All of Los Angeles County will be riding low with Art Laboe today! The legendary radio host is being honored with an 'Art Laboe Day' proclamation by Mike Antonovich and the County Board of Supervisors. The festivities begin at 10 a.m. this morning during the board's weekly meeting with a presentation lauding the legend for his contributions to LA through radio and rock 'n' roll. The KDAY 93.5FM "Oldies But Goodies" host turns 90 on Friday and boasts an epic 72-year career centered in the city spanning decades.
"It's a great a honor, of course," Laboe tells the Weekly. "I've been here so long I consider myself an LA homeboy!"
LA County joins the city in proclaiming an 'Art Laboe Day.' Los Angeles marks every July 17 as such since the velvety voice host got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1981. The Radio Hall of Fame honoree first came to Los Angeles in 1936 at the age of 11 from his birthplace in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from George Washington High School in South Los Angeles in 1942. The next year he got his start in radio at San Francisco's KSAN station.
"I had an hour to play music at the end of the day," he recalls." Laboe spun songs by Glen Miller and other big bands. "I'm writing a book and I write in my preface that I was a deejay before they were called deejays."
Only three years in the military during World War II took Laboe away from his beloved metropolis. When he came back from service, he had a hard timing finding work in LA radio. "I got a job on a station called KRKD," Laboe remembers. "The towers are still there in Spring Street." The program director stuck him in the unceremonious graveyard shift where Laboe played tunes between midnight and 5 a.m.
He finally got his big break years later in Los Angeles when he did The Art Laboe Show live during afternoons from Scrivner's Drive-In spots, where his signature phrase "Oldies But Goodies" was first coined. "That show just blasted loose and became number one in 90 days." And the rest, they say, is history.
Laboe's been a radio engineer, a deejay, owned stations and the Original Sound record label that he just sold two years ago. His longevity spans vast technological changes. When he started, FM radio didn't exist and computers were decades away. These days, Laboe takes dedications via Facebook and his show streams everywhere over the internet.
Retiring from radio never enters the conversation. "I have boundless ambition but physical limitation," he says. "There's only so much you can do." But his definition of limits expands beyond most people's horizons. In addition to The Art Laboe Sunday Special on KDAY, he hosts The Art Laboe Connection on various stations at night during the work week. His autobiography, a labor of love for 20 years, is being readied for release next year.
And Laboe still has time for the ladies. "Do you still chase girls?" people often ask the radio host. "I do, but only downhill," he quips!
The indefatigable host also continues promoting and appearing at live concerts like the upcoming bash at San Manuel Amphitheater in San Bernardino on September 19. He's also planning to return to Anaheim's Honda Center for another Chicano Soul Legends show in December!
But before all that, the living legend will celebrate another milestone on Friday by turning 90! He'll be spending it doing what he's loved all his life; taking requests and dedications on-air. "I've done the show on my birthday a lot of times," he says. "I usually like to work, but it doesn't feel like work. I always make jokes on the radio where I say 'this is really not like a job, I'm just talking to my friends, but don't tell my boss, he might cut my salary!'"
And there's only one place that can lay claim to where the storied journey all began. "LA is my home," Laboe says, "and always will be until I'm no longer here."
Gabriel San Roman is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and tallest Mexican in OC.