dropped off many weeks earlier. Over the long term, it meant songs could spend long runs for about a year on the chart even after they went to recurrent status on other published charts. "Here Without You" by 3 Doors Down set a longevity record in 2004 for the CHR show by lasting 50 weeks before finally falling off. In 2006, "Scars" by Papa Roach would go on to tie the record. In 2011, Taio Cruz set AT40's all time longevity record with his song "Dynamite". This hit remained on the chart for 72 weeks, from July 2010 to November 2011. On the Hot AC version of AT40, "Love Song" by Sara Bareilles set the all-time record in 2009 at 103 consecutive weeks. American Top 40 also became more interactive, involving online song voting and e-mail. In December 2006, the series' website was revamped, and the online song voting was discontinued in favor of publishing the Hot AC chart. The website also includes a toll-free number where fans can make requests and "shoutouts", as they would to a local radio station, and by 2009 replayed clips of shoutouts became part of the show. Online song voting was later reinstated, with results of votes on American Top 40's website factored into the chart rankings. AT40 was also expanded to social media through Twitterand Facebook where listeners from around the world will request a song to be included in the AT40 Extra segment, as well as their own mobile application which is available for free download on the Apple AppStore for iOS devices and on Google Play for Android devices.
As of 2014, American Top 40 is produced by Claudine Cazian and engineered by James Rash.
From January 2001 to December 2002, many radio stations aired reruns of 1980-1988 episodes under the title American Top 40 Flashback. The show was syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks. In its early weeks the shows were the original four-hour format of an American Top 40 episode, but after the first month and a half the show was reduced to three hours. Although American Top 40 Flashbackceased in December 2002, radio station WMMX in Dayton, Ohio continued to carry American Top 40 Flashback on Saturday mornings until the premiere of Casey Kasem's American Top 40: The 80s.
On August 4, 2006, XM Satellite Radio began replays of the original 1970s and 1980s AT40 shows with Casey Kasem that were digitally remastered from the original vinyl LPs and open-reel master tapes by Shannon Lynn of Charis Music Group. The event began with a weekend long marathon of original shows, with AT40 then being added as a regular show on two of XM's Decades channels, "The 70s on 7" and "The 80s on 8". With the merger of Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio, these AT40 shows began airing on both services on November 15, 2008. On the 70s on 7, it replaced the 'Satellite Survey', a Top 30 countdown of 70s hits, produced by Sirius and hosted by Dave Hoeffel. On the 80s on 8, it replaced 'The Big 40' countdown produced by Sirius and hosted by Nina Blackwood. As of October 11, 2009, Sirius XM replaced the AT40 countdown on 80s on 8 and debuted a revised version of 'The Big 40' countdown now co-hosted by four of the five original MTV VJs: Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, and Martha Quinn.
Sirius XM "70s on 7" currently runs AT40 each Saturday at 12PM with encore broadcasts the following Sunday at 9AM and at 12 midnight. Most show dates roughly correspond to the current week in real time. The mix of AT40 episodes being run on XM include the year-end countdowns, which are typically run in two parts: the first half (#100-#51) in one time slot, and then the second half (#50-#1) in the following time slot. The AT40 specials are also part of XM's rotation; for instance, "AT40 Goes to the Movies" aired prior to the 2007 Academy Awards, and on February 24, "The Top 40 Acts Of The 80s So Far" aired on XM 80s the first week of July 2007. Also, "The Top 40 Songs of the Disco Era (1974-1979)" aired on Sirius XM "70s on 7" the second weekend of July 2011.
From October through early November 2006, oldies radio station KQQL in Minneapolis/St. Paul, which is owned by Clear Channel Communications, ran a series of American Top 40 episodes from the 1970s. Aside from one week, when the station attempted to air a four-hour episode from 1979 in the three-hour timeslot (resulting in the show getting cut off at #11 and the top 10 not being heard), this test run was largely successful. Because of the success, Premiere Radio Networks decided to launch "Casey Kasem's American Top 40: The 1970s" into national syndication featuring the three-hour shows from 1970 to 1978, and the last three hours of shows originally aired from October 1978 through December 1979. (One original four-hour program, first aired in October 1978, was edited into a three-hour program for reairing in 2007, and the four-hour "Disco Hits" special from July 1979 with the first hour optional was aired in 2008, but until the fall of 2010, no other program from the last 15 months of the 1970s was included in the "AT40: The 70s" package. Starting in late 2010, Premiere began airing three-hour versions of four-hour AT40s from 1978-1979, beginning the broadcasts at the start of the countdown's second hour; during the spring of 2012, Premiere began making the first hour of these programs "optional," meaning that stations can choose to air all four hours of the four-hour programs, or just the last three.) Starting in 2012, whenever programs from 1970-1972 were scheduled to air, Premiere began offering affiliates the option of airing a later 1970s program instead (typically, a corresponding year from seven years later, or 1977-1979).
The 1980s version premiered on April 8, 2007, replacing the American Top 40 Flashback reruns. The shows are available in either their full original four-hour format, or an abbreviated three-hour version that omits the first hour of the show. To date, the latest program to air as part of the "AT40: The 80s" package has been August 6, 1988 – Kasem's last show with the original program, and no programs from 1988-1989 with Shadoe Stevens as host have been re-aired.
To date, the only re-aired classic AT40 program that featured a host other than Kasem was the March 25, 1972 show with Dick Clark as host, aired as a tribute after Clark's death.
Newly produced extra segments hosted by voiceover talent Larry Morgan are available for use at stations' discretion. Prior to Casey leaving Premiere Radio, these segments were hosted by his son Mike; when the series first began, these segments were hosted by one of Casey's former guest hosts, Ed McMann. These extra segments are also heard on the 80s show. KQQL was the first to sign on, airing programs beginning on December 30, 2006. Typically, the "optional extras" were songs that had yet to enter the top 40 of the Hot 100. However, some songs never reached the top 40 but had since become popular at classic hits/oldies/classic rock stations, while others were tributes to performers who had just died. For early 1970s programs, some of the "optional extras" were actually extras (i.e., "oldies") that were originally a part of the original program; in this case, Kasem's original commentary and introduction of the song were kept intact, in lieu of Morgan's voiceover.
In March 2008, XM Satellite Radio rebranded the XM broadcasts with the "Casey Kasem's American Top 40" name and logo used for terrestrial broadcasts, although XM still aired the commercial-free broadcasts, while Premiere Radio carries edited and recut broadcasts with commercials. Following the merger of Sirius and XM, the AT40 shows airing on those platforms have occasionally been edited. In some cases, extras and LDDs have been cut from the original broadcasts.
Sirius XM 70s On 7 aired the inaugural AT 40 (which originally aired July 4, 1970) on July 4, 2013 as part of a special July 4 broadcast.
As of 2013, American Top 40 The 70s & 80s are produced by Toby James Petty.
AT40 used the Top 40 portion of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart from the show's inception in 1970 to November 23, 1991. The chart was widely regarded as the industry standard in tracking the most popular songs in the country, and was thus a natural choice to be used. Kasem would frequently announce during the show that Billboard was the "only" source for the countdown. While using these charts worked well for the first half of the 1970s, as music changed during the decade, and disco became popular on the charts, some rock stations began to drop the show because of complaints from program directors that AT40 was "playing too many songs not on their playlist."
This gradually became a wide schism as rock splintered into a half-dozen formats in the early 1980s. Historians have noted that no one station actually played all of the songs on the Billboard Hot 100 list, because they represented overlapping formats—hard rock, mainstream rock, heavy metal, dance, new wave, punk, rap, pop, easy listening/adult contemporary, country, and so on. Stations tended to specialize in only one or two of these formats, and completely ignore the others. As a result, AT40s weekly playlist could be very diverse in the styles and formats of the songs played.
One solution for the AT40 producers was to air frequent specials (at least three or four times a year) that concentrated on the classic music of the past, such as Rock in the Movies, Top Hits of the Seventies, and so on. But as Top 40 stations evolved into CHR, they began to avoid syndicated shows like AT40, preferring to stick with their own special niche formats.
By the early 1990s, many songs, mostly rap or heavy metal/grunge songs, would appear on the chart being fueled by single sales, and had received low airplay; several were very long, others were too controversial or risqué for mainstream airplay (for instance, the very sexually explicit "Me So Horny" by 2 Live Crew made it to #26 on the Hot 100 in 1989). These songs would generally only be aired in brief snippets during the show.
Because of this, American Top 40 began using the Top 40 portion from the Hot 100 Airplay chart (then known as the Top 40 Radio Monitor) in lieu of the Hot 100. These songs generally scored much higher radio airplay, and some were not even released as singles (such as "Steel Bars" by Michael Bolton). During this time, a few songs made big debuts, including 2 that almost debuted in the #1 spot: "I'll Be There" by Mariah Carey, which entered American Top 40 at #4, and "Erotica" by Madonna, which entered at #2.
In January 1993, American Top 40 switched charts again, this time to the Billboard Top 40 Mainstream chart. This chart had more Top 40 Mainstream hits but fewer urban/dance/rap songs.
AT40 did not always use the official year-end chart from Billboard during the 25 years that they used their charts. In 1972 and 1973; in 1977; from 1980 to 1984; and again from 1990 to 1994, AT40 compiled its own year-end chart. These charts were very close to Billboard's, but AT40 would go with a mid-December to early-December time period where Billboard's survey year varied from year to year. AT40 matched Billboard's number one song of the year every time except in 1977, 1984, 1990 and 1993.
With the show's revival in 1998, a new chart was implemented, the top 40 portion of Radio and Records CHR/Pop top 50 chart, which was already in use on Casey's Top 40. This chart used a recurrent ruleremoved songs below #25 and had exceeded 26 weeks in the top 50; these removals, if they occurred in the top 40, would be reflected on the appropriate week's program. In 1999, the rule was modified to further restrict long chart runs. Songs falling below #20 with at least 20 weeks in the top 50 would now be removed.
On October 21, 2000 American Top 40 began using an unpublished chart on a weekly basis for the first time in its history. The chart seemed to be a variant of the CHR/Pop chart provided by Mediabase, the data provider to Radio & Records. The most noticeable feature of this new chart was its ambiguous recurrent rule. Songs would be removed regularly from within the top 15, seemingly regardless of the number of weeks it had spent on the chart. This chart lasted until August 11, 2001, when AT40 returned to the Radio & Records Pop chart. The return coincided with another modification in the recurrent rule; songs would be removed below #25 after 3 consecutive weeks without a bullet (an increase in radio plays). This change would be short-lived, and in November 2001, Radio & Records returned to the 20 weeks/below #20 rule, which remained in place for the remainder of Kasem's tenure.
Beginning in the early 1990s, Casey Kasem also hosted two other shows counting down the top adult contemporary hits of the week. These moved with him after he left Westwood One and Kasem kept doing them after he handed AT40 over to Ryan Seacrest in early 2004.
Kasem's countdown for Mainstream and Soft Adult Contemporary radio stations debuted in 1992 under the name Casey's Countdown. Originally Casey's Countdown consisted of 25 songs, but in 1994 it was shortened to 20. With the revival of the AT40 brand name, the AC chart became American Top 20. In March 2004, the Mainstream AC edition was shortened again, this time from twenty to ten songs, and became known as American Top 10.
Another show for Hot Adult Contemporary radio stations debuted in November 1994, since the Hot AC or "Adult Top 40" format was rapidly growing in popularity at the time. The original name of the show wasCasey's Hot 20. Like its sister Mainstream AC show, it, too, was renamed American Top 20 once AT40 was relaunched (resulting in two different shows being entitled American Top 20).
The AC shows were three hours in length and included many AT40 staple features, including chart "extras" and Long Distance Dedications (known as "Requests and Dedications" during the Westwood One years), as well as spotlight features on number one hits of each chart week from years past. AT10 continued to feature Long Distance Dedications, and some additional features that were staples on the original AT40 were re-added to both shows during Casey's final years, including the "Book of Records" and "Whatever Happened To...?" AT10 also featured additional chart extras under the banner of "AT10 Spotlight," built around a particular theme (the theme for the first week of the revamped AT10 in 2004 was "Band Members Gone Solo").
As with the Top 40 show, both Casey's Countdown/AT20/10 AC and Casey's Hot 20/AT20 Hot AC initially used the AC charts published by Radio & Records from their inception until 2003, except for a brief period in 2000-2001 when both used unpublished Mediabase 24/7 charts. From 2003 to August 2006 (when R&R stopped using Mediabase to compile its charts), both shows used the Mediabase charts. From August 2006 until the end of its run, the AC shows once again were based on unpublished charts.
In December, AT10 focused on Christmas music because many of its affiliates broadcast a holiday/Christmas music format around the holiday season.
AT20 and AT10 aired their final episodes on the weekend of July 4/5, 2009, which coincided with the thirty-ninth anniversary of the premiere of the original AT40. When the countdown on both shows reached its end, instead of telling a story about something connected with the song or the artist behind it, Kasem instead chose to use that time to offer a brief history of how his career hosting AT40 and its spinoffs unfolded. This was followed by the trademark drumroll and Kasem's introduction of the lone remaining song to be played. Shinedown's "Second Chance" was the final #1 song on American Top 20 and Taylor Swift's "Love Story" earned that spot on American Top 10. Once the song(s) ended, Kasem recapped the song title and how long it had topped the chart as he had done for years. He then closed both shows with the following farewell speech.
|“||I'd like to share with you something I've learned over the years. Success doesn't happen in a vacuum. You're only as good as the people you work with, and the people you work for. I've been lucky; I've worked for and with the very best!||”|
|— Casey Kasem at the end of the final AT20/AT10 broadcast|
Kasem then read the end credits and closed the show for the last time with his trademark signoff.
Along with the retirement of Kasem came the cancellation of AT20 and AT10 as Premiere decided not to continue the programs and instead launched an adult contemporary version of AT40. The stations airing Kasem's shows were offered a choice of either that or a rerun of classic AT40 episodes from Kasem's first eighteen years, but many of them opted to pass on both packages.
The following year, Casey's daughter Kerri Kasem joined the Premiere Radio family, as Premiere debuted The Side Show Countdown, which she co-hosted with Mötley Crüe's Nikki Sixx. She left the program in 2013.America's Top 10
From 1980 to 1992, a video version of the show entitled America's Top 10 was aired in syndication to television stations across the United States. Kasem hosted this version from 1980 to 1989. When Kasem left American Top 40 in 1988, he remained as host of America's Top 10 until the end of 1989, when he would be replaced by Siedah Garrett and later Tommy Puett. Kasem returned by 1991, and the show ran until 1992.
Based on the success of American Top 40, Kasem and Don Bustany created a spinoff top 40 countdown for Watermark for Country Radio called American Country Countdown, patterned after Kasem's program. "ACC" premiered in 1973, and was hosted by Don Bowman until 1978, then by Bob Kingsley until 2005 when Kix Brooks of the late country music duo Brooks & Dunn took over, and has been doing so since. Kingsley now hosts a separate countdown, Country Top 40 (abbreviating, not coincidentally, as "CT40"), which follows the same format as AT40 and ACC.
After Kasem left ABC, the network launched American Gold, a spinoff oldies countdown (featuring far fewer songs, and often focusing on a particular artist) hosted by Dick Bartley. American Gold's last show aired at the end of March 2009, replaced with another show hosted by Bartley for United Stations Radio Networks, Classic Countdown.
The American Top 40 format was adapted in an Australian show titled Take 40 Australia, similarly counting down the top 40 songs in the country.
American Top 40 airs radio edits for American radio stations, no matter what the country it airs in.
Casey Kasem and Watermark's policy regarding putting American Top 40 together was to always play the 40 most popular songs in the United States and never to ban a record from the countdown. However, whenever songs with potentially offensive lyrical content made the top 40, Watermark would send out memos to affiliated stations alerting them of the presence of that song in the countdown and sometimes provide stations with suggestions on how to edit the song out of their AT40 broadcasts. The first song to receive this advisory was in April and May 1971, with a spoken word piece, "The Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley", by Terry Nelson and C-Company. Some more well-known songs which received this treatment included "Kodachrome" by Paul Simon, "Roxanne" by The Police, "Ain't Love a Bitch" by Rod Stewart, and "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" by Meat Loaf.
Perhaps the most infamous of these songs was Chuck Berry's number-one hit "My Ding-a-Ling", which put some stations in the odd position of having to air AT40 without playing the number one song; at least one station, KELI in Tulsa, Oklahoma, censored out the song at its #1 position, replacing it with a message from station management, explaining why they chose to censor the program. The censorship of this song continues even today as some stations, such as WOGL in Philadelphia, replaced this song with an optional extra when it aired a rerun of the November 18, 1972 broadcast (where it ranked at #14) on December 6, 2008.
In the summer of 1977, radio station KRNQ in Des Moines, Iowa, edited out "The Killing of Georgie" by Rod Stewart, because of the subject matter of a homosexual being murdered; that song peaked at #30 on the countdown.
Another example of this policy dates from 1978, when Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young" was on the charts. Because of the nature of the song (Joel singing about urging pre-marital sex by a teen Catholic girl, Virginia), AT40 had placed warnings in shipments to warn affiliates in highly Catholic populated areas along with a special break in the countdown for stations to substitute another song in its place. The affiliates usually used the suggestion, though some did not and no major complaints were ever heard. Many of these memos have been reprinted in Pete Battistini's book, "American Top 40 with Casey Kasem (The 1970s)."
In situations where a charting song contained offensive language and the record company was unable to provide AT40 with a clean edit of the song, the producers would often make an edit themselves. Such was a case with Bob Dylan's Top 40 single, "George Jackson", which peaked at #33 in January 1972 and appeared for two weeks on AT40. The offensive lyric in the song was, "He wouldn't take shit from no one." To rectify the problem, AT40 engineer Bill Hergonson edited the lyric, which was now heard as "He wouldn't take it from no one." A similar situation occurred again in July 1975, when The Isley Brothers' Fight the Power was in the Top 40, but in this case, the substitute version provided by the group's label was unsuitable, resorting to the engineer to substitute grunts and extra drum beats over the offending parts of the original record. However, this was not before AT40 erroneously played the uncensored version (with the lyric "...by all this bullshit goin' down") the first two weeks on the chart, on the July 12 and 19, 1975 editions.
Although Kasem and his crew never banned a song from airplay on the countdown, there was at least one instance in which Kasem refused to announce the title of a song on his show. When George Michael's "I Want Your Sex" hit the Billboard charts in the summer of 1987, Kasem refused to announce the name of the song; only its artist (e.g., "George Michael's latest hit is up five notches this week..."). Also, as had been done with previous controversial hits, because of the song's suggestiveness, the show's structure was altered slightly, so stations could opt out of the song. This pattern was also evident during the 1987 Year End countdown. The song title was mentioned five times during its chart run (6/20/1987; 6/27/1987; 7/4/1987; 9/12/1987 and 9/19/1987), during the week-ending episode of September 26, 1987, when it dropped out of the Top 40, and during the Top 100 of 1987 show; Shadoe Stevens, his successor, however did mention the title on the show from July 31, 1993 as part of the Flashback feature, as it was in the top 5 from that week in 1987. In the spring of 1991, when "People Are Still Having Sex" by LaTour and "I Wanna Sex You Up" by Color Me Badd debuted the same week, their titles were announced in full.
Another song that had its title unannounced after its first week was "Me So Horny" by 2 Live Crew, in the fall of 1989 [the Shadoe Stevens era]. It was mentioned twice at the beginning of the song, and back announced once, its debut week. For the rest of its chart run, the title was never again mentioned. When the 2 Live Crew returned to the top 40 in the Summer of 1990, with "Banned in the U.S.A.", Shadoe did mention that it was the follow-up to "Me So Horny". The song did come with edit out instructions for stations as well. Other songs around that time with edit out warnings were "The Humpty Dance" by The Digital Underground, and "Tic Tac Toe" by Kyper.
Very rarely does a song on that week's chart be excluded from that week's AT40, if so only due to time considerations—on an edition that aired the weekend of December 19, 1970, The Guess Who's "Share the Land", which ranked at #30 that week, was omitted from AT40, in order to play both sides of that week's #1 Double A-side hit, George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" / "Isn't It a Pity". Normally when a Double A-side appears on the charts, one side is played one week, with the other played the next week, alternating each week as long as it was in the Top 40.
As has been mentioned previously, many rock radio stations in the late 1970s adopted anti-disco stances, and this, too, was reflected in the way some affiliates edited AT40. For example, one 1979 show featured a story about disco saving New York; again, the show was structured so that anti-disco stations could edit the story out of the show. (Notably, Kasem ended the monologue with the prediction that "disco is here to stay," which was proven false in short order, as disco rapidly fell out of fashion by 1980.)
More famously, on the weekend of July 7–8, 1979, Cleveland, Ohio AT40 affiliate WGCL (now WNCX), instead of carrying the "American Top 40 Top 40 Disco Songs" special because of being an anti-disco radio station, did its own version of American Top 40 using the July 7, 1979 Billboard chart as the source with Townsend Coleman handling the hosting duties for Casey Kasem. The special Cleveland-onlyAmerican Top 40 episode did not feature the AT40 Archives, extras, or Long Distance Dedications — just the top 40 singles of that week, which was preceded by a recap of the previous week's top three. Most of the songs played were longer album versions or 12-inch extended versions. Through clever editing, Coleman also took the "Casey's Coast to Coast" jingle (pronounced "K-C's Coast to Coast") and spliced in a "T," to provide an appropriate "TC's Coast to Coast" jingle. Kasem did not learn about the deception until 1996, laughing the whole thing off by saying, "Maybe I don't want to hear it!"
Coleman's sleight-of-hand was actually the second time a version of the AT40 had aired that was not quite on the up and up. According to Rob Durkee's book "American Top 40: The Countdown of the Century", Dave Morgan of WDHF (now WNUA) in Chicago ghosted an edition of the program sometime in the summer of 1975. When the station's copy of the show did not arrive in time, he used Billboard's list and merely played the records, apparently heavily implying that the show was American Top 40 without actually identifying it as such. "My program director made me do it!" Morgan said years later. The following year, WDHF would refuse to play AT40's "Fourth of July's Greatest Hits" special, due to the special's overabundance of #1 hits from the pre-rock era. But while the special was a stark departure from the contemporary sound of the 1970s, Tom Rounds in his press release reminded stations that it was the United States' "one and only bicentennial."
From 1992 to 1994, two radio stations still carrying American Top 40 had to carry customized versions of the show. WPLJ in New York City aired the show with the urban/dance/rap songs mentioned but not played and were replaced here and there by Hot Adult Contemporary leaning extras. KUBE in Seattle, Washington aired AT40 with a few songs that did not fit the station's Top 40 Rhythm format omitted each week. It has also been reported that WSTR in Atlanta, Georgia, being an anti-rap station and a very Adult Contemporary-leaning CHR, edited "Another Night" by Real McCoy (a Euro disco record with rap breaks) out of its broadcasts of Casey's Top 40 in 1994, even while the song was at #1 on the show (which used the Radio & Records CHR/Pop chart). "Fuck You" by Cee Lo Green was changed to "Forget You" for radio airplay in 2010 and hit #1 the following year after re-entering the American Top 40. "Fuckin' Perfect" by Pink was changed to "Perfect" for radio airplay and also hit #1 on the American Top 40. "Tonight (I'm Fuckin' You)" by Enrique Iglesias was changed to "Tonight (I'm Lovin' You)" for radio airplay and hit #1 on the American Top 40 as well. "Niggas in Paris" by Jay-Z & Kanye West was changed to "In Paris" for radio airplay. "Ass Back Home" by Gym Class Heroes, which was changed to "Get Yourself Back Home" for radio airplay. The most recent radio edit was by Neon Hitch with her song "Fuck U Betta"; it was changed to "Love U Betta" for radio airplay (this song was first played in Subway's Fresh Buzz song of the week).
Occasionally American Top 40 airs special countdowns in place of the regular American Top 40 countdown show. These included1:
- "Top 40 Recording Acts of the Rock Era 1955-1971" (Weekend of May 1–2, 1971)
- "Top 40 Christmas Songs" (Weekend of Dec 25-26, 1971)
- "Top 40 Songs of the Rock Era 1955-1972" (Weekend of July 1–2, 1972)
- "Top 40 Albums of the Week" (Weekend of Aug 5-6, 1972)
- "Top 40 Artists from Sept 1, 1967 to Sept 1, 1972" (Weekend of Sept 30-Oct 1, 1972)
- "Top 40 Songs from March 1968 to March 1973" (Weekend of Apr 7-8, 1973)
- "Top 40 Disappearing Acts" (Weekend of July 7–8, 1973)
- "Top 40 Recording Acts of the Rock Era 1955-1973" (Weekend of Oct 6-7, 1973)
- "Top 40 Christmas Songs" (Weekend of Dec 22-23, 1973)
- "Top 40 Hits of British Artists 1955-1974" (Weekend of Apr 6-7, 1974)
- "Top 40 Acts of the 1970s, So Far" (Weekend of Jul 6-7, 1974)
- "Top 10 Producers of the 1970s" (Weekend of Oct 5-6, 1974)
- "Top 40 Disappearing Acts" (Weekend of Apr 1-2, 1975)
- "Top 40 Rock 'n' Roll Acts of the 1950s" (Weekend of Oct 4-5, 1975)
- "Bicentennial Special: #1 July 4 Songs of the Past 40 Years" (Weekend of Jul 3-4, 1976)
- "Top 40 Songs of the 'Beatle Years'[1964-1970]" (Weekend of Oct 2-3, 1976)
- "Top 40 Girls of the Rock Era 1955-1977" (Weekend of July 2–3, 1977)
- "Top 40 Movie Songs 1960-1978" (Weekend of Apr 4-5, 1978)
- "Top 40 Acts of the 1970s, So Far" (Weekend of Jul 1-2, 1978)
- "The Top 40 Songs of the Disco Era 1974-1979" (Weekend of Jul 7-8, 1979)
- "The Top 50 Songs of the 1970s" (Weekend of Jan 5-6, 1980)
- "AT40 Book of Records" (Weekend of Jul 5-6, 1980)
- "Top 40 Hits of the Beatles: Together and Apart" (Weekend of Jul 4-5, 1981)
- "Top 40 Acts of the 1980s, So Far" (Weekend of Jul 2-3, 1983)
- "Giants of Rock" (Weekend of Jul 5-6, 1986)
- "Top 40 Hits of the 1980s, So Far" (Weekend of Jul 4-5, 1987)
- "Top 40 Newcomers of the 1980s, So Far" (Weekend of May 30–31, 1988)
- "Triathlon of Rock 'n Roll" (Weekend of Jul 4-5, 1988)
- "World Tour" (Weekend of May 27–29, 1989)
- "AT40 Book of Records, 1980s Edition" (Weekend of Aug 31-Sept 4, 1989)
- "Top 40 American Acts of the Previous 10 Years" (Weekend of Jul 1-2, 1991)
- "Top 40 Hits of the Past Decade" (Weekend of Jan 2-3, 2010)
Beginning in 1979, during the regular program, Kasem reviewed all the #1 hits of the 1970s by playing them in chronological order at the rate of three per week. When that concluded, Kasem then reviewed all the #1 hits of the 1960s at the same rate per show. Additionally, the top songs of the year were counted down at the end of every year. In 1970 & 1972, AT40 counted down the year's top 80 hits. In 1971 & 1973, they only counted down the top 40 because of their top 40 Christmas Countdowns those two years. Beginning in 1974, the top 100 songs of the year were counted down and was done so every year with few exceptions. In 1979, they did the top 50 songs of that year and followed it with the top 50 songs of the 1970s. This was done again in 1999, except only the top 40 of the year and decade were aired. In 2009, the year-end countdown took place as usual (two weeks long, with the top 100 songs of the year being counted down), but in the first week of 2010, the top 40 songs of the decade were counted down. The year-end shows were counted down over a two-week period (although stations could edit the shows into one long show) until 1983, when the year-end show ran just one week for eight hours. In 1992, the year end countdown was temporary back to its two-week format, in 1994 (the last year of the old AT40) the year end countdown was only 50, and with the AT40 return in 1998 the year end countdowns were the 2 week format (except for 1999 when it was 50).
During the run of "American Top 20" and "American Top 10," an updated Christmas countdown, the "Top 60 Christmas Songs," would air annually the two weeks immediately preceding Christmas.
Over 50 celebrities—among them radio personalities, game show hosts, and (particularly since Ryan Seacrest took over hosting duties) charting artists—have substituted for these three throughout the show's run. Radio announcer Charlie Van Dyke filled in for Casey a record 31 times in the 1980s.
Substitutes for Ryan Seacrest have included:
- Charlie Van Dyke
- Christina Aguilera
- Kris Allen
- Adam Lambert
- Pamela Anderson
- Nick Cannon
- Steve Carell
- Kelly Clarkson
- Miley Cyrus
- Billy Ray Cyrus
- Gavin DeGraw
- Hilary Duff
- Brody Jenner
- Nick Lachey
- Mario Lopez
- Rob Thomas
- Paul Doucette
- Jesse McCartney
- Mandy Moore
- Katy Perry
- Jessica Simpson
- Ashley Tisdale
- Taylor Swift
- George Lopez
- Mariah Carey
- Selena Gomez
- Neil Patrick Harris
- Joe Jonas
- Kevin McHale
- Amber Riley
- Jimmy Fallon
- Demi Lovato
- Britney Spears
- Lady Gaga
- Ed Sheeran
- Jennifer Lopez
Some well-known guest hosts for Casey Kasem have included:
- Jerry C. Bishop
- Don Bowman
- Chuck Britton
- Joe Cipriano
- Dick Clark
- Mike Cleary
- Gordon Elliott
- Mark Elliott
- Bob Eubanks
- Scott Evans
- Hall & Oates
- Dave Hull AT40's first substitute host
- Mike Kasem
- Wink Martindale
- Ed McMann
- Sonny Melendrez
- Bruce Phillip Miller
- Humble Harve Miller
- Al Mitchell
- Lon Thomas
- Bumper Morgan
- Robert W. Morgan
- Pat O'Brien
- Five for Fighting
- Gary Owens
- David Perry
- Dave Roberts
- Ryan Seacrest
- Lee Sherwood
- Keri Tombazian
- Charlie Tuna
- Charlie Van Dyke
Los Angeles deejay "Emperor" Bob Hudson attempted to substitute for Casey sometime between 1976 and 1978 (no specific date was given); however, Hudson had trouble recording his material for AT40, giving up after realizing that he could not host AT40 the same way he would host his morning drive show. As a result, Casey cancelled his vacation and returned to Los Angeles to record that week's AT40, but made sure that Hudson, a legendary disk jockey and comedian, got paid for his work anyway.
Guest hosts for Shadoe Stevens included:
- Harry Anderson
- Shadoe Stevens
- Joe Cipriano
- Debbie Gibson
- David Hall
- Eduardo Nereo Marino
- Richard Marx
- Donny Osmond
- Martha Quinn
- Meshach Taylor
- Jay Thomas1
- Jack Wagner
- Adrienne Walker
- Jody Watley
1 The week Jay Thomas hosted, October 31, 1992, Chris Cox of KEZY in Anaheim, California (now KFSH-FM) taped a special version for that station at Watermark's studios, because of contractual stipulations that prohibit talent from Los Angeles-based stations from being heard on KEZY (Thomas was still employed at rival KPWR at the time).
- The first song played on the very first American Top 40 show in 1970 at #40 was "The End of Our Road" by Marvin Gaye. It would remain and peak at #40 the following week.
- The first #1 song on American Top 40 's inaugural 1970 broadcast was "Mama Told Me Not to Come" by Three Dog Night.
- The first top 10 countdown on the first American Top 40 show featured songs by both Elvis Presley ("The Wonder of You") and The Beatles ("The Long and Winding Road"). These are the top two artists of the entire rock era according to AT40's original source, Billboard magazine.
- Rick Dees had the #1 song "Disco Duck" on American Top 40 in 1976 long before Dees would launch a rival countdown show, "Rick Dees Weekly Top 40".
- When American Top 40 expanded from three to four hours in October 1978, the #1 song was "Kiss You All Over" by Exile.
- The very first "Long-Distance Dedication" ever played in 1978 was Neil Diamond's "Desirée".
- The Moody Blues appeared on the very first AT40 in 1970 (with Question, which ranked at #27), and Casey Kasem's last episode of the original AT40 on August 6, 1988 (I Know You're Out There Somewhere, which ranked at #30).
- When Shadoe Stevens replaced Casey Kasem as host on August 13, 1988, the first song he played was "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin which debuted at number 40.
- The #1 song for the last Casey Kasem AT40 and the first Shadoe Stevens AT40 was "Roll With It" by Steve Winwood.
- When American Top 40 switched from the Billboard Hot 100 to the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay in November 1991, the #1 song was "When a Man Loves a Woman" by Michael Bolton.
- When American Top 40 switched from the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay to the Billboard Top 40 Mainstream in January 1993, the #1 song was "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston.
- The last #1 song on American Top 40 on July 9, 1994, when the show was pulled from American stations, was "Don't Turn Around" by Ace of Base.
- The last #1 song on American Top 40 in January 1995 before its 3-year hiatus was "On Bended Knee" by Boyz II Men.
- Before playing the #1 song on the final original-run episode of American Top 40, Shadoe Stevens played a special Long-Distance Dedication to his fans: "So Tired of Standing Still, We Got to Move On" byJames Brown. As Stevens did his closing at the end of the show, the song "Happy Trails" by Roy Rogers was played in the background.
- When American Top 40 returned in March 1998, the #1 song was "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion.
- The #1 song on Casey Kasem's final AT40 show in January 2004 was "Hey Ya!" by Outkast. It stayed at #1 when Ryan Seacrest replaced Kasem.
- On July 5, 2009, the final #1 song on American Top 20 was "Second Chance" by Shinedown. The final #1 song on American Top 10 was "Love Story" by Taylor Swift.
- The youngest artist to enter the chart is Willow, then age 10 when her song "Whip My Hair" debuted at #35 on chart week of December 11, 2010. (The song was recorded when she was 9.)
- The oldest artist to enter the chart is Louis Armstrong, whose "What a Wonderful World" entered the chart at #32 in February 1988. Armstrong was 66 years old when the song was recorded and, had he survived to witness it, would have been 86 when the song became a hit.
- On March 5, 2011, "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga recorded the highest debut since Ryan Seacrest began hosting, entering at #9.
- The song that charted on American Top 40 the longest was "Dynamite" by Taio Cruz. It charted for 72 weeks in 2010-11.
- "Le Freak" by Chic scored the biggest upward movement of the show on November 25, 1978, rising 31 spots from #37 to #6.
- The #1 song of the 1970s was "You Light Up My Life" by Debby Boone.
- The #1 song of the 1980s was "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John.
- The #1 song of the 1990s was "I Love You Always Forever" by Donna Lewis.
- The #1 song of the 2000s was "Yeah!" by Usher.
- The 1,000th episode aired on Saturday, September 30, 1989. The number one song was "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You" by Milli Vanilli.
- The 2,000th episode aired on Saturday, January 14, 2012. The number one song was "We Found Love" by Rihanna.