Ridin’ Low With Art Laboe


{Originally published in the Inland Empire Weekly on February 14th, 2008}

From a still-standing, all-time ratings record to a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, pioneering radio DJ Art Laboe has done it all. But the man who coined the term “Oldies But Goodies,” and placed hit songs by various artists onto a single album long before Now That’s What I Call Music compilations, isn’t resting on his laurels. Now in his early eighties, Laboe is fully enjoying his current success by taking song requests and dedications on the air six nights a week from his faithful legion of listeners and emceeing concerts organized by his Original Sound Company.

Having been largely off the air during the ’80s, Art Laboe resurrected his radio show in the Inland Empire. In October of 1991, KGGI 99.1, which serves Riverside and San Bernardino, approached Laboe about doing a show on Sunday nights. Assessing the prospect of returning to the airwaves, Laboe asked KGGI what kind of show they were thinking of having him do. According to the radio icon, they said, “we know what you did before, so just do what you want to do.”

Such trust was not misplaced as The Art Laboe Sunday Special debuted and has been continually successful for the past 16 years. In that remarkable span, Laboe proudly points out that “the show has been number one in the Arbitron ratings since 1991 in every Arbitron rating book that has come out.” Other stations have taken notice of the Sunday Special’s staying power as eleven stations in California, Nevada and Arizona now carry it. Hot 92.3 in Los Angeles took it one step further by asking the radio pioneer to host The Art Laboe Connection five hours a night Monday through Friday.

“I do pretty much the same show today as I did in the ’50s. It’s not a lot different,” says the seasoned radio veteran. Back in the summer of 1956, Laboe hosted live afternoon broadcasts from LA’s Scrivener’s Drive-in. “I used to pass out a list of songs at the drive-in and let the kids pick the music from the top twenty,” he recalls. These days, the requests, numbering up to 60 an hour, come from everywhere and everyone including grandmothers, ten-year-olds and even homies in the pinta serving ten years of hard time.

Art Laboe’s history of concert promotion is almost as long and storied as his career in broadcasting. Years before his Oldies But Goodies albums, Laboe would set up “Oldies But Goodies” dances in the 1950’s. Musicians of the day such as the late Ritchie Valens would perform for crowds at El Monte’s Legion Stadium. Despite this rich history, Laboe’s current run of concerts was resurrected only five years ago after a 20-year hiatus. Perhaps recognizing the region’s role in his current success, he has always made it a point to stop in the Inland Empire for his Valentine Super Love Jam series.

Art Laboe’s upcoming Valentine’s Day show at Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella features nine artists who have scored hits in different decades. The cross-genre, cross-generational appeal of his radio program is reflected in the concert line-ups he produces. This year’s concert will showcase artists such as Santo and Johnny, whose eternal hit “Sleepwalk” reached the top of the charts in 1959. The line-up also features up-and-comers that Laboe’s radio program helps such as “Homegurlz” diva La La. “It’s a mixture, but the older people and the younger people like both artists,” Laboe says confidently. The secret? “Love songs are the easiest to cross-over,” he says.

For all those purse-clutchers who harbor fears of the types of audience members Laboe’s concerts may attract fret not-his street cred keeps everything in check. “The one thing I like about our concerts is that everyone is pretty well behaved,” Laboe remarks. “I always say on the stage that we are all here to have a good time.” The massive respect enjoyed by the venerated emcee for the evening makes him a walking truce wherever he goes.

If further convincing is needed, Laboe’s reputation as a modern-day cupid makes attending his Valentine Super Love Jam a good plan, even if you’re single. “People have met at these things and have gotten married. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen,” he says.

Who knows? Perhaps someday you’ll have Art Laboe’s Spotlight 29 Casino Valentine’s Day show to thank for meeting the vato loco or the firme hina of your dreams.

tan-TAN!

And for more on Art Laboe you can also read my piece “Latinos Love Laboe” on Latino LA!

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3 responses to “Ridin’ Low With Art Laboe

  1. Pingback: A Hot Mess! » Throwback of the Day: Mellow Man Ace - “Mentirosa”

  2. I want do dedicate a song to my man via internet can you tell me how we listen to Maga 104.3 fm in AZ thanks

  3. Halur out at Cora sabori 2day is her bday and want2 ask u 2 play brick house 4 her from her son Abel and the rest of the family happy bday hope u have a great time. From Chandler az always willb

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