Casey Kasem, of course, is associated with his internationally syndicated American Top 40 radio countdown program, but he is also behind another American icon, the voice of the beloved cartoon character “Shaggy.” The cartoon series Scooby Do Where Are You! ran on American television in the late 60s and early 70s, and the Lebanese-American Kasem voiced the part of the lanky, scrappy teenager, Norville “Shaggy” Rogers. The weekly show followed the adventures and misadventures of four offbeat, crime-solving teenagers as they hunted supernatural mysteries along with the show’s namesake, Scooby Do, Shaggy’s enormous, ravenous and perennially-frightened Great Dane sidekick.
Although the series, which was created and produced by the prolific Hanna-Barbera Productions, ran on American television for only three seasons, there were many spin-offs. A novelty of its era, the show and its successors remain linked with other oddities of the time, such as 8-Track audio tapes, Earth Shoes and Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific shampoo.
Casey Kasem’s character, Shaggy, was what today would be referred to as a “slacker.” A pretty gutless one, he was. While the rest of the gang, Velma, Daphne and Freddie were zealous to solve the latest mystery to come knocking on the doors of their so-very-’70s psychedelic van, The Mystery Machine, Shaggy and Scooby were both, instead inspired to eat; as was his dog. Throughout the series and its various spin-offs the two were together constantly tempted and incented by the intriguing food units known as Scooby Snacks. One episode actually revealed that Scooby Snacks were custom-manufactured just for Scooby Doo. Yet Shaggy was known on occasion to indulge in their pleasures as well.
Upon landing the job of voicing Shaggy, Kasem at first did not “get” how to play the role. Although he reported being “hip to what hippies were about,” he was basically a radio guy, not an actor, so playing any sort of role was a new experience. Inspiration did arrive, though, in the form of Richard Crenna’s live-action portrayal of Walter Denton, a character in the 1950s hit television series, Our Miss Brooks. Denton was amicable, clumsy and, ironically, drove a funky vehicle.
Shaggy was not the only part Casey Kasem played on the Scooby shows. Others included “Pops” from the Scrappy-Doo Show and The New Scooby. Kasem also played Uncle Shagworthy, Shaggy’s rich uncle, who not only looks like Shaggy but also is constantly hungry and, yes, scared of just about everything. Shagworthy loves food so much, in fact, that he kept it in a secret refrigerator, along with rare jewels. Finally there was another uncle, Albert, an inventor.
Thanks to his floppy dress, unshaved face and non-stop appetite, many speculate that Shaggy was a stoner. Kasem said in an interview, however, that he was not even aware of the idea until the interviewer brought it up. Matthew Lillard, who plays Shaggy in the 2004 live-action remake film, does not think Shaggy is a pot smoker, “He just seems like that. He acts a little goofy and high, he’s lovable and scared – and just happens to have the munchies.”
Last year, TV Guide ranked Scooby-Doo Where Are You! the fifth Greatest TV Cartoon of All Time. So, even though a number of other actors have played the role over the years, Casey Kasem will always be the voice of Shaggy.
By Gregory Baskin