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Happy Art Laboe Day! And happy 90th, Art!




Art Laboe in his studio in Hollywood.
Art Laboe in his studio in Hollywood.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

Radio legend Art Laboe turns 90 on Friday, August 7. He's been playing music and talking on the radio in Southern California for 60 years.

To celebrate -- a few days early -- the LA County Board of Supervisors is declaring today "Art Laboe Day" in LA County.  The City of LA did the same 34 years ago when Art got his star on the Walk of Fame:

Art recently returned to LA radio after a brief hiatus, but other stations in the region kept carrying his show, including a Monday-Friday 9-midnight gig on Old School 104.7FM (KQIE) in San Bernardino, plus Bakersfield, Barstow, Phoenix, Oxnard, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Tuscon.

Here's what Art does: He genuinely loves connecting with his listeners. That's why they love him; that's why he's still on the air. As KPCC's Vanessa Romo put it in 2012:

Art Laboe's face may not be instantly recognizable, but his warm voice is. For more than half a century, Laboe’s been a conduit for lovers dedicating love songs to each other. 

He’s a purveyor of rhythm & blues since the time when L.A.’s airwaves were segregated. An Armenian DJ without a drop of Latino blood, who’s now the adopted godfather to L.A.’s Chicano youth. He also coined the phrase “oldies but goodies." They were oldies and definitely goodies in 1955 when Laboe started broadcasting live from Scrivener’s Drive-In burger joint in Hollywood.

"It just blew up. I mean, kids, only music they were hearing were these schmaltzy love songs and all of a sudden, here’s this afternoon program and the microphone is live, you hear girls giggling, horns honking, 'Hey Joe!' You hear all this background going on," said Laboe. "It sounds like a party. They’d never heard anything like that on the air. Neither had I."

Here's how USC's Josh Kun put it in an L.A. Times article:

"He has always treated people with respect and taken them very seriously — not as a marketing demographic, not a source of potential advertising revenue, but he has taken them seriously as a community, and as individuals. When folks call in to his radio show, he listens to them. He doesn't rush them off the air." -- Josh Kun, LA Times

And that's why -- even though his Sunday night show on KDAY 93.5 FM competes with the Sunday night broadcast of Off-Ramp -- you ought to give him a listen, give him a salute today, and raise a glass to him Friday on his 90th.

You can help L.A. County celebrate Laboe. Show up this morning at 10am at Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple Street, Room 381B,Los Angeles, CA 90012, to see Art get his proclamation.