Art Laboe, legendary Southern California radio DJ, died at 97 – Orange County Register
Art Laboe, a radio DJ whose career spanned 79 years, died of pneumonia at his Palm Springs home on Friday. He was 97.
Joanna Morones, who worked as an executive assistant for Laboe in 1995 and eventually served as its producer, marketer and advertising executive, said Laboe was healthy until recently when a respiratory illness hospitalized him with pneumonia.
After a week there, with a bleak prognosis, Laboe decided to spend his final days at home, Morones said.
“He came home and after a few days he stopped eating, and a few days later he died,” she said. “Thank God it didn’t take long. He didn’t suffer.”
Morones said she was with Laboe on Friday before returning to the network to wrap up production on his show for Sunday, October 9.
“I went up to him and said goodbye because we knew it was inevitable,” she said. “I said, ‘Art Laboe, I have to get back to the station to produce your radio show, see you in a minute.'”
Shortly after his aide called to tell her that Laboe had died, Morones returned to his home to sit with him until his body was taken away.
For the past few years, Laboe’s radio home has been on KDAY-FM/93.5 in Palm Springs, where he and Morones produced The Art Laboe Connection, a show where Laboe made the kind of vintage radio he’s famous for in Los Angeles became the 50s.
A radio legend to the end
On a visit to Laboe’s studio in 2020, just months before the pandemic forced him to hunker down and record his show from home, Laboe was busy making dedications from hundreds of fans who were still writing to him and asked him to radio a song to a loved one.
“We’re going to play a song called ‘Gangsters Get Lonely, Too,'” Laboe read for a dedication from a mother to her son. “It goes to ‘My son Matthew in Buckeye, Arizona; From Mom Liz over in Phoenix.” Says, “Happy belated birthday and I love you; Heads up. Anything for you, son, from your mother Liz.’”
Those simple personal touches — taking a request, dedicating it to a song — are things Laboe is often credited with being the first DJ to do it.
Laboe was also famous as one of the first DJs to bring music to the masses. His live shows at Scrivner’s Drive-In in Hollywood in the 1950’s were famous. Laboe drove his radio gear from the transmitter to the drive-in theater on the corner of Sunset and Cahuenga Boulevard.
There he would typically shoot late-night R&B and early rock records for teens to listen at home or show up in person, and he would interview celebrities who would drop by.
Eventually, the Scrivner shows got so big that the city acted to shut them down. Laboe then moved east to El Monte Legion Stadium and booked live shows with rock ‘n’ roll acts such as Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ricky Nelson and doo-wop group The Penguins.
The El Monte shows became so popular and such a lasting memory for generations of fans that the city declared Art Laboe Day in his honor in 2018.
Laboe was also proud to have coined the phrase “oldies but goodies,” a term he eventually used on a multi-volume series of compilation albums he released on his own record label.
“I think some people made a dedication and threw out that word — just, you know, ‘That’s an old song, but it’s a good song,'” Laboe says of the moment in the ’50s when the phrase came up . “And then I said, ‘An oldie, but a goodie? That’s what I am.’ And everyone laughs.”
In recent years, Laboe has been promoting annual oldies shows at San Bernardino’s Glen Helen Amphitheater. The final show was on Saturday October 8th, the day after Laboe’s death, and featured acts such as Peaches and Herb, Rose Royce and the SOS Band.
About 12,000 people attended Saturday’s concert, Morones said.
life on the radio
When asked in 2020 when he made his radio debut, Laboe pulled a battered union card from his wallet and pointed to the spot that said he had been a member since 1943. He was 18 at the time, a Marine recruit fresh out of high school in Los Angeles, when he was stationed on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay and landed a job with KSAN-AM in San Francisco.
If you do the math, Laboe wasn’t just a radio DJ for 79 straight years, he’s been on the air for chunks of nine different decades.
Morones said news of Laboe’s death was kept under wraps for Saturday’s concert and also for Art Laboe Connection’s latest radio show on Sunday October 9, in part to allow fans to enjoy it once again without the sadness of his passing be able.
Plans currently under discussion would keep the Art Laboe name in the radio and concert marquees going forward, Morones said.
“We’re hoping to continue (the radio show) for the most part as it is, which is a dedicated and caller-based show,” she said. “We have archived Art’s tracks for the last seven years. So instead of him reading dedications, we go into the archive and find traces of him talking about the music.”
During the pandemic, a second presenter, Old School Becky Lou, joined to help out on the air as Laboe’s energy waned at times, and she may also be part of an ongoing program of posthumous Laboe radio shows.
Eventually, a public memorial will be held in Laboe’s honor, Morones said.
“Art wanted a big concert to be presented, so we’re looking at something in the Los Angeles area,” she said. “Possibly El Monte because he’s had great success there in the past, although I’m not sure if there’s a place big enough there.”
An hour after the news of Laboe’s death broke on his Facebook page, 17,000 had shared the post. Nearly 5,000 left comments, sharing memories, sadness and a whole lot of love for a man whose voice had filled their homes and cars and everywhere else over the decades.
“He was the voice of love,” wrote David R. Basulto. “He brought us all together.”
A few dozen comments later, Lydia Serradell predicted that Laboe would live on in the hearts of listeners. “Like the music you played you will not forget,” she wrote.
“Rest in everlasting peace Art Laboe,” wrote Martie Evans. “Sunday nights will never be the same. Thank you for all the years of wonderful music and dedication. My husband came through several times. ‘These oldies but goodies remind me of you.’”
anticipation of the end
When asked two years ago how he hoped fans would cope when he was off the air, Laboe pointed to the song he said might be his all-time favorite oldie.
“There’s a song by a group called the Skyliners and it’s called ‘Since I Don’t Have You,'” he says. “That was a song that touches my heart because there are so many people you don’t have anymore.
“And you know, that’s my favorite. Everyone has one. I have a few. But this is one of the greats.”
https://www.ocregister.com/2022/10/10/art-laboe-the-legendary-southern-california-radio-dj-dead-at-97/ Art Laboe, legendary Southern California radio DJ, died at 97 – Orange County Register