From the Land of Band Box Records

Laboe & The Full Monte…

October 23, 2019

Oldies But Goodies – Original Sound – Frank Zappa – The El Monte…

I was listening to the radio a few Sundays back – tuned in to EZ 1430’s “The Doo-Wop Shop” which runs from 7 PM to 10 PM featuring non-stop – what else “Doo-Wop”.

This great uninterrupted program spins classic doo wop – much of it most likely not commonly broadcast in Denver back in the day.

So many great songs to catch up on.  If you were raised in the Midwest or East Coast or for that matter out on the West Coast – you probably fair’d much better with being able to pick up these great groups – musicians and songs when they first hit the air waves.

One that 1430 plays from time-to-time is by The Penguins – “Memories of El Monte” – I like the song delivered as a tribute to the acts who appeared at the El Monte Legion Stadium back in the mid 1950’s.

I guess I just assumed that “Memories of El Monte” was a later revival tribute to the oldies – probably coming in the 1970’s.  So I was very surprised to learn that it was actually released in 1963 – hardly a big leap from the doo-wop gems which are acknowledged in the song by the Penguins.

So looking up the single I first was sort of surprised that the composer was a team of “Zappa” and “Collins”.  Yes these two guys were none other than Frank Zappa and Ray Collins.  So everything sort of unfolds from there.

Image result for frank zappa and ray collins

The late Ray Collins (middle) – with the “Mothers”

Zappa, it turns out, had been listening to a compilation long play which was released on the Original Sound label in 1960 titled “Art Laboe’s Memories of El Monte (The Best of L.A.’s Rock and Roll)”.  This was one of Original Sound’s very earliest long plays to be released.

The LP included cuts by many West Coast R&B acts such as Marvin and Johnny (“Cherry Pie”), Ron Holden (“Love You So”) the Jacks, who were also The Cadets (“Why Don’t You Write Me”) and the Shields (“You Cheated”) among others.  Although the Penguins were not represented on the album, it would end up being the lead singer from that group who delivered the classic “Earth Angel”  – Cleve Duncan would would take the lead on the Zappa/Collins song.

A Young Zappa on the Steve Allen Show – Always a Bit Odd – Frank “plays the bicycle – as it were a drum!

Enter Art Laboe

Art Laboe – Oldies Pathfinder – Teen Music Pioneer

Zappa took his song to Los Angeles DJ Art Laboe for consideration.  This made all the sense in the world due to Art being the proprietor behind the El Monte” which he opened in 1955.

Art Laboe was born in 1925 in Salt Lake City, Utah – Arthur Egnolan.  He came to southern California while still a teenager and landed a job as a DJ on L.A.’s KPOP – This was way back in 1943 far before rock and roll.

Art was unique in a significant way – broadcasting late at night – he would take callers to make requests for record spins – the first jock to do so it seems.

After changing directions a few times – and traveling away from L.A., he would return and start broadcasting from Los Angeles’ station KRKD.  Another Laboe inspiration – Art began doing his radio show at a local drive-in (Scriveners).  This was a natural draw for cruising teens of the day.

Art Laboe and fans for KPOP Show at Scriveners ca. 1957 | Courtesy: Art Laboe Archives

Teen Time with Art at the Drive In

His play list was strictly based on teen’s coming into the drive in and making live requests on the air.  In time, keeping track of the most popular requested songs, Art had an idea to put together a long play record with the requested tracks.  His concept would be called – by Art – “Oldies But Goodies” – coming very early in the game – totally Laboe’s creation and contribution to the world of rock and roll and R&B (“Oldies” in 1959!)

Image result for scrivener's movie drive in art laboe

Going back just a bit – to 1943 – Art as Art Egnoian – was working at radio station KSAN in San Francisco.  His manager felt he needed a better on-air handle – and so he borrowed the station’s secretary’s last name – “Laboe”.

There is a lot out there about the El Monte – and Laboe – but to cut to the short end of it – Art felt that he needed a more permanent venue – not to play records – but to feature live acts – especially those with hit records being played on the air-waves and to conduct teen dances.

Frenzy at the El Monte

This led him to the El Monte Legion Stadium which was originally constructed to accommodate the wrestling events in the 1932 Olympic Games which were hosted in Los Angeles.

The building seated around 3,000 people.  It had fallen into disrepair over the years.  The El Monte post Olympics, had witnessed boxing matches, roller derby leagues and barn dances (and probably much more).

Image result for El Monte Legion Stadium show.

The El Monte

Some big names were booked by Laboe:  Ritchie Valens, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke – on and on.

Art would work the teen audience – with microphone in hand – always keeping in close contact with the kids.  The El Monte would continue for a half dozen years before closing up.

Original Sound Records

A few years after starting up the El Monte – Art established his own record label – “Original Sound” – which provided him with an outlet for his recording ideas.  These would include the collections for which his label became known but also would feature a very diverse range of artists.

Hard to Find 1960 Original Sound

His label would feature a series of “Oldies” collections which are very familiar to record collectors everywhere – There were 16 released in all starting with “Oldies But Goodies Vol. 1” in 1959 – Talk about “ahead of your time” – The LP included The Five Satins’ “In the Still of the Night” from 1956 – the Penguins’ “Earth Angel” from 1954, the Teen Queens “Eddie My Love” also 1956 and other primarily West Coast musicians.

Back to “Memories of El Monte” by the Penguins – as stated above – Laboe used his influence and connections to get Penguin lead vocalist Cleveland Duncan to lay down the track but he was backed by Walter Saulsberry and the Viceroys – another Los Angeles group – which Duncan had joined after leaving the original Penguins.  They would continue on performing as “The Penguins”.

Not So Old Oldies

The “Oldies But Goodies” series did quite well on the national LP charts – Six of the 16 in the series made the charts with volumes 1, 3, 4 and 5 all entering the Top 20.  Volume 1 remained on the Hot 200 for an incredible three years!

Volume 1 – Three Years Hot 200!

Back to Zappa

Co-composer Zappa can also be heard on the song playing the xylophone.  Laboe himself contributed a bit to the arrangement and provided suggestions of which groups to feature.

Co-writer Ray Collins would go on to become one of Zappa’s “Mothers of Invention” – actually an original member of that group which started life as the “Soul Giants” in 1964 before settling on the “Mothers”.

Zappa had an extensive recording history pre-Mothers – first as “Baby Ray and the Fems” recording for Donna Records in 1963, then as “The Heartbreakers” also on Donna in the same year.

Next was “Ned and Nelda” in June of 1963 on the obscure Vigah! label – That label would feature Zappa as “Brian Lord and the Midnighters” doing “The Big Surfer” also in the summer of ’63 – The record would be picked up by Capitol Records and released shortly after.

Zappa and company would officially make their recording debut in July of 1966 releasing “How Could I Be Such A Fool” b/w “Help I’m A Rock (3rd Movement.  It Can’t Happen Here) now with the Verve label – a record label which had it’s roots in jazz music.

The First Mothers 45

The First Mothers’ LP

Laboe’s stable of recording artists included Preston Epps, Don Julian & The Meadowlarks, Sandy Nelson (a young Sandy), the Penguins, reissues by the Skyliners, King Floyd, The Music Machine, Kim Fowley and most prominently as a single’s success act – Dyke and the Blazers who placed nine singles on the Hot 100 – four of which went Top 20 R&B.

Dyke – Blazing with the Blazers

Art Laboe even cut a single on his label and curiously – Hollywood glamour girl Jayne Mansfield had one release in 1964.

Sandy Nelson’s “Teen Beat” was Original Sound’s biggest hit 45 – peaking at number 4 in 1959.  Sandy wouldn’t have another charting single for two years when he moved over to Imperial.

Image result for sandy nelson

Preston Epps from Oakland, California, took “Bongo Rock” to number 14.  Epps would release a basket full of “Bongo follow ups” but only dented the charts one additional time.  Laboe discovered Preston when he was bongoing in a local coffee shop and signed him on the spot.

Image result for preston epps bongo bongo bongo

Art Laboe’s contribution to the American teen pop culture was huge.  He was very close, familiar and popular with his Los Angeles area teenage audience. He broke down racial barriers as far as was possible at his drive-in gig and at the El Monte, especially and through his on-air presence – opening his venue, his program and his record label to one and all.

Starla Records Discography

(Starla was the forerunner to the Original Sound label – formed in the summer of 1957 – Art Laboe (Arthur Egnoian) – takes some composing credits on many of these – probably as a consolation for placing these artists on his label)

78 – Sonny Knight – Starla S-1 – “Short Walk” b/w Dedicated to You” – July, 1957


45 -Starla S-1 – Sonny Knight – “Short Walk” b/w Dedicated to You” – July, 1957

45 – Starla S-2 – Kip Tyler and the Flips – “Let’s Monkey Around” b/w “Vagabond Mama” – 1957

(Sandy Nelson was a participant on this single as a “Flip” aka “Kip Tyler”)

45 – Starla S-3 – The All Stars Featuring Alex Hodge – “Honey Baby (Sugar Darlin’)” b/w “2:00 A.M. On Mullholland Drive”

(Alex Hodge was an original member of the famous “Platters” out of Los Angeles – The “All Stars” of course were members of what would become the session group conglomeration “The Wrecking Crew” – Here with Rene Hall – Earl Palmer and Ernie Freeman)

45 – Starla S-4 – Art Decou – “Only You – Only Me” b/w “I Love You” – 1957

45 – Starla S-5 – Art Decou – “I’m Glad For Your Sake” b/w “Je T’Aime” – 1957

45 – Starla S-6 – Little Julian Herrera & The Tigers – “I Remember Linda” b/w “True Fine Mama” – January, 1958

(“Little Julian Herrera” is Ron Gregory – Future Mother’s of Invention member Ray Collins is doing the falsetto on “I Remember Linda”)

45 – Starla S-7 – Handsome Jim Balcom – “Corrido Rock (Part 1)” b/w “Corrido Rock (Part 2)” – 1958

(Balcolm was the founder of the Los Angeles group “Balcolm and the Shades of Rhythm” formed during his college years – He promoted events at the El Monte and worked with The Platters)

45 – Starla S-8 – Sonny Knight – “So Wonderful” b/w “Just Talkin'” – April, 1958

45 – Starla S-9 – Eddie Daniels – “Hurry Baby” b/w “Hug Me, Kiss Me” – June, 1958

(Daniels was accompanied here by Jerry Cole on guitar – a “Wrecking Crew” session player as well as a member of “The Champs” – Daniels worked with many noted musicians and record industry figures throughout his career which included composing – He played on Bobby Day’s “Rockin’ Robin” as well as Eugene Church’s “Pretty Girls Everywhere” – Daniels was a member of Bob and Earl’s band (“Harlem Shuffle”)) – Eddie was with “Jewel & Eddie” and “The Astro-Jets”

Image result for eddie daniels musician starla records and ebb

45 – Starla S-10 – Sonny Knight – “School’s Out” b/w “Once In A While” – June, 1958

45 – Starla S-11 – Bobby Please & The Pleasers – “2 A.M. On Mullholland Drive” b/w “Walk Bop Chalypso Freeze” – 1958

(Bobby Please is Robert Plaisted from Los Angeles – He recorded on the Jamie record label as well)

45 – Starla S-12 – The Starr Sisters – “Three Young Chicks” b/w “Show Me The Way” – 1958

45 – Starla S-13 – Bill Destro & the Destinys – “Destiny’s Last Call” b/w “Bunny” – May, 1959

45 – Starla S-14 – The Trutones – “Down Below” b/w “2 A.M. Mullholland Drive” – 1959

45 – Starla S-15 – The Gallahads – “Sad Girl” b/w Keeper Of Dream” – 1959

LP – Starla LPM 1960 – “Art Laboe’s Memories Of El Monte – The Best of L.A.’s Rock and Roll -1960

Selected Original Sound Discography

Laboe released more than 100 singles on his Original Sound Label – Many of the singles flopped but overall this small label did very well – especially via the 16-Set “Oldies But Goodies” series, also Dyke and the Blazers series of hits – and some bright spots with a big hit by Preston Epps, and respectable hits by the Music Machine and a number 4 smash by Sandy Nelson.

45 – Original Sound 0-1 – The Hitmakers – July, 1958

(The first single release by Original Sound)

45 – Original Sound O-3 – Don Julian & The Meadowlarks – January, 1969

45 – Original Sound O-4 – Preston Epps – April, 1959 (Charted Number 14)

45 – Original Sound OR-5 – Sandy Nelson – August, 1959 (Charted Number 4)

45 – Original Sound OS-07 – The Teen Beats – November, 1959

45 – Original Sound OS-09 – Preston Epps – April, 1960 (charted number 78)

45 – Original Sound OS-15 – The Viceroys – March, 1961

(By this time Penguins Cleveland Duncan was with the group – they would go on to perform as “The Penguins)

45 – Original Sound OS-18 – Sonny Knight – January, 1962

45 – Original Sound OS-23 – Art Laboe – August, 1962

45 – Original Sound OS-35 – The Skyliners – 1963

45 – Original Sound OS-39 – The Hollywood Persuaders – August, 1963

45 – Original Sound – OS-48 – The Catalinas – July, 1964

The Catalinas (9)

Catalina Leader Paul Buff

45 – Original Sound OS-52 – King Floyd – 1965

45 – Original Sound  OS-59 – The Jaguars – 1965

45 – Original Sound OS-61 – The Music Machine – July, 1966 (Charted Number 15)

45 – Original Sound OS-64 – Dyke & The Blazers – December, 1966 (Charted Number 66 Hot 100 – Number 17 R&B)

45 – Original Sound OS-69 – Dyke & The Blazers – Mary, 1967 (Charted Number 41 R&B – Number 131 Bubbling Under Charts)

45 – Original Sound OS-79 – Dyke & The Blazers – March, 1968 (Charted Number 22 R&B – Number 67 Hot 100)

45 – Original Sound OS-81 – Kim Fowley – March, 1968

45 – Original Sound OS-86 – Dyke & The Blazers – September, 1968 (Charted Number 7 R&B – Number 35 Hot 100)

45 – Original Sound OS-89 – Dyke & The Blazers – August, 1969 (Charted Number 4 R&B Charts – Number 36 Hot 100 – B Side Charted Number 20 R&B – Number 118 Bubbling Under Charts)

45 – Original Sound OS-90 – Dyke & The Blazers – December,1969 (Charted Number 4 R&B Charts – Number 36 Hot 100)

45 – Original Sound OS-91 – Dyke & The Blazers – March, 1970 (Charted Number 30 R&B Charts – Number 121 Bubbling Under Charts)

45 – Original Sound OS-96 – Dyke & The Blazers – July, 1970 (Charted Number 32 R&B Charts – Number 119 Bubbling Under Charts)

LP – Original Sound OSR 5001 – Oldies But Goodies Vol. 1 – September, 1959 (Charted Number 12)

LP – Original Sound OSR 8851 – Bongo, Bongo, Bongo – August, 1960 (Charted Number 35)

LP – Original Sound OSR 5003 – Oldies But Goodies Vol 3. – August, 1961 – (Charted Number 12)

LP – Original Sound OSR 5005 – Oldies But Goodies Vol. 4 – June, 1962 (Charted Number 15)

LP – Original Sound OSR 8855 – Oldies But Goodies Vol. 5 – August, 1963 (Charted Number 16)

LP – Original Sound OSR 8856 – Oldies But Goodies Vol. 6 – January, 1964 (Charted Number 31)

LP – Original Sound OSR 8857 – Oldies But Goodies Vol 7 – January, 1965 (Charted Number 121)

LP – Original Sound OSR 5015 – Turn On The Music Machine – January, 1967 (Charted Number 76)

LP – Original Sound OSR 8877 – Dyke’s Greatest Hits We Got More Soul – November, 1967 (Charted Number 186)


  1. Wow – so much history. I knew about Zappa’s involvement with Memories of El Monte and have seen the clip with him and Steve Allen on YouTube (awkward at best, as well as unintentionally as well as intentionally funny). Zappa also produced a lot of chicano rock and doo-wop pre-Mothers, some quite good, although the titles are escaping me for the moment. “How Could I Be Such a Fool” and the somewhat related “Go Cry On Somebody Else’s Shoulder” could have been great straight-ahead doo-wop songs; on first hearing the album, I was impressed that he included that style, but on later learing of his extensive involvement with the LA doo-wop scene, it all made sense.

    A sidebar: I was the first DJ in Rhode Island and southeast Massachusetts to play Zappa’s Freak Out album on the air, on WBRU in Providence – our signal pounded into there and also nibbled at the southern suburbs of Boston. The initial promotion, by the way, was a six- or seven-piece jigsaw puzzle version of the cover, mailed on that many successive days by MGM to “tease” the LP. I wish I had that stuff now!

    I didn’t know that Art Laboe produced a separate El Monte album before the OBG series. You don’t include it in your excellent listing (it’s certainly hard to cover everything about him and the label over his long career!); do you happen to know the catalog number? I also had no idea of the extent of his back story, growing up in the east; to us, he emerged fully formed with the OBG series and then the Epps and Nelson hits.

    It’s interesting to note what a hybrid the Original Sound label was, mixing in classic oldies reissue 45s with new material in the same numbering system, for example. I remember the early label and its hits, and then later he made a bid for the progressive big time with The Music Machine and, in my opinion, had their best music on Original Sound.

    I believe Art Laboe is still alive and now living in Salt Lake City (source: Wikipedia) at the tender young age of 94. I wonder if the record label is still in business and how it’s being run.


    • The copy I have of the El Monte LP is actually on the precursor (as it started releasing 45s a year or so before Original Sound) or subsidiary label Starla, catalogue number LPM 1960. I have a copy, and as the back cover helpfully points out, Starla is short for “Stars of LA”. A nice compilation, and one of the few ones to include a personal R&B ballad favourite of mine, Julie Stevens’s “Blue Mood” (from Johnny Otis’s Dig label).

      • PS: The March 3, 1990 issue of Billboard magazine had a 16-page supplement to celebrate the 30th anniversary Original Sound, with all the backstory you could want. As Art Laboe pointed out there, the name Original Sound was never intended to stand for oldies; it merely promised records that had… an original sound. The coverage of Billboard on Google Books has a gap running from early 1987 to mid-1992, but this issue is available on the AmericanRadioHistory.com site: https://americanradiohistory.com/Archive-Billboard/90s/1990/BB-1990-03-03.pdf#page=43

        Original Sound seems to have petered out as a label in the 2010s, with the assets being sold to the Bicycle Music Company (an arm of the Concord Music Group, which owns labels such as Stax, Fantasy and Vee-Jay). That’s the impression given by the lack of a website other than this Tumblr site, which Googling came up with: https://originalsoundrecords.tumblr.com/

      • I always chuckle when I see these “Anniversary” tributes to various musical figures – label owners etc., with everyone who is ‘anyone’ expected to pay their dues by buying an advertisement to “pay tribute’. – It’s just how business gets done both in the music industry and the industries of all types – (I experienced it first hand for 40 years) But now with printed media declining – we will ‘pay our dues’ on line!

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: