June 6, 1936 - June 1, 2014 Tom Rounds, radio broadcasting innovator and producer of the iconic original hit countdown show, American Top 40 with Casey Kasem, died Sunday, June 1, 2014, in Los Angeles at age 77. A pioneer of radio syndication, rock festivals, and music videos, Rounds was founder and Chief Executive Officer of Radio Express, Inc., the leading supplier of entertainment programming to radio stations outside the U.S., providing programming to over 5,000 radio stations in more than 130 countries throughout the world. Rounds was born on June 6, 1936, in Stamford, CT, to Thomas Emerson Rounds, Jr. and Marjorie Coddington Land Rounds. After graduating from Amherst College with degrees in English and Music, Rounds went to work as a newsman at WINS-AM in New York City, then moved to Honolulu as afternoon disc jockey and program director for KPOI, and on to KFRC in San Francisco, where as program director, he produced the Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival in 1967. The festival featured acts including Jefferson Airplane, The 5th Dimension, and the Doors, and is considered the first Rock festival in history. When Rounds left KFRC for L.A. in 1967, it was featured on the front cover of the first issue of Rolling Stone magazine. Rounds' L.A.-based video production company, Charlatan Productions was among the first to focus exclusively on the use of cinematography and music together to create the music video. Rounds led the company in producing dozens of "artist-promoting films" for acts such as Jimi Hendrix, Steppenwolf, The Monkees, and The Animals. In 1969, Rounds co-founded Watermark, Inc., a radio production and syndication company that created a variety of music programs distributed to stations throughout North America. In 1970 with Casey Kasem and Don Bustany, he headed the team that launched and marketed American Top 40 with Casey Kasem. By the '80's, the program reached audiences at over 500 radio stations in the U.S. After ABC acquired Watermark in 1982, Rounds started Radio Express, Inc. with ABC as its first program supplier. In 1990, Rounds announced the introduction of American Top 40 syndicated programming into the Soviet Union, adding that country to the list of 70 countries outside the U.S. where the program was heard. Rounds produced scores of music festivals and concerts to raise funds for charitable causes, and was the first to distribute live global concerts for charity to radio stations across 150+ countries-- including the Live 8 and Live Earth concerts. Rounds was a modern-day Renaissance man. He loved sailing, and was an avid gardener and an accomplished pianist. He and his wife, Barbara, traveled numerous times to over 100 countries. He lived in Los Angeles for 45 years. Tom is survived by Barbara Rounds, his loving wife and business partner of 49 years; daughter, Michelle Rounds Rajotte and husband, Mark; son, Thomas Emerson Rounds IV; stepdaughter, Debbie De La Cueva Dabrowski and husband Stephen; and four grandchildren, Eli, Margaux, Lucy and Nicco. Memorial donations may be made to City of Hope (http://ourhope.cityofhope.org/rounds).
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Published in the Los Angeles Times on June 8, 2014