Radio DJ Art Laboe, who interviewed Elvis for radio in the 1950s before helping to make black music and young Latinos friends for life, has died.

He was 97 years old.

Laboe, who hosted a show on Los Angeles radio station KDAY, died of pneumonia on Friday, according to a statement posted on his Facebook page. Meruelo Media, the company that owns KDAY, confirmed his death.

The latest show from Laboe, who is credited with coining the phrase “oldies but goodies”, aired on Sunday.

He marked 79 years on the air, “the longest continuous period in broadcast service” of any American DJ, in September, according to his website.

“Art Laboe’s legacy will live on as its team will continue to produce its current syndicated nightly demand and dedication radio show, ‘The Art Laboe Connection,'” the post read.

The show airs on Southwest stations.

Laboe, who lived in Palm Springs, was known to contemporary audiences for keeping Latinos raised on the ultra-romantic tunes of 1950s and 1960s crooners and dance groups.

Laboe’s curated sound of southwest Chicano, including R&B, rock ‘n’ roll and soul oldies, became a soundtrack for cruising lowriders and classic cars, and Laboe the delivered like a postal worker – rain or shine.

In 1981, the Los Angeles City Council declared July 17 Art Laboe Day. He later received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Laboe was born Arthur Egnoian in Salt Lake City to an Armenian-American family. He moved to California to attend Stanford University before serving in the Navy during World War II.

Laboe began his radio career in San Francisco, where he changed his name to sound more American. But it was in Los Angeles that he found a formula that worked: playing black and white R&B and rock together for the city.

His first station in Los Angeles was KPOP, and he eventually played records on KRLA.

Laboe also worked behind the scenes promoting concerts and producing records on his own label, Original Sound.

Long before “Now That’s What I Call Music!” Laboe put hits from disparate artists on a single LP disc, and the products sold well. His label would later experience success, in 1959, with the hits “Bongo Rock” by Preston Epps and “Teen Beat” by Sandy Nelson.

“Bongo Rock” was remade by the Incredible Bongo Band, which made its own history with a similar 1973 track, “Apache,” considered by many to be the origin song of hip-hop.

Laboe reportedly landed Elvis Presley’s first radio interview on his first trip to Hollywood. His first broadcasts came from Scrivner’s Drive-In Theater in Hollywood.

Laboe’s reliance on sonic cohorts instead of race led to a subtle revolution: it helped desegregate venues that featured rock and its sonic brethren.

By the mid-1950s, Laboe was the top daytime radio DJ in Los Angeles.

In recent decades, Laboe has gained notoriety for allowing relatives of inmates to send in dedications intended to be heard by their incarcerated loved ones.

One of the signing anecdotes he told centered on a woman who went to the studio to allow her toddler to say to her incarcerated father, “Dad, I love you.”

“It was the first time he heard his baby’s voice,” Laboe told The Associated Press in 2019. “And that badass burst into tears.”

Meruelo Media CEO Otto Padron called Laboe “a colossal presence in LA and an irreplaceable part of the 93.5 KDAY family.”

“His passing leaves a huge hole in the community, and his legacy of connecting generations of Angelinos to heartfelt dedications and ties to the soul of Los Angeles, which cannot be replaced,” Padron said in a statement. .


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