Art Laboe, DJ Known for Playing ‘Oldies but Goodies,’ Dies at 97

Art Laboe, the DJ and music promoter who spent 79 continuous years on the radio, was an innovator of the compilation album and coined and trademarked the term “Oldies but Goodies,” has died. He was 97.

Laboe died peacefully Friday at his home in Palm Springs after a brief bout with pneumonia, Joanna Morones, a spokesperson for his production company, Dart Entertainment, announced.

He was on the air as recently as Sunday night with his pre-recorded The Art Laboe Connection, the syndicated program that 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, playing the music, interacting with our listeners, doing their dedications and connecting them with their loved ones.”

One of the first DJs to play R&B and rock ‘n’ roll on Los Angeles/West Coast radio, Laboe gets credit for creating the oldies format in radio (he helped set the tone in the ’70s at KRTH, known as K-Earth 101). He also owned and operated a nightclub that is now the site of The Comedy Store in Los Angeles.

Laboe began his professional radio career at KSAN/San Francisco at age 18 in 1943, and he went on to work 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 presented, promoted and hosted concerts throughout the west, including one Saturday night at the Glen Helen Amphitheater in San Bernardino.

Born Arthur Egnoian in Salt Lake City to an Armenian American family, Laboe in the mid-’50s set up his radio show at an L.A. drive-in, where he took dedication requests from those on hand and came up the idea of putting songs from different artists on the same album.

He started Original Sound Record Inc. in 1957 and a year later released the compilation LP Oldies but Goodies Vol. 1, which stayed on a Billboard chart for months. Also in 1958, he hosted for KTLA-TV The Art Laboe Show, a dance program featuring the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Jackie Wilson and Bobby Darin.

Through his company Original Sound Entertainment, Laboe placed thousands of songs in commercials, films and on TV dating to George Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973), which paid royalties to the artists heard in the film.

OSE also helped out on the licensing of music for films including Dirty Dancing, La Bamba, Lethal Weapon, Good Morning, Vietnam, Born on the Fourth of July, 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.

This article originally appeared in

Lars Brandle