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Art Laboe in his Palm Springs, California studio. (Credit: AP)
After 75 years on the air, legendary radio DJ Art Laboe still resonates with listeners. The 93-year-old currently hosts a syndicated oldies show on 93.5 KDAY in Los Angeles.
According to NBC Southern California, Laboe “credits one group of listeners for keeping him on the air after 75 years: family members who want to send messages to loved ones in prison.”
Every Sunday on The Art Laboe Connection Show, the Palm Springs-based DJ asks family members to call in to make dedications to inmates in California, Arizona or Nevada.
“I don’t judge,” Laboe told The Associated Press. “I like people.”
Born Arthur Egnoian in Salt Lake City, Laboe grew in an Armenian American family during the Great Depression. He attended Stanford University and served during World War II. Eventually, he got a job as a radio announcer at KSAN in San Francisco.
However, it Laboe’s tenure as a DJ at KXLA in Los Angeles that gained him fame. NBC writes that “Laboe was one of the first DJs to play R&B and rock ‘n’ roll in California and is credited by scholars for helping integrate dance halls among Latinos, blacks, Asian Americans and whites …” His show became the city’s top radio program.
Laboe has maintained a fan base over the decades, especially among Mexican Americans. In the 1990s, he started getting calls from inmates’ family members. Current and former gang members are some of his most loyal listeners.
In 2015, iHeartMedia’s KHHT-FM (92.3) canceled Laboe’s show after the station switched to a hip-hop format, sparking protest. Laboe later returned to the airwaves on KDAY.