SCETV and South Carolina Public Radio Remember Carl Kasell

If you have ever tuned in to National Public Radio (NPR) since 1975, chances are you have heard the voice of Carl Kasell- informed and dulcet somehow at the same time.

Kasell knew even as a boy in Goldsboro, N.C. that he wanted to be on the radio. As he told NPR, he would hide behind the radio and pretend he was on air, and play his grandmother's records and create commericals in between songs. He would go on to be a radio DJ at age 16, and in college became one of the first students to work at University of North Carolina's newly formed WUNC. After a stint in the military, Kasell spun records for a while, and then took a job at an all news station.

It was in 1975 that Kasell began working at NPR, and announced the first broadcast of a brand new program called Morning Edition. His voice became synonymous with Public Radio.

Alfred Turner, Webmaster and Producer for South Carolina Public Radio, remembers, “Carl Kasell was important to me as a listener. I did a little newscast reading over the years, but not much. So for me, it was the fact that every Monday through Friday morning I could get up and I could turn on the radio, and I could hear Morning Edition and there would be Bob Edwards, of course, who was an important voice. But also, the newscast would come on and it would be Carl Kasell… ‘From NPR News, I’m Carl Kasell,’ or however they started it exactly."

"His tone of voice, the way he annunciated, the pacing of what he said- it was consistent from day to day. Which is not to say boring. You just always knew, and from the tone of voice as well, that the gravity he gave of whatever he was reading; you knew you were going to hear the news and nothing else."

Though he was a distinguished newscaster, many remember Carl Kasell best for his comedic chops as the score keeper on NPR's delightfully fun quiz program Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! The show allowed Kasell to still be involved with news, while also poking a bit of fun at it. He served as the foil to host Peter Sagal, and appeared to be game to do just about anything for the show. He once dressed in a show girl's head piece during a show in Vegas, and even popped out of a cake. For nearly 20 years the only real prize that was offered on the show was the opportunity for Carl Kasell to record and answering machine or voicemail message for you. You can listen to some of his messages here.

Rusell Felder, SCETV's Fundraising Coordinator, credits Kasell with his choice to work for public media.

“Back in my senior year of High School, a friend told me about this show on NPR called Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me! and I was exposed to a show that could be both informative about the news as well as make fun of it. Carl Kasell played the straight guy on the show, the serious newscaster who’s forced to keep scores and record voicemails for winners… and sometimes, pull off a silly impersonation of the Queen of England.  It became my weekly treat to myself, getting to hear Carl read limericks and give out scores." Felder says.

"The show is the reason why I work in fundraising at South Carolina Public Radio. The news can be so serious at times, but we can take joy in knowing that even the most recognizable voice in the history of NPR can cut loose every once in a while. Carl Kasell showed me the importance of financially supporting the news and programs we rely on every day.  I envy the answering machines that got to have the privilege of Carl Kasell recording a voice greeting on them. He will be missed.”

Tabitha Safdi, SCETV's Digital Media Manager, actually had the opportunity to meet Carl Kasell at a taping of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! She even keeps a signed pillow of Kasell's face in her office.

"Carl Kasell is a legend. I had the opportunity to meet him at his last show from Chicago in April of 2014." Safdi recalls.

"I talked to him about working for public media in South Carolina. He recalled stories from his newscaster days and spoke about how much had changed in the time in-between. Our meeting was short but I remember how much attention he gave, not just to me, but to everyone who was waiting to meet him.”

Shari Hutchinson, South Carolina Public Radio's Vice President of Radio and TV Programming, will fondly remember Carl Kasell, his talent and his voice.

“I used to love listening to Carl on Morning Edition when Bob Edwards was hosting." Hutchinson says.

"He brought an easy authority to the news with a great baritone voice - a great way to start the morning. On Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me!, his razor sharp wit had an opportunity to shine. Who wouldn’t have wanted to have Carl Kassell’s voice on your outgoing telephone greeting?” 

Kaitlyn Park reflects, "When I was younger, my mother made me listen to NPR every morning. What annoyed me as a kid led to a genuine love, and now a career in Public Media. I always listened for the news, but I still remember the first time I heard Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! I thought 'How did I not know about this sooner and how am I going to get that voicemail recording?' I was smitten."

"To me, Carl Kasell represents everything I want to be in my career." she adds. "He was this accomplished newscaster and yet so dry and hilarious. No one can talk about him without smiling. You could tell in the way he spoke that he genuinely cared about his listeners and fans."

Carl Kasell was more than just a newscaster; he was an icon. Those who tuned in to listen to him on National Public Radio considered him like a friend: informative, trustworthy, and yet, all around cool. He was an influence and inspiration to many of the South Carolina ETV and South Carolina Public Radio Staff, and he will be greatly missed.