NPR reports that one of its own, longtime Morning Edition host and beloved Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! scorekeeper Carl Kasell, has died. Kasell, who had been on the radio since he was 16 years old and practiced his “radio voice” for years before that, died from complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 84.
Kasell, who recalled playing with his grandmother’s Victrola, inserting “commercials” and “do[ing] a newscast just like the guy on the radio did” when he was a child, began his radio career at the age of 16 as a late-night DJ on a local station in North Carolina, where he grew up. Kasell worked as a DJ at the student-run station at the University of North Carolina, and after a brief stint in the military, he was back to his first love, taking a job at an all-news radio station in Virginia.
Kasell joined NPR in 1975, and read the news on the first-ever broadcast of Morning Edition in 1979. He would stay in that job until his retirement from newscasting in 2009, reading seven newscasts every morning in his soothing, resonant baritone voice that reassured listeners with its steady presence, no matter what the day’s events would bring.
After his retirement from Morning Edition, Kasell continued to work for NPR, visiting local stations to help them raise funds and serving as judge, announcer, and unofficial mascot for NPR’s comedy news quiz show Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me!, which he helped launch in 1998. For a time, Kasell would commute to Chicago every week from his home in Washington, D.C. for Thursday night tapings of the show, where he served as an endearing comedic foil to host Peter Sagal and quizzed guests in games like “Who’s Carl This Time?” and “What’s My Job?” As he once told the Washington Post, “deep inside that serious newscaster persona was a huge piece of cured North Carolina ham.”
Kasell stepped down from Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me in 2014, but continued to give winners the option of receiving one of his famous messages on their voice mail or answering machine—of which NPR estimates he recorded more than 2,000—up until his death. Kasell received a Peabody Award along with the rest of the Morning Edition staff in 1999, and in 2010 he was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. He is survived by his wife, sister, son, stepson, and four grandchildren.