Pioneering DJ Art Laboe dies, aged 97
Art Laboe, a pioneering US DJ credited with coining the phrase “oldies, but goodies”, has died, aged 97.
A spokesperson for Laboe’s production company Dart Entertainment confirmed that he died on Friday, 7th October at his home in Palm Springs, California, following a brief bout of pneumonia.
Laboe’s career as a radio DJ spanned almost 80 years, with his first broadcasts taking place in 1943 on San Francisco’s KSAN while he was serving in the United States Navy. It was on KSAN that he began to encourage listeners to call in to his shows, an uncommon format for radio broadcasting at the time.
Laboe also played music by Black, Latin and white artists with no consideration of their racial differences, a significant difference from the established music industry segregation of Southern California and beyond at the time. Organising live DJ shows at a drive-in diner in Los Angeles, he also drew crowds of teenagers from many different races to listen to the music that he played.
Those dance parties were eventually relocated to the El Monte Legion Stadium, which was outside of Los Angeles city limits. He did so in order to get around laws at the time that were designed to enforce racial segregation. One such law required the Los Angeles Board of Education to give permission for social dances marketed at teenagers to go ahead.
Following his early days with KSAN, Laboe went on to host radio shows with KCMJ in Palm Springs and KPOP in Los Angeles for short periods of time, before eventually finding himself at Los Angeles’ KXLA. It was while with KXLA that he begun to put on the overnight music shows at drive-in diners, while he was also an early adopter of R&B and rock & roll music on California’s airwaves.
More recently, Laboe presented broadcasts via iHeartRadio-owned station Hot 92.3, but he moved on to 93.5 KDAY after the format switched up its programming in 2015. The broadcaster continued to produce and present radio shows right up until his death. He produced his final episode last week, and it was broadcast this past Sunday, two days after his death.