Art Laboe, a pioneering DJ and activist died at 97
Art Laboe, a Los Angeles radio regular who played “oldies but goodies,” has died. 97-year-old
Laboe died of pneumonia at home in Palm Springs, according to his Twitter account.
Art Egnoian Laboe was born in Salt Lake City on August 7, 1925. He served in the Navy during World War II and began broadcasting in L.A. in 1955. His initial L.A. stations were KXLA-AM (later KRLA) and KPOP, where he did live remote shows from midnight to 4 a.m. at a drive-in diner, taking requests and becoming popular with the night-owl population. Teenagers jammed Sunset and Cahuenga after he shifted the KPOP show to after school.
Laboe held dance events in El Monte, east of Los Angeles, that drew Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Ray Charles. Laboe noticed during live shows that most audience members wanted older records. His events were a cross-cultural hit in Los Angeles’ melting pot. He moved them a decade later to Art Laboe’s Oldies but Goodies, which later became the Comedy Store.
He popularized spinning platters from yesteryear “by request” and curated a run of Oldies but Goodies LPs that sold well countrywide. 1957’s Original Sounds initial edition included “Earth Angel,” “In the Still of the Night,” and “Stranded in the Jungle.” The album stayed on the Billboard 200 list for 183 weeks, peaking at No. 12. After that, one numbered edition a year followed. Vols. 3-5 made the Top 20.
Little Caesar and the Romans’ 1961 hit “Those Oldies but Goodies (Remind Me of You)” established nostalgia in popular culture.
Laboe’s Original Sound label released original music. Sandy Nelson’s “Teen Beat” and Preston Epps’ “Bongo Rock” were 1959 pop smashes.
By 1970, he had switched his program to KPPC-FM, and nostalgia for the 1950s and early ’60s became a nationwide craze. In 1974, Happy Days debuted.
Laboe was an on-air jock and consultant when KRTH-FM went all-oldies in 1972.
In 1975, Laboe returned to KRLA, where he spent the decade. He did a show and was program director, sales consultant, and more at the station. He was VP by 1979.
He spent a few years at KFI before starting a third tenure at KRLA in 1985. In 1994, he syndicated his Sunday Night Killer Oldies Show.
Laboe remained an L.A. institution; his farewell show aired October 9. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland contains a Laboe display.