It's been a sad week for radio lovers and broadcasters. Legendary LA disc jockey Art Laboe – the pioneering radio personality who coined the term “oldies but goodies” and launched the label Original Sound – has died.
A spokesperson for Laboe’s production company Dart Entertainment confirmed that Laboe died Friday (October 7) at his home in Palm Springs, California, following a brief bout of pneumonia. He was 97 years old.
Born Arthur Egnoian in Salt Lake City, Laboe first took to the airwaves in 1943 at San Francisco’s KSAN while serving in the United States Navy. While at KSAN, Laboe developed the call-in request format that became a radio programming standard for decades to come. Laboe would continue his career at KCMJ in Palm Springs and KPOP in Los Angeles, before landing at Los Angeles’ KXLA.
He soon became one of the first DJs to play rock ‘n’ roll and R&B on West Coast radio stations – playing songs by Black, Latinx, and white artists, despite the quietly enforced segregation of the music industry at the time. As his radio popularity rose, Laboe met up with fans after his shows and hosted dance parties at a local drive-in, creating diverse gatherings for teenagers and young adults. Laboe eventually relocated the gatherings to the El Monte Legion Stadium outside of Los Angeles city limits to get around city laws aimed at enforcing racial segregation.
Over the next seven decades, Laboe became a beloved figure for multiple generations of those living in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. He continued to favor “oldies” music across his shows, releasing a 1989 compilation dubbed Oldies But Goodies: Vol. 1 that remarkably stayed on the Billboard 200 for more than two years.
Laboe moved his show to 93.5 KDAY after his iHeartRadio-owned home station, Hot 92.3, changed formats in 2015. Laboe continued to host regular programming until just a few days before his death. He produced his final episode last week, and it aired on Sunday, October 9.
Laboe was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2012. In his later years, he dedicated his time to philanthropic work through his Art Laboe Foundation, which focuses on helping the underprivileged and animal charities. Laboe is survived by two sons, three sisters, and one brother.
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