Best Of Tucson®

Radio Ringmaster

KXCI's Kidd Squidd continues to be fascinated by the river that is music.

There's a guy on my block
He lives for rock
He plays records day and night
And when he feels down
He puts some rock 'n' roll on
And it makes him feel all right.
--"A Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy," The Kinks, 1978

Kidd Squidd leans toward the mic as the chords of Link Wray's "Deuces Wild" starts to fade, his voice steady as he rambles into his platter chatter.

"Man, I'll tell you what, Link Wray has the most incredible sound and tone of his guitar. That was from 1963, Link Wray, 'Deuces Wild,' that one goes to Jody J. I did not hear Link Wray during those incredible years--except for the song 'Rumble,' that was a pretty big hit--but all these great songs that he came out with in the late '50s and the early to mid-'60s, I didn't hear 'em 'til a couple years later. A lot of you people know how much I love Keith Richards and his guitar playing, but I must say, if I had to vote for the greatest rock 'n' roll guitarist of all time, it would have to be Link Wray. And that's saying something, man."

Squidd runs through the last couple of songs he's played, including the recording year and other bits of trivia: Tommy James and the Shondells with "Hanky Panky," Fendermen with "Mule Skinner Blues," Lonnie Mack with an instrumental version of "Memphis," and Earl King at the top of the set, with "Come On," going out to Spudboy.

He reaches for the play button on the CD player in front of him. "OK, kittens and studs, let's get going right now with Bo Diddley from 1962: 'I Can Tell.'"

Today's show on KXCI 91.3 FM is "Kool Sixties Guitar," loaded with searing electric jangle: "Shakin' All Over" by Johnny Kidd and The Pirates. "Surf Beat" by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones. "Shake Your Moneymaker" by Elmore James. It's three hours of sizzling six-string, punctuated by Squidd's historical footnotes and station promos.

Every Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m., Squidd--don't tell, but his secret identity is Dave Squires--brings a new theme to his three-hour Mystery Jukebox.

"I'm all over the place," he says. One week it's songs about motorcycles; the next, it's dreampop, or maybe country jukebox hits from the '40s. And between the songs, Squidd shares bits and pieces of musical history.

For the record, he's never tackled circus pop.

"But that's a possibility," he quickly adds, never one to rule anything out. He's played with the idea of shows revolving around animals or clowns.

Then, naturally, he recalls a nugget of rock 'n' roll history: the Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus, a TV special put together for the BBC in 1968. Although the show never aired, it's recently been released on CD and DVD. "They invited a bunch of guests, including The Who, John Lennon and Eric Clapton, and did a bunch of music," Squidd recalls, "and they actually had midgets and different people from the circus to add to the rock 'n' roll circus."

Squidd, 55, says he's loved music all his life; when he first heard the Stones' early R&B stuff back when he was growing up in Kankakee, Ill., it was a revelation.

When he ran away from home a few years later, it wasn't to join the big top. Nonetheless, when he hitch-hiked his way across the U.S.A., he ended up in the middle of one of the greatest rock 'n' roll circuses of all time: San Francisco during the Summer of Love.

Squidd spent his nights at Fillmore West and the Winterlands, catching all the greats: Jefferson Airplane, Hendrix, Buffalo Springfield, Janis with Big Brother and the Holding Company.

"There was a real feeling of camaraderie with all the people and everyone was dancing," he recalls. "It was a celebration of the human spirit. It deteriorated rather quickly, with speed freaks and Hell's Angels and all that, but in that moment of purity, it was a wonderful experience."

It was a few years later, while studying transcendental meditation in Iowa, that Squid had what he calls the "eureka moment." He realized that music was not just important to him; it was the most important thing in his life. He dedicated himself to learning as much as he could about the roots of American music.

"The more I looked into it, the more I got out of it," he says. "It was enriching, and that was when I started to realize that no music is an island unto itself; it's all linked and all like a fabric that's been stitched together or a river of music. It continues to be become more and more fascinating to me."

Squidd landed in the Old Pueblo in 1983, just about the same time a small gang of radio rebels were launching community station KXCI. He walked in off the street and asked if he could take a shot at hosting the fledgling Mystery DJ show.

He put together his first song list and wrote a script. Five minutes before the show, he wadded the script up and tossed it in the trash.

"I knew what I was going to say," he says. "I was like an arrow pulled back on a bow. I played all kinds of roots of American music, and the phone was just ringing off the hook, and people were calling me like crazy, so the station manager asked me to come back next week and the next week, and I've been on ever since."

Squidd's now on a new adventure in the hospitality biz. A couple of years ago, he and his gal-pal Sharon Holnback relocated from midtown to the Triangle L Guest Ranch out near Oracle. It's the oldest guest ranch in Southern Arizona, with four guest houses on 50 acres.

"I'm a country boy now, and we have some chickens and donkey named Mojave and my dog Zeke, and there's an outdoor cat named El Noche, and we're all just a happy family out here," he says.

The old cowboy bunkhouse is now stacked floor to ceiling with CDs, records, tapes, book and memorabilia. He calls it the Squiddcave.

"This is not a hobby for me," says Squidd. "This is my life. And I'm fortunate enough to be in a situation where I get to listen to a lot of music all day long."

And then, on Saturday, he shares it with the rest of us. Even after close to two decades, it hasn't gotten old.

"Every time I go down there to do my show, I feel pumped and enthusiastic," he says. "This transcends anything having to do with money. It has to do with love of music."