Carl Kasell, the recognizable baritone voice of NPR who read the news on Morning Edition for three decades and served as a goofy judge, sidekick and scorekeeper on the Saturday morning quiz show Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!, died Tuesday. He was 84.
Kasell died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease in Potomac, Maryland, NPR announced.
A native of Goldsboro, North Carolina, Kasell joined the public radio network as a part-time employee in 1975. Four years later, he announced the news for the inaugural broadcast of Morning Edition, serving in that role until December 2009.
Kasell worked on Wait Wait from its start in January 1998 until leaving the show, succeeded by Bill Kurtis, in 2014, when he also published his memoir.
“The greatest thing about Carl was anything we came up with, he was game,” Wait Wait host Peter Sagal said. “When we were in Las Vegas, we had him come onstage in a showgirl’s headdress. No matter what we asked him to do — silly voices, or weird stunts; we had him jump out of a cake once to make his entrance onstage — he did it [with] such joy and such dignity.”
An amateur magician, Kasell also attempted (with little success) to re-create celebrity voices on Wait Wait and “covered” songs made famous by artists like Tom Jones and Peggy Lee. Plus, he recorded more than 2,000 personalized voicemails for listeners who had won a prize, NPR said.
Inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2010, Kasell also was the longtime announcer for the annual Kennedy Center Honors broadcast on CBS.
Born on April 2, 1934, Kasell attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he studied English and helped start the college radio station with fellow student and future CBS newsman Charles Kuralt.
After a stint in the U.S. Army, Kasell worked as a disc jockey and newscaster at radio stations in North Carolina and Virginia before landing at NPR. He famously said he arose at 1:05 a.m. each day — “because 1 is too damn early” — for his Morning Edition gig.
Survivors include his wife, Mary Ann; son Joe; stepson Brian; and four grandchildren.