Local Heroes 2014

Our annual do-gooder issue reminds us why we love Tucson

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David "Kidd Squidd" Squires

Every Saturday afternoon David "Kidd Squidd" Squires takes over the airwaves on Tucson's 91.3 KXCI, filling our heads for a couple of hours with a mix of his latest discoveries or a theme he's put together inspired by a song, a movie or event.

To his avid listeners, Squires provides is an Old Pueblo soundtrack—music that reflects all that we are in our gritty desert paradise. He's been doing that for 31 years, which happens to be the length of time the community radio station has existed.

Squires says he was living in Venice, Cali. in the early '80s, "a great place to be for music at that time," with punk, rockabilly, ska and new wave a big part of the scene back then. Music was everything to Squires, who describes himself as an arrow pulled back on a bow with huge desire to share his knowledge.

The DJ's brother was living in Tucson and during a California visit he brought Squires a brochure on the new community radio station starting in Tucson. He decided to leave the Los Angeles area and the station gave him a chance to "audition."

"I got to do a two-to-three-hour show and the phone was lighting up the whole time," he says.

"I had written a little script before I went on air the first time and about five minutes before I went on I decided, 'I don't need this,' and wadded it up in the trash."

Sitting in his room in St. Luke's Home, a retirement home for low-income seniors in the Feldman neighborhood north of the UA, Squires is surrounded by music. Bookshelves against his walls are filled with CD's, and on his door and walls are posters, postcards and magazine clippings of rock 'n roll and blues greats.

The computer in his room is where all the magic happens—where he puts together each show—hundreds of what are essentially Kidd Squidd mix tapes are stored, past shows, future shows and those currently being crafted for shows or DJ gigs Squires does for hire, from schools to family birthday parties.

As part of Tucson's music life since 1983, Squires says he's told often by people who listened to him growing up and became musicians that they learned a lot listening to his show and it inspired them to go into music.

"To have inspired musicians feels wonderful," he says. "I've been through my own up and downs while I've lived in Tucson, but what's been steady all along has been my radio show. It's something I feel so blessed to do."

He's discovered that there's something special about radio, something intimate and mysterious that is never replicated in other mediums like TV or movies. The result is that it never occurs to him to take a break or not show up to the station's Armory Park studio.

"Maybe it has to do with KXCI. Listeners know they won't be bullshitted. They won't have the wool pulled over their eyes. KXCI is real. It's why we say 'Real people, real radio,' it is a damn good honest radio station and the main focus is music."

Squires says he was an athlete in high school, a basketball player. It was a Rolling Stone's cover of an old Buddy Holly tune, "Not Fade Away," that changed his life trajectory.

"Something changed inside me. The rhythm in that song and the passion in the singing revved up with an extra Bo Didley beat. That one song made me start pursing kool tunes with a K."

At high school parties he was the guy who stood closest to the record player and after graduations he realized how important music was to him and became so immersed that he's practically a rock 'n roll and blues historian.

"I've always had snob control. I could easily be a snob, but I keep an eye on myself, plus there's so much great music and I try to keep up. Oh it's so true. Every generation has good music," he says.

All through Squires' DJ career he never desired to become a musician and has always been content to be a lover of music and spinning tunes for people. "I guess I'm a historian too and a musicologist. An archeologist digs up old bones and I dig up old and new tunes."

While Squire has been this music voice for Tucson, those ups and downs he mentioned have only derailed him briefly—like the 1986 incident, what he describes as a suicide attempt jumping in front of a car after an argument with his girlfriend. "I remember saying to myself, 'Anything is better than this.' I did a number on myself."

It took time, but he recovered. Today, he says, he has a huge universal love in his heart. "I feel it all the time. It's a real gift."

Is that why people tune in on Saturday afternoons? Squire says he thinks it's a combination of things, that he talks to his listeners just like he's talking now and maybe they can tell he's inspired by music, just like they are. "And I add a lot of stories and history, but make sure I never get too dry. I want people to feel happy and be entertained and then if you get some knowledge too, all the better."

Mari Herreras

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