Don Bustany, Co-Creator of Radio's 'American Top 40,' Dies at 89

Courtesy of Guy Aoki
Don Bustany

He partnered with Casey Kasem to launch the show in 1970, then worked as a technical coordinator for Mary Tyler Moore's MTM Enterprises.

Don Bustany, who teamed with Casey Kasem to create the American Top 40 radio program and worked behind the scenes on sitcoms starring Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Newhart, has died. He was 89.

Bustany died Monday in Santa Barbara, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee announced. He served four terms as president of the ADC's Los Angeles chapter was a member of ADC's advisory committee for many years.

Bustany and Kasem knew each other as teenagers growing up in Detroit and as students at Wayne University before they reconnected in Los Angeles in 1968, becoming partners in a company that produced commercials.

Kasem had arrived in L.A. after working as a radio announcer on small stations in such cities as Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, New York and Oakland. He based his idea for the American Top 40 countdown format on the 1950s TV program Your Hit Parade.

"Casey kept nudging me: 'We have to do a national [radio] countdown show,' " Bustany said in 2013 in a tribute to Kasem. "We talked about it, planned about it and got together with a distribution firm and went on the air with American Top 40 in 1970 on the Fourth of July."

At the start, just seven stations carried the program. The first show ended with Kasem counting down to Three Dog Night's "Mama Told Me Not to Come" at No. 1.

In 1973, Bustany and Kasem branched out by launching (with Tom Rounds) another syndicated show, American Country Countdown. That and American Top 40, now hosted by Ryan Seacrest, are still on the air.

Bustany later served as a technical coordinator for Grant Tinker and Mary Tyler Moore's MTM Enterprises on comedies including Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers, The Tony Randall Show, Phyllis and The Mary Tyler Moore Show and as camera coordinator on Mary Tyler Moore and The Bob Newhart Show. He also directed an episode of the Newhart comedy in 1974.

Bustany hosted the L.A.-based radio program Middle East in Focus from 1996-2014.

"Bustany was and will continue to be a role model in the Arab-American community," ADC president Samer Khalaf said in a statement. "He spoke up when few others would, and his activism helped found ADC, the nation's largest Arab-American organization."

Survivors include his stepdaughter, Kristen.