Art Laboe created Southern California radio as we know it – Orange County Register

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He was among the first DJs to play rock ‘n’ roll records on the radio in Southern California. He was among the first to do radio listener dedications. He was the one who coined the term “Oldies but Goodies” and later started a record label dedicated to preserving these tunes. The year 2022 marked 79 continuous years on the air.

Sadly, 2022 also marked the passing of the radio legend who accomplished all of the above and more. Art Laboe died on October 7 at the age of 97.

Laboe – his first name is Arthur Egnoian – was born in Utah, where he lived until he was 13 years old. His sister gave him his first radio when he was just 8 years old, and as Laboe has said many times, he was “just captivated by it.” Moving to California, he graduated from Washington High School from Los Angeles, attended Stanford University and served in the United States Navy during World War II.

His radio career began at KSAN in San Francisco partly because he held a full license to broadcast radio telegrams and the station needed licensed announcers, having lost much to the war effort. As LARadio.Com’s Don Barrett put it, “With some trepidation he went to the station and was taken to see the general manager, a gruff man who said Art had a squeaky voice and was too young. .

“‘I kicked the ground and started to walk away,’ Art recalls. “And then he said, ‘Plus, you have to have an FCC license. minus a 3rd class license. We’re a combined station. I came back and took those certificates out of my jacket pocket and said, ‘You mean one of them? ‘I’ I set up a First Phone, 2nd Telephone and Ham license. He looked at me and said, ‘You’re hired.’ He put his arm around me and said, ‘come with me.’ He took me to a room with three huge transmitter boxes and asked if I could fix any of these things, I told him I thought so.

“There was a sign on butcher paper in the transmitter room, hanging on the wall: If the damn things work, leave them alone. Art asked him why he was hiring him. The owner of the radio station was operating illegally because all of his engineers had been drafted into the war. “Now with your first class license I am legal again,” the owner said. “This first-class license got me my first radio job.”

It was at KSAN that he took the name Art Laboe, a suggestion from a boss to sound more American. But it is in the region of Los Angeles that it imposes itself. He began hosting live shows where teens from across the region — and of all races and cultural backgrounds — came to listen to the latest records and become part of a booming music scene. You could say that Laboe helped desegregate the city through music and signings.

He started Original Sound Records to impress a young woman. As he explained when he received an LA Radio People Achievement Award from Barrett in 2012, one night he was visiting a young woman in her apartment. As they “got to know each other”, the young woman wanted Laboe to keep the mood going by playing the “right song”… the problem being that the short 45s were running out – spoiling the mood and forcing him Get off the couch, go ahead and put on another record.

His idea: a long play disc with several hits on each side. Which means, if you’ve been paying attention, Original Sound Records (and the Oldies but Goodies music they held) was basically born for the same reason many fans of the show bought them: to be more successful romantically. .

In 1975 he essentially saved KRLA (now KRDC, 1110 AM) by mixing those Oldies but Goodies with current music and creating HitRadio 11, an exceptionally broad appeal format by its very nature of playing music that crosses racial and ethnic lines – as Laboe had done since arriving in 1952 in Los Angeles. His application and dedication program brought people back to the station, which had languished for many years due to an ownership dispute.

At the time, there were only two DJs on KRLA, Laboe and Johnny Hayes. They covered the whole day with tape recordings, though most listeners couldn’t tell… Laboe mornings and evenings; Hayes at noon. The format helped propel KRLA to the top of the charts.

KRLA “Hitmen” roamed the streets of Southern California, giving away cash and prizes for tuning your radio to 11-10, even though, as once happened, the radio was partly there because she was broken and couldn’t fix anything else. It didn’t matter, however, the passengers in the car loved KRLA so much that they were okay with him being stuck there.

Laboe was among the first – if not the first – DJs to program in Southern California’s vast market of Latino listeners, creating unprecedented fan loyalty. Generations of families listen to “The Art Laboe Connection,” heard locally from 7 p.m. to midnight Sundays on KDAY (93.5 FM) and on Old School 104.7 FM in the Inland Empire weeknights from 9 p.m. midnight, along with a dozen others throughout California, Nevada and Arizona. At press time, the future of the program was unknown.

It was once said that the format Laboe helped create at KRLA was one that four generations – grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren – would all listen to…together. Family radio from the guy who stayed on the air until his death. Laboe was absolutely one of a kind and will be missed by fans everywhere.

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