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Rock Festival and Radio Pioneer Tom Rounds Dies

Radio Express Inc.

A radio and promoter who played a key role in creating both the American Top 40 radio program and the first U.S. rock festival has died. Tom Rounds, 77, passed away on June 1 from complications following surgery.

Rounds organized the Summer of Love-era Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Festival in Marin County, California, setting a template for the subsequent, and far more famous, Monterey Pop and Woodstock events. The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds, Canned Heat and the Steve Miller Band were among the performers during that initial June 1967 event. Rounds later produced 1968’s Miami Pop II. Hailed as the East Coast’s first significant music festival, it featured the Grateful Dead and Fleetwood Mac.

A longtime presence at KFRC in San Francisco, Rounds’ resignation as program director was big enough news that it was featured on the inaugural cover of Rolling Stone magazine. His subsequent video production company produced early music clips for the likes of Jimi Hendrix, the Animals and Steppenwolf.

Still, Rounds probably touched most music fans’ lives through American Top 40, a weekly show that counts down Billboard magazine’s most popular songs. Co-creator Casey Kasem was the show’s original host, and was featured over two stints with the program — from 1970-88, and from 1998-2003. Ryan Seacrest then took over after Kasem’s retirement.

Rounds also worked at WINS in New York, and at KPOI in Honolulu. Until his death, Rounds continued as CEO of Radio Express, which syndicates American Top 40 along with scores of other shows across more than 5,000 stations.

Next: See Other Rockers We've Lost in 2014

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