For Valentine's Day, The Art Of Deejaying For Lovers

L.A. disc jockey Art Laboe hosts one of the Southwest's most popular all-request shows. Art takes calls from prisons, folks on the night shift, lovesick teenagers and widows missing their loved ones.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From movies to romantic music, if you're in Southern California and you want to dedicate a love song on the radio, check out The Art Laboe Connection. For nearly two decades, Art has been taking calls from lovers in need of a little musical accompaniment. Are you working the night shift, and you can't wait to get back to that someone special? Or maybe you're a lovesick teenager trying to patch things up? Well, Art's your man.

(Soundbite of radio show)

Mr. ART LEBOE: Hi there. A very pleasant Sunday to you. Who's this?

JENNIFER (Caller): This is Jennifer. I just want to dedicate "Candy Kisses" by Amanda Perez to a guy named Chris. And I'm sorry for whatever I did wrong, and I love you so much.

Mr. LABOE: You're not going to tell us what you did, huh?

JENNIFER: I actually kind of cheated on him and, yeah…

BRAND: Art Laboe knows a lot about love songs. He's been doing radio since the 1940s. When we visited him in his Los Angeles studio, he talked about how people dedicate their love on the air.

(Soundbite of song "Candy Kisses")

Ms. AMANDA PEREZ: (Singing) Candy kisses all over me…

Mr. ART LABOE (Radio Host, The Art Laboe Connection): A lot of the requests that I get are about personal lives. Several people are getting married on Valentine's Day. Then of course, some people are breaking up just before Valentine's Day. So, it can be a song about breaking up or making up, or things are going well, and most of the time, that's what people like to dedicate.

(Soundbite of song "Turn Off the Lights")

Mr. TEDDY PENDERGRASS: (Singing) Just turn off the lights Come to me Girl, I wanna give you a special treat You're so sweet.

Mr. LABOE: Some people actually sob and cry, you know, on the phone. People that usually wouldn't open up or can't say what they really feel can say it in their phone because they feel comfortable.

(Soundbite of song "Always and Forever")

Mr. STANLEY JORDAN: (Singing) Everyday Love me your own special way Melt all my heart away with a smile

Mr. LABOE: I mean, I have people calling five years old. Most of the dedications are for mom or dad or their uncle or somebody that's listening. They get a big kick out of hearing these kids on the air. We have a lot of people in jails, and in meantime, their wife or girlfriend has had a baby. The baby's two or three years old, not able to take them even for visit, if they are allowed to visit. The baby will come on the air, and the father, who's never really heard the baby, hears I love you, daddy. I hope you come home soon, for the very first time. And it's just, you know, a big emotional heart-rending thing for them. And when they do come out, a lot of times, they'll call me as a family.

(Soundbite of song "Stone in Love with You")

The Stylistics: (Singing) These things I do 'Cause I'm stone in love with you

Mr. LABOE: Many times, people call up and - where they've had a breakup, but when they were together, let's say, they both listened to my program. And many times, we're able to get people back together. Make that call, I'll say, you know, and then I'll get a call back saying, I just wanted to tell you we're back together again. And then they'll ask for a song like "I Only Have Eyes for You," which is by The Flamingoes. It goes way back to the '50s.

(Soundbite of song "I Only Have Eyes for You")

Mr. LABOE: Still get a lot of request for it.

THE FLAMINGOES: (Singing) Are the stars out tonight?

Mr. LABOE: There isn't anything loud or raucous about it, and I don't think love is loud and raucous, you know. It shouldn't be. A lot of songs that were done, you know, many years ago, the melodies are simple, and they're good in any generation.

BRAND: That was DJ Art Laboe, host of "The Art Laboe Connection."

BRAND: In honor of Valentine's Day tomorrow, that audio love note was composed by Christopher Johnson.

BRAND: Stay with us. NPR's Day to Day continues.

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