'I've Enjoyed Every Minute Of It': Carl Kasell On His 60 Years In Radio

  • Carl Kasell, who has been a cornerstone of NPR morning programming for 30 years, retired as a newscaster on Dec. 30, 2009.
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    Carl Kasell, who has been a cornerstone of NPR morning programming for 30 years, retired as a newscaster on Dec. 30, 2009.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Fellow newscaster Jean Cochran gives Kasell a kiss at 10:55 a.m., moments before he delivered his final newscast.
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    Fellow newscaster Jean Cochran gives Kasell a kiss at 10:55 a.m., moments before he delivered his final newscast.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Kasell enters the studio to read the final newscast of his career. A veteran broadcaster, his news career spanned more than 50 years.
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    Kasell enters the studio to read the final newscast of his career. A veteran broadcaster, his news career spanned more than 50 years.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Newscaster Barbara Klein congratulates Kasell after his final news update.
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    Newscaster Barbara Klein congratulates Kasell after his final news update.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • NPR employees line the hallway of the Morning Edition newsroom to cheer for Kasell. He was feted with speeches, champagne and cake following his final 11 a.m. newscast.
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    NPR employees line the hallway of the Morning Edition newsroom to cheer for Kasell. He was feted with speeches, champagne and cake following his final 11 a.m. newscast.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • On Dec. 29, Kasell discusses a newscast with senior producer Dave Pignanelli (right) and fellow newscaster Barbara Klein. Kasell regularly arrived at work at 2 a.m.
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    On Dec. 29, Kasell discusses a newscast with senior producer Dave Pignanelli (right) and fellow newscaster Barbara Klein. Kasell regularly arrived at work at 2 a.m.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Kasell went on the air once an hour in the morning to read the news.
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    Kasell went on the air once an hour in the morning to read the news.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Kasell joined NPR in 1975 as a part-time newscaster for Weekend All Things Considered. He became a full-time NPR newscaster on weekday mornings in 1979.
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    Kasell joined NPR in 1975 as a part-time newscaster for Weekend All Things Considered. He became a full-time NPR newscaster on weekday mornings in 1979.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Jim Howard (left) edits the newscast, while Kasell works on his scripts in preparation for going on the air, on Dec. 29.
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    Jim Howard (left) edits the newscast, while Kasell works on his scripts in preparation for going on the air, on Dec. 29.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Before moving to Washington in 1965, Kasell was a morning DJ and newscaster at WGBR-AM in Goldsboro, N.C. He also spent 10 years at radio station WAVA in Arlington, Va., first as morning anchor, then as news director.
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    Before moving to Washington in 1965, Kasell was a morning DJ and newscaster at WGBR-AM in Goldsboro, N.C. He also spent 10 years at radio station WAVA in Arlington, Va., first as morning anchor, then as news director.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Kasell, who woke up at 1 a.m. to get ready for work, talks with Morning Edition producer Claudette Habermann and director Van Williamson at NPR's headquarters in Washington.
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    Kasell, who woke up at 1 a.m. to get ready for work, talks with Morning Edition producer Claudette Habermann and director Van Williamson at NPR's headquarters in Washington.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • After he stopped doing the morning newscast, Kasell remained as official judge and scorekeeper for NPR's weekly news quiz show, Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! which premiered in January 1998.
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    After he stopped doing the morning newscast, Kasell remained as official judge and scorekeeper for NPR's weekly news quiz show, Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! which premiered in January 1998.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • Winners on Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! get Kasell's voice on their answering machines or voice mail. Kasell's last show as Wait Wait's official judge and scorekeeper will air on May 17.
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    Winners on Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! get Kasell's voice on their answering machines or voice mail. Kasell's last show as Wait Wait's official judge and scorekeeper will air on May 17.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • In retirement, Kasell will become scorekeeper emeritus of Wait Wait. He'll continue to record custom voice mail greetings for the show's lucky winners and will occasionally appear in the program.
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    In retirement, Kasell will become scorekeeper emeritus of Wait Wait. He'll continue to record custom voice mail greetings for the show's lucky winners and will occasionally appear in the program.
    David Gilkey/NPR
  • "I can honestly say I am the luckiest man around to be able to have worked at a job I love for so many years," Kasell says. "It's truly been a joy for me."
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    "I can honestly say I am the luckiest man around to be able to have worked at a job I love for so many years," Kasell says. "It's truly been a joy for me."
    David Gilkey/NPR

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Carl Kasell — the official judge and scorekeeper of the NPR quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! — is stepping down after more than 60 years in radio. While you'll still hear him from time to time as he eases into the role as scorekeeper emeritus, his final broadcast airs on Saturday and Sunday.

Kasell recently had a cameo on The Simpsons, and since that's the pinnacle of any career, this seemed like a good moment to look back on his many decades in broadcast.

Kasell dreamed of being on the radio since he was a kid. "I sometimes would hide behind the radio — which would be sitting on a table — and pretend that I was on the air and try to fool people who came by to listen," Kasell told NPR's Renee Montagne in 2009.

Kasell got his first radio gig when he was 16; he hosted a late-night, easy-listening music show on WGBR in Goldsboro, N.C., playing romantic songs and waxing poetic about young lovers all through the evening. (You'll want to click the listen link at the top of this page to hear a clip of that!)

Once he got a job on-air, only one thing kept him off: He was drafted in the 1950s. After his Army service, WGBR welcomed Kasell back by giving him his very own morning drive-time music program, The Carl Kasell Show.

Kasell eventually migrated into the news business. He joined NPR in 1975 as a part-time weekend newscaster and went on to Morning Edition in 1979, where he stayed for 30 years. While many of the Morning Edition staffers start their day before dawn, Kasell used to wake up at 1:05 a.m. because, he explained, "1 o'clock was just too damn early."

In 2009, he stepped away from the Morning Edition routine to devote more time to his other job, as official judge and scorekeeper on Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! Kasell's been with that show since it debuted in 1998.

Over the years, Kasell has recorded more than 2,000 voice mail greetings for winning contestants — that's something he plans to continue in his role as scorekeeper emeritus. (Click here to read host Peter Sagal's reflection on the time he spent working with Kasell — and to hear some very funny voice mail greetings.)

It is sometimes said about radio newscasters that although the news may be bad, just hearing their voices every day lets listeners know that things are all right. Throughout the years, millions of NPR listeners have felt that reassurance.

"I have enjoyed every minute of it," Kasell says. "I never consider what I do as work. It has been fun, it's been rewarding and very fulfilling. ... I love my work. It's been good to me."

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