PALM SPRINGS, California – Art Labeau, a pioneering radio DJ who helped end racial segregation in Southern California, has died. He is 97 years old.
Laboe died of pneumonia last Friday, said Joanna Marones, a spokesperson for Laboe's production company Dart Entertainment.
His latest show was produced last week and aired on Sunday nights.
Laboe is credited with helping to end segregation in Southern California by hosting live DJ performances at drive-in restaurants that attract whites, blacks and Latinos who dance rock and roll and the older generation who still listen to Frank Sinatra and the Big Band music. .
The phrase "Oldies but Goodies" is also associated with DJs. In 1957 he founded Original Sound Records, Inc. and in 1958 released the Oldies But Goodies: Vol. 1 compilation, which spent 183 weeks on the Billboard Top 100 chart.
He later gained a large following among Mexican Americans when he hosted the syndicated show The Art Laboe Connection Show. Her baritone voice invites listeners to give in and ask for Alicia Keys' 1950s rock 'n' roll or R&B love ballad.
Its radio broadcasts, in particular, provide a platform for families of nearby inmates to talk to their loved ones, dedicate songs, send heartfelt messages and updates. Prisoners from California and Arizona sent their tributes and asked Labeau to meet the family.
It's a role that Labeau said he was honored to play.
"I'm not judging," Labeau told The Associated Press in 2018 from his Palm Springs office. "I love people."
He often told of a woman who came to the studio so that her baby could say, "Dad, I love you" to his father, who was serving a sentence for a violent crime.
"She heard her baby's voice for the first time," Labeau said. "And this tough, tough man is crying."
Anthony Macias, a professor of ethnic studies at UC Riverside, said the music Labeau played mixed with dedication and reinforced his message. For example, songs like "I'm on the Outside (Looking In)" by Little Anthony & the Imperials and "Don't Let No One Get You Down" by War are about perseverance and a desire to be accepted.
Arthur Egnoyan was born in Salt Lake City to an Armenian-American family and grew up in a Mormon family run by a single mother during the Great Depression. His older sister sent him her first radio when she was 8 years old. The rumors and stories from there filled him.
"And I haven't let go since then," Labeau said.
He moved to California, attended Stanford University, and served in the United States Navy during World War II. He eventually landed a job as a radio announcer at KSAN in San Francisco and took the name Art Labeau after his boss suggested he take the secretary's surname to look more American.
He later returned to the Southern California area, but a radio station owner told the would-be broadcaster he was working as a "radio personality". As a DJ for KXLA in Los Angeles, Labeau found time at the station and hosted late-night live music performances from Carports, where he met underground rockabilly and R&B musicians. "I have my own internal research," Labeau said.
He soon became one of the first DJs in California to play R&B and rock 'n' roll. Teenage listeners immediately identified Labeau's voice with the fledgling rock and roll scene. In 1956, Laboe aired in the afternoon and became the main radio show in the city. Sunset Boulevard, where Labo was airing his show, was filled with cars and advertisers rushed to take part in the action.
When Elvis Presley arrived in Hollywood, Labeau was one of the few to interview the new rockabilly star.
The scene that Labo cultivates in California has become one of the most diverse in the nation. In places like El Monte's American Legion Stadium, Labo has featured most of the music broadcast on its radio shows, sparking a new youth subculture.
Over the years, Laboe has developed a large following and has become the patron saint of older rock and roll artists who have never forgotten their Mexican-American parents. A permanent exhibition of Labeau's contributions can be found in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland.
In 2015, KHHT-FM iHeartMedia discontinued Laboe's long-running syndicated show after the station suddenly switched to a hip-hop format, sparking angry protests in Los Angeles. "Without Art Labeau, I would be so alone that I could cry," wrote essayist Adam Wein. In the same year, Labeau returned to the Los Angeles airwaves on another station.
Lalo Alcaraz, a cartoonist and television writer who grew up with Labo in San Diego, said the DJ has been popular with Mexican Americans for generations because his shows were always mixed with Latino, black and white. Alcaraz, LaBoe, also appeared non-judgmental to the public who demanded that the prison be dedicated to loved ones.
"This is someone who gives our children a voice through music," Alcaraz said. "He brought us together. That's why we're looking for him."
Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the Los Angeles-based National Hispanic Media Coalition, said generations of Hispanics attend Laboe-sponsored concerts to hear the likes of Smokey Robinson, The Spinners or Sunny & The Sunliners.
“I have seen these very tough people in the crowd. I mean, they look scary, "Nogales said." Then Art came out and they broke up. The boy loves the girl. "
Former Associated Press reporter Russell Contreras provided biographical material for this report.