Can He Top Pop?

UPDATED 08/29/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/29/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT

KEEP YOUR FEET ON THE GROUND, and keep reaching for the stars," veteran deejay Casey Kasem tells his radio audience each week at the end of his syndicated Casey's Top 40. And at least one listener has got the message clearly: Mike Kasem, Casey's look-alike, soundalike son. A modest 21-year-old, Mike is the host of Inside Track, a new, celebrity-oriented, monthly "audio magazine" on cassette aimed at teens and sold in record stores.

The younger Kasem sometimes has to endure the good-natured ribbing of the celebs he interviews (the members of the rock group Boyz II Men spent one recent session doing Casey impressions). And there's some father-son tension when Casey (real name Kemal Amin Kasem), 62, supplies constructive critiques. "Sometimes I don't enunciate correctly, and my dad will give me pointers," Mike says. "But how can you say, 'Get off my back!' to Casey Kasem when it comes to voice work?" (Praises Dad: "He has a better voice than I did at his age.")

The Kasem connection helped Mike get his foot in the studio door last May with an intern's job at Westwood One Entertainment, the company that produces both Top 40 and Track. But Joe Garner, director of Westwood's Audio Products division, declares flatly, "He had the talent." Another plus is that Mike is like his audience: He is a mountain-biking and water-skiing enthusiast and a fan of Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins. And he still lives at home—with his mother, Linda (Casey's first wife), and his two sisters—in the San Fernando Valley. Casey and Linda divorced when Mike was 6. "The divorce didn't hit me until I was about 9," says Mike. "Then it really hit me hard—as if the divorce had just happened."

After graduating from Landmark West High School in Encino, Calif., Kasem attended Pierce College in Woodland Hills for a year, then moved to the Academy of Radio Broadcasting (a one-year program he will complete this month). He is realistic about the value—and burden—of his surname. "Part of me wishes I had been poor and worked my way up, like my father did," says Kasem. "Other times I think, 'Shut up! No you don't!' "

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