Art Laboe, the DJ and music promoter who has spent 79 unbroken years on the radio, was an innovator of the compilation album and coined and trademarked the term “Oldies but Goodies”, has passed away. He was 97.
Laboe died peacefully at his home in Palm Springs on Friday after a brief bout with pneumonia, Joanna Morones, a spokesperson for his production company, Dart Entertainment, said.
He was still on the air on Sunday evening with his pre-recorded The Art Laboe Connectionthe syndicated program he launched in 1991.
“My favorite place to be is behind that microphone,” Laboe said. “I have one of the best jobs in the world, I play the music, communicate with our listeners, make their dedication and connect them with their loved ones.”
As one of the first DJs to play R&B and rock and roll on Los Angeles/West Coast radio, Laboe takes credit for creating the oldies format in radio (he helped set the tone in the years ’70s at KRTH, known as K-Earth 101). He also owned and operated a nightclub that is now the location of The Comedy Store in Los Angeles.
Laboe began his professional radio career with KSAN/San Francisco at the age of 18 in 1943, and then worked for several stations in Los Angeles. He also had stops in Palm Springs; Pomona, California; and Reno, Nevada.
He owned radio stations in Tucson, Arizona, and Fresno, California, and in connection with his radio shows hosted, promoted, and staged concerts across the West, including Saturday night at the Glen Helen Amphitheater in San Bernardino.
Born Arthur Egnoian in Salt Lake City to an Armenian-American family, Laboe set up his radio show at a drive-thru in LA in the mid-1950s, taking dedication requests from those in attendance and inventing the idea. came to songs by different artists on the same album.
He started Original Sound Record Inc. in 1957 and released the compilation LP a year later Oldies but Goodies Vol. 1, which remained on a Billboard chart for months. Also in 1958 he presented for KTLA-TV The Art Laboe Showa dance program including Jerry Lee Lewis, Jackie Wilson and Bobby Darin.
Through his company Original Sound Entertainment, Laboe has featured thousands of songs in commercials, movies, and on TV dates with George Lucas’ American graffiti (1973), which paid royalties to the performers featured in the film.
OSE also helped with music licensing for movies, including: Dirty Dancing, La Bamba, Deadly Weapon, Good morning Vietnam, Born on July 4th, hairspray and Almost Famous and represented songs from artists ranging from The Beach Boys, Ritchie Valens and The Everly Brothers to Little Richard, Johnny Cash and The Isley Brothers.