Generations of Californians have never known a time without Art Laboe – recording songs on air, dedicating songs to dedicated listeners and turning younger music fans into “older but good things.”
But after nearly 80 years on the air, Laboe, a legendary DJ and beloved Los Angeles personality, has hung up his mic for good.
His spokeswoman Joanna Morones confirmed to CNN that Labo died Friday after a brief bout of pneumonia. He was 97 years old.
Labo, born Arthur Ignoyan, started DJing in 1943 as a teenager, he said in an interview with Orange County Register. (The way is Tell To the National Association of Music Merchants, he walked into the station manager’s office and shyly asked for the job. Since most of the station’s engineers were serving in World War II, he got the job.)
In 1949, he came to Los Angeles and began what would be seven decades in a career in the city. He started playing rock and R&B due to public demand, he Tell Desert Sun 2016: Broadcasting live, all night into early morning, from Scrivner’s Drive-In parking lot and receiving requests from young people who frequent it.
“At night, the kids would bring their own CDs and I would play them,” he said. “They were crazy about all black artists.”
Laboe was one of the first popular DJs to desegregate the airwaves, playing songs by beloved black artists like Little Richard and The Shirelles to listeners of all ethnic backgrounds, according to a statement from Laboe’s company, Dart Entertainment. His popularity among Angelenos drew teens of all races to live dance floor events as well, and so he helped de-segregate those venues as well. He was particularly liked by Latin listeners for his lesser known frequency Chicano spirit Difference in his lineup for what he, and later brand, called, “the old but the good stuff.”
The phrase became Labo’s signature, and beginning in 1959, he released a series of group recordings called “Oldies But Goodies” under his own record label. Beginning in 1972, it hosted a show dedicated to playing nothing but old songs, the first of its kind, according to to Radio Hall of Fame, where Laboe was entered in 2012.
Laboe was also one of the first DJs to welcome listeners to dedicate a song to their loved ones: they would call or visit him directly when he recorded at the drive-in, leave a message for someone (usually a significant other.) and choose a song in their honor. It was one of the few places at the time that Mexican Americans, as well as other people of color, living in Los Angeles could find “a way in which their voices could be heard,” writes Anthony Macias, UCSD professor at Riverside, in 2004.
Also among those who receive the gift – prisoners. Labo regularly answered requests from listeners whose loved ones were spending time. The artist said the words, born in Angelino pitchfork In 2015 he was listening to Laboe once when he heard his brother, an inmate at the Wasco State Penitentiary, call him and dedicate a song to him.
“The voice of art is a glimmer of hope that everything will be alright,” Speak said. “When he reads your name and your letter, you feel an old friend comfort you.”
Until his death, Laboe did not change much in his routine, and his baritone voice certainly did not lose its luster. He was still hosting his own radio show and giving live concerts, jobs he started 70 years ago. Recently, he hosted “The Art Laboe Connection” on KDAY Station.
In September, the 79th anniversary of the debut of Radio Laboe, the non-profit station double Flip the text on Labo and send gift for him. For over an hour and a half, fans called up Laboe songs (and kisses): One of them requested “18 With a Bullet” because Laboe played it when she turned 18. To Laboe he requested “La-La Means I Love You”. A fellow broadcaster inspired by Laboe dedicated, of course, the song “Those Old Things But Good Stuff,” a song that used the same phrase attributed to Laboe in the promotion.
in 2015 article After Laboe’s Los Angeles show was temporarily pulled from the airwaves, writer Adam Fine mourned the loss of the “lifeline” that had been Labo’s show to countless listeners.
“Art Laboe allows songs to give advice. It just acts as a dedication messenger with a classic radio sound,” Fine wrote. “Art Laboe’s greatest achievement is that it connects people separated by distance and time.”
The Labo Show is back then, and now the show will go on without him. In a statement shared by Morones, Dart Entertainment said it will continue to air his nightly show and accept dedications in his absence – so “his legacy will continue.”