The announcement of Carl Kasell’s death has hit colleagues at NPR member stations and their listeners hard. Many have known or listened to Kasell for decades.
Kasell joined NPR in 1975 as a part-time newscaster for Weekend All Things Considered. For 30 years, he provided newscasts for NPR’s daily newsmagazine Morning Edition, a role he held since the program’s inception in 1979 until 2009.
In 1998, Kasell became an audience favorite in an unexpected comedy role, as the Official Judge and Scorekeeper of Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! In 2014, he announced he would become Scorekeeper Emeritus and continued to record custom voice mail greetings for the show’s lucky winners and occasionally appeared on the program. More than 2,200 people had Kasell’s voice on their home answering machines and cell phones, where he performed everything from “What’s New Pussycat” to “Rapper’s Delight.” You can listen to some of Kasell’s recordings, here.
Radio was a lifelong passion for Kasell, so it’s no surprise that he dedicated his 60-year career to it.
At a young age, he played deejay with his grandmother’s wind-up Victrola. "I would sit there sometimes and play those records, and I'd put in commercials between them," Kasell recalled. "And I would do a newscast just like the guy on the radio did." Kasell landed his first radio job when he was 16.
Kasell was beloved in St. Louis by all who knew him. St. Louis Public Radio listeners will no doubt remember him on Morning Edition, but Kasell was also a huge fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and graciously gave his time to us at St. Louis Public Radio.
In 2006, he spoke with Steve Potter for Cityscape. In that interview, Potter asked how Kasell developed his award-winning radio voice. "Practice, practice, practice,” he said. He also pointed to his early roots as a teenaged drama student, and his work at the local radio station during days where there were no mics. “So long as your voice didn’t distract from the message,” he said, “you were doing your job. The message was the main thing.”
General Manager Tim Eby described Kasell as “such a gentlemen and a true professional. He was also a fierce journalist with a wonderful dry, sense of humor. Many people don't know that he was also a great magician and performed for his public radio colleagues at industry conferences. He was a one-of-a-kind guy and will be missed by everyone in our public radio community."
Several years ago, St. Louis Public Radio named their $25,000 Cornerstone Society donor club the Carl Kasell Circle.
Outside of his illustrious career, Kasell was known as a proud alum of the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and fan of UNC basketball. He served in the military. And he had a family.
Our thoughts are with Carl’s family and all who knew and loved him.
In lieu of flowers, his family asks for donations to Rebecca House in Potomac, MD, or to their local NPR Member station in Carl’s honor.