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August 7, 1925
Art Laboe (born Arthur Egnoian on August 7, 1925) is an American disc jockey, songwriter, record producer, and radio station owner, generally credited with coining the term "Oldies But Goodies".
Early life and education
Laboe was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and moved to Los Angeles during his high school years. He graduated from Washington High School at age 16. Following graduation, he served in the United States Navy and was stationed at Naval Station Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. He went on to attend Los Angeles City College, San Mateo Junior College and Stanford University, studying radio engineering.
Laboe made his radio debut in 1943, during World War II, on KSAN in San Francisco, while stationed at Treasure Island. The war had deprived the station of technicians, and he had a radiotelephone license. He pioneered the request-and-dedication concept at KSAN, taking phone calls from listeners on-air while playing big band and jazz records late nights. At first Laboe would go on every 15 minutes to announce what segments were coming up next, but after realizing a gap between the last segment ending at 11:00 p.m. and the station's signoff time at 12:00 a.m., he decided to use that hour to play music in the swing and jazz genres. What was unique about the way he conducted his show was the calls he would take from listeners while on air. He would repeat to the listeners what the person on the phone was saying because technology had yet to catch up with Laboe's ambitions.
Laboe stepped away from his work as a DJ and served his country transmitting Morse Code, sending messages to ships travelling in the South Pacific.
When he returned to Southern California and began working at KCMJ in Palm Springs, he was the only broadcaster in town, and would often meet with his fans at bars after signing off. He later returned to Los Angeles and began his time at KPOP. While working at KPOP, Laboe got the idea to take his show on the road and broadcast live from the local Scrivner's Drive-In, on Cahuenga and Sunset. Teenagers would come to the drive-in and hang out, and give live on-air dedications for songs. Laboe began to make a list of the most frequently requested songs. People would often call in who had just gone through a breakup and would ask him to play love songs to help win back their significant others. As the popularity grew, Laboe found a promoter and a ballroom east of Los Angeles, and through that the El Monte dance hall was formed.
With the live radio show going, he had the audience and the lists of requests. He began to turn that concept into an album titled Oldies But Goodies, a term he trademarked.
In 1959, Laboe formed record label Original Sound Records to promote new musical talent he discovered. In 1959 the label released two instrumental hit songs: "Teen Beat", the breakout hit by Sandy Nelson and "Bongo Rock" by Preston Epps. Laboe also received writing credit on both songs.
In January 2006, Laboe debuted another syndicated request and dedication radio show, The Art Laboe Connection. The show began on weeknights on KDES-FM in Palm Springs and KOKO-FM in Fresno. It soon expanded to KHHT (Hot 92.3) in Los Angeles (until its 2015 format flip), KAJM (Mega 104.3) in Phoenix, and stations in Bakersfield and Santa Maria.
Laboe is currently heard on two syndicated radio shows, both of which are broadcast across the American Southwest. The Art Laboe Connection and Art Laboe Sunday Special, as of 2018, could be heard in 14 different radio markets including Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.
Social impact to Los Angeles
As Laboe's on-air popularity started to grow, so did his ability to draw crowds of all ages. While hosting a local radio show, he approached the owner of Scrivner's Drive-In about buying advertising airtime on his show. In return, Laboe agreed to announce that he would meet his listeners at the drive-in after the radio show if they were in the area. The success of the post-show meetup led Laboe to host his radio show live from Scrivner's Drive-In on the corner of Sunset and Cahuenga in Los Angeles. The audience who attended the live broadcast was mostly white teenagers. The growing popularity of the live broadcast, coupled with growing police harassment of the teenagers who attended the shows, led Laboe to look for a location to host dances.
He settled on the El Monte Legion Stadium as the location for shows. Since it was outside the city limits of Los Angeles, Laboe could circumnavigate the city ordinance that ordered the approval of the Los Angeles Board of Education to grant approval to any dance that targeted teenagers.
It wasn't until Laboe started hosting his dance shows at the El Monte Legion Stadium that his shows started to diversify, drawing in teenagers from the local El Monte area to Beverly Hills. While the atmosphere inside the stadium was becoming more tolerant of interracial dancing and dating, the city of Los Angeles as a whole did not share the same feelings. An attendee of Laboe's shows at the stadium recalled that during this point in time interracial dating was unacceptable in her neighborhood.
In a city divided by topography, neighborhoods, and class, Laboe united the teenagers of the greater Los Angeles area, regardless of race or class, in one location. He did not discriminate when listeners called to request a song live on-air; he was one of the first to allow people of different races to make a request.
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