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August 7, 1925
Art Laboe (born Arthur Egnoian on August 7, 1925) is an Armenian 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. He went on to attend Los Angeles City College, San Mateo Junior College and Stanford University, studying radio engineering.
Laboe moved to L.A. and became a DJ in 1943 on KPOP starting first as a station mechanic and then working his way up to being a DJ. At first Art 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 stations sign off time at 12:00 a.m. Art decided to use that hour to play music in the swing and jazz genres. What was unique about the way Laboe 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. Through these calls he would take song requests and was the first radio DJ to do this.
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 KRKD. While working at KRKD, Laboe got the idea to take his show on the road and broadcast live from a local drive-in, 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 and Art 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 Laboe to play love songs to help win back their significant others. As the popularity grew, Art found a promoter, found a ballroom east of Los Angeles, and through that the El Monte dance hall was formed.
Teenagers would come to the Drive-In and hang out, and give live on-air dedications for songs and Art began to make a list of the most frequently requested songs. With the live radio show going, he had the audience, he had the lists of requests and he began to turn that concept into an idea for an album, which he entitled, "Oldies But Goodies", a term he trademarked. Later he moved to KXLA (subsequently KRLA) where he stayed for many years.
Art 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 can be heard in 12 different radio markets including Los Angeles, Inland Empire, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.
In January 2006, Laboe debuted another syndicated Request and Dedication radio show, the Art Laboe Connection. Art Laboe hosts this show weeknights, which began on KDES Palm Springs and KOKO-FM Fresno and shortly after expanded to Hot 92.3 Los Angeles (until its 2015 format flip), Mega 104.3 Phoenix and stations in Bakersfield and Santa Maria.
Social Impact to Los Angeles
As Art Laboe’s on-air popularity started to grow so did his ability to draw in crowds of all ages. While hosting a local radio show, Art approached the owner of Scrivner's Drive-in about the possibility of buying advertising air time on his show. Upon the agreement of the owner of Scrivner’s buying airtime, Art 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 meet up led Art to host his radio show live from Scrivner’s drive-in on the corner of Sunset and Cahuenga in Los Angeles. At Scrivners drive-in, Art Laboe’s audience that would attend the live broadcast was mostly white teenagers. The growing popularity of the Scrivner’s live broadcast coupled with growing police harassment of the teenagers who attended the shows led to Art looking for a location to host dances.
Art settled on the El Monte Legion Stadium as the location for shows. Since El Monte was outside the city limits of Los Angeles, Art was able to 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 Art 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 El Monte Legion 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 Art Laboe’s shows at the Legion Stadium recalls that during this point in time interracial dating was unacceptable in her neighborhood. In a city that is divided by topography, neighborhoods, and class Art Laboe was able to unite the teenagers of the greater Los Angeles area, regardless of race or class in one location.
Whether it was at one of Art’s shows in El Monte or on the radio, Art Laboe was able to unite the youth of Los Angeles and was able to give equal access of his radio content to his listeners regardless of their background or age. It didn't matter if you were the former mayor of Los Angeles or an inmate serving your debt to society, Art gave his listeners and fans the same platform to express themselves. Art Laboe did not discriminate when callers would call to request a song live on-air, he was one of the first to allow different races to make a request. Art Laboe continues to be a unifier of people through his syndicated radio show and concerts.
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