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At 93, This California DJ Is Still Connecting Loved Ones On the Air

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February 13, 2019 1:24 p.m.


Sasha Khokha, host, California Report Magazine

Art Laboe, DJ, The Art Laboe Connection on KDAY

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Related Story: At 93, This California DJ Is Still Connecting Loved Ones On the Air


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

In honor in honor of Valentine's Day tomorrow we bring you the story of California deejay art LeBeau. Art is 93 stands just over 5 feet tall and sends kisses through his microphone. He claims to have invented the on air dedication where lovers send songs to each other over the airwaves. Reporter Sasha Kolko visits art in his Palm Springs studio which he calls the love zone.

Oh yeah you've got a big one. Here's a big one.

He's been on the air since 1943 and he was one of the first deejays to play rock and roll on the West Coast. He trademarked the term oldies but goodies.

Here we go Earth Angel. Going out to Libya from Mr. Rubin I love you so much handsome kisses and you're my earth angel. I'm.

Smooth Operator we're in the love zone.

Welcome to the love zone the love zone is a tiny studio in Palm Springs where I'm watching him broadcast sound meters flicker and phone lines light up as callers vie to get in the queue to make a dedication at ninety three art still pumps out an oldies show six days a week non-stop from 7:00 p.m. to midnight after three quarters of a century on the air he's still as smooth as ever.

Let me tell you something. There's a lot of smooth operators in this part of our program. A lot of love in the air that's for sure.

Hertz spent his career here in California broadcasting from San Francisco in the 1940s and from Los Angeles for many decades after Santa Monica boss radio for Southern California.

I'll be back right after the big story with the art live O K. Day parade of stars.

But these days tens of thousands of listeners stream his show online or tune in on more than a dozen radio stations across California. He gets thousands of letters from listeners in principle. Many of those calling in are the partners and lovers of people who are incarcerated. You got the Ares Lobo connection. That's me. Who is this. Brogdon what I just saw my Rosie calls in every single night with a message to her husband's scrappy. He's serving a life sentence without parole in Kern Valley State Prison in Delano for the next year and a half.

He's in solitary confinement and can't talk to her on the phone.

Say something during stop you got your mail and love you so nice gym friendly. Everything that only highlights for you. How many chimneys ring from the spot. Love you.

When I was beautiful and scrappy sends in dedications too. Sometimes he dedicates the same song back to his wife.

Well here's one that's let's add this one in there really great song called Fire and Desire by Rick James and Teena Marie to my wife Rosie Morales from your husband's scrappy says thank you for always loving me you're my everything. I love you. And here are some kisses and here's fire and desire.

Yeah firing desire and that one of our special fun because my husband sang that to me all the time I desire his love and he's a fire to my life. I always say when you love something you don't give up on that love. And.

What I love about our label is just that he's able to communicate to our loved ones when we're not able to physically or on the phone. He's there for us when we can't be there for them. He brings that spark into a relationship. He's an amazing deejay. Like I I would listen to him until my last breath.

There every night. Man and wife doing it to each other. You know dedications. It's just kind of like.

You know conjugal but not conjugal.

They get the smooch from your lips.

Yeah I guess I don't know. I kiss a lot of their. Some nice girls that way they call in and. Want to know what time I got out there and stuff like that. No I don't listen to such a bad business because I was a little scrawny wasn't the bigger man. The women go for it in closed school.

Did you ever meet your sweethearts through this dedication lots of them.

But but I'm not married at present but wives are still friendly. That's good. I think that's a big thing. I'm single. I pay no alimony.

Before art Lobo fell in love with his wives or with love songs. He fell in love with radio and I was hooked on radio since I was 8. 8 years old.

And there were no television or anything. And my sister sent us a radio or was this box came and it popped.

As a teenager. Art moved from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles to live with his older sister. And he started a ham radio station in his bedroom closet.

You could hear it for about 10 blocks from my house but it wasn't just his neighbors listening.

One day two federal agents came to talk to him about his illegal broadcasting tower that simply shut it down right away.

We're going to drive by here tomorrow. If your antennas down. Why then you you you've got to press any charges because they've got a big kick out of the fact that there was this dumb kid know not so dumb. But at that age doing this music on the. Radio.

When art turned 18 he walked into radio station KXAN in San Francisco and asked for a job. He had a radio operators license but no experience and a last name the station manager thought sounded too ethnic for the airwaves in 1943. So Art annoying the son of Armenian immigrants took the name of the station's receptionist and he became art Lobo but his music and his fans have never been whitewashed. He's beloved by African-American and Latino next listeners across the West. Hot Rods and low riders booming his tunes from their tricked out cars.

He built his fan base in the 1950s and 60s when he did something considered radical back then bringing people together for public rock n roll dance parties that were racially integrated and open to all ages. They were held in El Monte a suburb of Los Angeles.

Well those of you from Southern California all will never forget the song I'm going to play next Frank Zappa wrote a song called Memories of El Monte with one of the members of his crew. RAY COLLINS They're both gone now but I hope they're smiling wherever they are. And we're gonna play that song that Mom will remember and that'll remember and and Uncle Lewis will remember it's called Memories of El Monte. I'm. Thinking about you. Know.

We ones need Andy Sam I do. It brings back those memories.

Art Lobo produced several landmark albums out of those concerts celebrating the way music brought multiracial audiences together.

And I'm happy that it's everybody you come to one of our concerts you'll see a mixture a complete mixture of what we have in L.A..

Hearts still doing live shows with bands wearing a bedazzled track suit and a sparkly bow.

He's got several planned this month for Valentine's Day in places like Anaheim San Diego and Phoenix. That's on top of broadcasting six nights a week. This tiny 93 year old with a big heart hasn't gotten tired of playing matchmaker.

Every night. I'm not a player that old timer you're looking for and I'm gonna play the one by the skylines which happens to be my favorite song.

We're also gonna send this one out to husband Christian Hernandez at Patch hippie from Joanna Iola and Joanna sends you lots of kisses. Christian plays this song by the Skylanders since I don't have to. See.

But what is it about love songs. You know what the lyrics like that that's that speak to you I mean you spend hours and hours every day playing these songs that are about the heart that are about love. Well.

Love is a powerful powerful medicine.

And whether you're falling in love or out of love you know. So we we.

Put our stamp on it. People pick the music on the heart the bow connection. And you get to get a peek into their lives too because you're hearing them make a dedication make a love song somebody is like an on air Valentine. Bond.

And also a dedication to you mom proxy from your son chai and the boys. George my though. Vince running bear and Hawaiian says Mom you have a heart of gold. You got so much to love and love in you that your love could light up a small country close your eyes. Now think back to the good old days of early rock and roll sincerely by the moon glows. With nearly Lamo says he knows people his age always sings but he is nostalgic for the old days.

A time when people used to have a little more kindness for each other. People are people and all there still have the same basic wants and. Everyone is capable of.

Love and affection. And if they could just have more of it for each other.

So here's tart Lobo disc jockey of love as he starts his seventy sixth year on the airwaves.
That was the California reports Sasha coca reporting.