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Art Laboe, DJ who worked to desegregate California’s music scene, dies aged 97

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Pioneering DJ, Art Laboe has died aged 97, following a short case of pneumonia.

Laboe was known for helping end segregation in California’s music scene by welcoming white, Black and Latino audiences together via his radio appearances on The Art Laboe Connection Show.

Laboe made his final appearance on the air last week. In September he celebrated a record 79 years as a radio broadcaster.

A statement was posted on the show’s official Instagram page, stating: “September, 2022, marked 79 years as a radio performer [for Art] marking the longest continuous period of broadcasting service.

“Art Laboe’s legacy will endure as his team will continue to produce his current nightly request and dedication syndicated radio show, The Art Laboe Connection”.

Working in radio from the age of 17, he went on to become one of the first DJs to play rock ‘n’ roll to the West Coast.

He notably coined the phrase ‘oldies but goldies’ with his compilation album that came out in 1957 and stayed on Billboard’s Top 100 charts for 183 weeks.

Laboe was known to help share messages from loved ones, and would always work on holidays to help spread dedications that would be sent in.

Some of those who wished to share messages included California and Arizona inmates who would ask Laboe for updates from family.

“I don’t judge,” Laboe said in a 2018 interview with The Associated Press at his Palm Springs studio. “I like people.”

A story he would often retell was about a woman who came by the studio so that her toddler could tell her father, who was serving time: “Daddy, I love you.”

“It was the first time he had heard his baby’s voice,” Laboe said. “And this tough, hard-nosed guy burst into tears.”

In 1981, the Los Angeles City Council declared July 17 to become Art Laboe Day and he later received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Becky Buckle is Mixmag’s Video and Editorial Assistant, follow her on Twitter

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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