Beloved L.A. DJ Art Laboe dies at 97, leaving a loving impact on the Chicano and Black communities

Art Laboe 93.5 K Day
Art Laboe via his website

Beloved Los Angeles DJ Art Laboe has died at 97 years. For many of us that grew up in and around Los Angeles, he was a light of love and hope, always lifting spirits with his selection of “oldies but goodies.” He was the OG music blogger of the airwaves and beyond, promoting new artists he discovered and sharing their stories. In 1959 Laboe formed record label Original Sound Records to promote the new musical talent he came across. His love for music and discovering talent helped grow the career of numerous BIPOC artist and bands.

Laboe had such a positive impact on the Chicano (Mexican-American) and Black communities in Los Angeles. Whether on air or through his “Dedicated To You” collection, he was always played at every reunion, Sunday BBQ en el parque or just cruisin’ down Whittier BLVD.

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Laboe was credited with helping end segregation in Southern California. The music he played united communities. Back in the day, he DJ’d at drive-in eateries where Black, Latine and white people would come out and slow dance with their loved ones, or dance to some rock n roll.

Art Laboe’s career includes gracing the airwaves of: KCMJ in Palm Springs, KPOP Los Angeles, KXLA, KGGI (Los Angeles), 93.5 KDAY and more. His signature shows The Art Laboe Connection and Art Laboe Sunday Special were syndicated and broadcasted across the American Southwest for all to enjoy.

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Art Laboe vintage photo at KCMJ
Art Laboe vintage photo via his website

Songs like “I’m Your Puppet” by James & Bobby Purity, and “Angel Baby” by Rosie & The Originals will forever, for me, be synonymous with Art Laboe.

Through the years running this blog, Grimy Goods — we’ve always included Laboe’s live gigs such as at the Honda Center with Chicano Soul Legends, the Greek Theatre as part of his live Art Laboe show with groups like Rappers Delight, and of course many Native American casinos like the San Manuel Amphitheater and more. Laboe was a legit Los Angeles music staple, especially when it came to oldies. As an Angeleno, you cannot think of oldies without thinking of Art Laboe.

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For this here music blogger, some of my fondest memories of my Father were in part due to Art Laboe. My familia and I would always be listening to Dad’s ‘oldies but goodies’ (he loved calling it that just like Laboe officially coined it) on trips to Schabarum Park (aka back in the day Otterbine) and long car rides home from a relaxing beach day at Corona Del Mar — that is, if my brothers weren’t fighting with him over listening to A-ha or Depeche Mode.

My Father and I would always play our own version of “name that tune.” In his charming accent and broken English, my Dad would easily name the band or artist, and even release year of just about any oldies act that would play on the radio. Many years of listening to Art Laboe and his Dedicated To You collection will do that to you. It’s a special gift to have such a musical library of oldies in your head, many of which hold dear memories.

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When I heard the news this morning of Art Laboe’s passing, I immediatly thought of my pops. Now retired back in Mexico, I immediately sent him the video tribute I made below, along with an article from NPR and this bangin’ playlist of Art Laboe’s Dedicated To You collection Vol. 1-11! Whoever made this, bless you!

Naturally, it was bittersweet news for my Father. Sad but sweet; recalling the joy and respite that Art Laboe create for him and many Chicanos and Mexican-American immigrants like him. After a long day working under the sun as a construction worker, the music Laboe played and the stories he shared was a beautiful release for my Father, a way to quench the soul.

Laboe’s impact and influence was pure love, unity and joy. May he Rest In Peace with all the great oldies but goodies.

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Art Laboe Dedicated To You
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Art Laboe Dedicated To You
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