Suspended Animation #324
Kemal Amin “Casey” Kasem was born April 1932 and passed away June 2014. Although primarily known as a radio personality with his popular American Top 40 franchise, he had an active career doing voice work.
In 1969, he started providing voices for cartoon characters like the drummer Groove in The Cattanooga Cats and perhaps his most famous role Norville “Shaggy” Rogers on Scooby-Doo Where Are You?
He went on to provide the voice of Robin in several different animated Batman and Robin appearances from 1968 to 1985 as well as Alexander Cabot III starting in 1970 on Josie and the Pussycats.
In 1995, Kasem quit his role as Shaggy in a dispute over being pressured to do a Burger King commercial as the character and that Hanna-Barbera would not make the character of Shaggy a vegan but later resumed the role in 2002.
In 1996, he did talk about his relationship with Shaggy.
Kasem: The first thing I auditioned for was for a tobacco company but I refused to do that kind of thing. My second audition was for the character of Reggie on The Archies. John Erwin got the part and he was much better than I would have been. The third thing I auditioned for was Robin on Batman and I got that. Right after that I started getting a lot of things. At one time I was doing eight to ten shows a year.
When I auditioned for Shaggy, they showed me a picture so I knew he was supposed to be a hippie. I combined two voices: sort of an attitude of Dave Hull who was a disc jockey on KRLA and the actor who played on Our Miss Brooks, Richard Crenna whose character spoke in a high squeaky voice and was always very breathy.
They called me back three or four times and the guy who was auditioning me was an actor who could do a great hippie voice and I thought he was just right for it. I got the part and the show lasted on the network for twenty-three years. They gave me the word “Zoinks” and having him say “like” I guess because of the hippie aspect. I did come up with the “Scoob, ol’ buddy of mine, ol’ pal” thing.
I have never used the word “Zoinks” ever in my everyday conversation. It’s funny but whenever I do interviews, they all want me to do the Shaggy voice.
With A Pup Named Scooby Doo, I just did the same voice but they speeded it up so it sounded a little thinner. They tried to find someone who was younger to do it but they couldn’t find anyone so they just decided to have me do it and speed it up.
We would usually record one half hour episode of Scooby Doo in a couple of hours on a single day. Occasionally we might be able to do two episodes in a day. It was always fun. They always gave you food at Hanna-Barbera when you were working there. They’d have fruit there and some kind of pastry or something like that. They always went out of their way to be very hospitable to their actors. People loved working at Hanna-Barbera.
I occasionally did incidental voices on the series but not often. They just had me do Shaggy which was really great. I guess they wanted to protect the voice and figured they could afford to bring in the other actors. Usually when you do a voice, you do three voices because they don’t pay you anymore for three voices than they do for one. You do a cartoon show and they have the right to three voices out of you before they pay you extra for a fourth voice.
We were always fascinated with some of the voice actors who’d come in who weren’t regulars like John Stephenson and Daws Butler. We had a lot of respect for what the other actors could do. We took everything very seriously. We never kidded about the characters. We enjoyed doing them.
Watching Don Messick do the voice of Scooby and be funny doing it was just terrific. He would get little innuendos and subtleties in his peformance. He made it look easy but you really have to be a pro and have a lot of experience and have a lot of talent.
So while we had fun at Hanna-Barbera, it was also a no nonsense thing. Nobody spent a lot of time cracking jokes at somebody else’s expense or wasting time by trying to break someone up. We still had fun but we were concentrated on doing the work.
Voice actors are fun to work with because nobody has to worry about make-up or memorizing lines. I think it’s the best kind of acting there is.
I get asked if I believe in ghosts. Absolutely. Absolutely. I’ll give you two examples. My wife (Jean) and I were living in Century City. One night we were in bed with our heads on the pillows looking at each other and from the back of the headboard we heard three solid raps. Just as loudly as if I rapped my knuckles on this table.We looked at each other with “What was that?” expressions. The bed was not up against the wall. It was seperated from the wall. So we knocked on the wall to see if it had the same kind of sound and, of course, it was not the same because it was plaster not wood. I said that I heard three knocks and she said that she heard two and from then on I believed in ghosts.
The other thing that happened was when we were living in Bel-Air. I’d often forget my clicker for getting in the gate and I’d have to climb over the fence. One night I was in a limo and the limo driver pulled up and said, “How do we get in?” I replied, “Oh, I forgot to bring the clicker key.” He said he would press the button on the intercom but I told him that nobody was at home that night so I would have to climb over.
Suddenly, the gates opened up and nobody had pressed anything. The gates just opened up. And I knew without a doubt that there was nobody home and Jean later said that there was nobody home and the gates just opened up!
So there’s a friendly ghost and every now and then in one section of the house, the lights will go on and off so, I don’t know, there’s probably a friendly ghost around somewhere. Doesn’t bother me though. But after that knock on the headboard, I was truly convinced!
Here’s a rare clip of Casey performing as “Shaggy” on the Jerry Lewis Muscular Distrophy telethon in, I believe, 1987.