Generations of Angelenos and Californians grew up with Art Laboe. Whether he was the soundtrack to your summer cruising down Whittier BLVD or turning you on to “oldies but goodies,”―there’s definitely a chance he’s in one of your memories.
In 1949, Laboe came to Los Angeles and began what would become his almost 8-year decade career in the city. He would become one of the first DJs to break down barriers in radio. He was one of the first DJs to give a public voice to Black and Brown communities over the airwaves, often allowing listeners to call in and dedicate a song to their loved ones. As Anthony Macias, a UC Riverside professor put it in 2004, Laboe gave these communities “a medium through which their voices could be heard.”
He was also one of the first DJs to fight against the idea of segregation on the radio by often playing artists of all racial backgrounds–from iconic Black artists playing rock to Brown Chicano soul bands. His beloved range and lineup of music would later be coined as, “oldies but goodies.”
The significance of these acts alone would also pave the way for future Black and Brown hosts and disc jockeys.
Later on in his career, every Sunday listeners could count on his syndicated show “The Art Laboe Connection Show,” where many could connect to family members and even inmates in California, Arizona, or Nevada. Laboe would often read parts of letters written by inmates on air.
“I don’t judge,” Laboe said in a 2018 interview with The Associated Press. “I like people.”
It was this very impact he had on people that was recognized by the Los Angeles City Council, and in 1981, they declared July 17 as Art Laboe Day. He later received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
After nearly 80 years on air, Laboe died on Friday, October 7, 2022 due to pneumonia. He was 97. The heartbreak has been felt in Los Angeles and beyond California,―however, his legacy lives on.
Many went online to share their memories with Laboe, and some even took to creating artworks, or leaving flowers on his Walk of Fame star. We’ve collected photos of Angelenos honoring Laboe’s memory below.
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