Radio DJ Art Laboe Passes Away, Age 97 – Coined the Phrase ‘Oldies But Goodies’

DJ Art Laboe oldies but goodies

Photo Credit: Art Laboe / Facebook

Radio DJ Art Laboe, who coined the phrase ‘oldies but goodies,’ has passed away. He was 97.

Laboe died on October 7 after catching pneumonia, according to a spokesperson for his production company, Dart Entertainment. The DJ’s last show was produced last week and broadcast on Sunday, October 9. In 1957, Laboe started Original Sound Record, Inc., and in 1958, he released the compilation album Oldies But Goodies: Vol. 1. That release stayed on the Billboard Top 100 chart for more than 183 weeks.

“Condolences to Art’s legions of fans, family, friends, and colleagues. September 2022 marked 79 years as a radio performer marking the longest continuous period of broadcasting service,” a statement posted to his Facebook page reads. “Art Laboe’s legacy will endure as his team will continue to produce his currently nightly request and dedication syndicated radio show–The Art Laboe Connection–which is heard on 93.5 KDAY/Los Angeles Sundays from 6pm – 12 am.”

Laboe’s call-in request format gained popularity among families with incarcerated people, NPR reports. Family of California and Arizona inmates would send their own dedications and requests to the Radio DJ, who says he was honored to fulfill those requests when he received them.

“I don’t judge,” Laboe told the AP during a 2018 interview. “I like people.” Art Laboe was born Arthur Egnoian in Salt Lake City and grew up during the Great Depression. He received his first radio as a gift when he was eight, sparking his lifelong obsession with the format.

Egnoian moved to California and attended Stanford University, and served in the U.S. Navy during WW2. He soon took a job as a radio announcer at KSAN in San Francisco and took the name ‘Art Laboe’ after one of his bosses suggested adopting a different last name to sound more American.

Laboe was one of California’s first radio DJs to play R&B and rock-n-roll music. By 1956, the DJ’s iconic baritone voice was identifiable with the new genre of music, and he had a popular afternoon show. Laboe was one of the only radio DJs to land an interview with Elvis when he finally came to Hollywood.