​Vale Tom Rounds: Syndication Pioneer

To many, Tom Rounds, who passed away last week, aged 77, was the father of modern syndication having co-founded American Top 40 in 1970 with Ron Jacobs and the charismatic presenter Casey Kasem – who himself is reportedly in hospital, in a critical condition, suffering from dementia.

Rounds was a regular visitor to Australia from the late 1970’s through to the 9o’s. Local syndicator, Radiowise (now Media Heads) was the Australian distributor for his company, Radio Express which, at its height, had some 40 programs in production airing on around 5,000 stations worldwide.

As a director of Radiowise, I was honoured to have worked with this giant of programming and production. It was impossible not to be charmed by his gentle, softly spoken manner.
Among other things, Rounds also had the distinction of being named in the headline “Rounds Quits KFRC” on the cover the very first issue of Rolling Stone Magazine  which he shared with a now famous image of John Lennon dressed in combat fatigues.

Through the years AT40 has only had three hosts Casey Kasem  from 1970 till 1988 and then again from 1998 until his retirement in 2003. In between, another show, also called AT40 was presented by Shadoe Stevens. The indefatigable Ryan Seacrest took over in 2004 and is still going strong.

But it’s Kasem that is to AT40 what Sean Connery is to the James Bond franchise. During the ‘80’s the program aired on 2UW on the weekends for just four hours. Yet his voice and style were so distinctive, that when listeners were asked to name any of the station’s on air staff, it was Kasem that first came to mind. The station’s Mon – Fri breakfast announcer came in second. 

Peter Saxon

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