R.I.P. Kidd Kraddick

Kidd Kraddick 1984

Last night, über-famous local radio personality Kidd Kraddick passed away suddenly. It happened late at night, right as I was headed to bed. It prompted me to stay up way past my bedtime to learn additional details and fully absorb the impact. It wasn’t until tonight I could articulate my thoughts, so I’m writing this post now to share how important an influence he was to my family.

Kidd blew on the Dallas radio scene in 1984, shooting to stardom as weeknight DJ at KEGL 97.1 FM. Back then, this was huge — The Eagle was king of Dallas pop radio (remember the rivalry with Y95 and Moby?), and it was the eighties (lest we forget). He lasted there for eight years, before landing at the fertile grounds of morning drive time at KISS 106.1 FM. It was there he truly blew up, eventually becoming a national presence after syndicating in 2001.

Kidd was a big deal to child-size McGarityDotMe. In 1984, I was eleven years old and entering a really awkward stage of my life. This was less because of puberty and more due to a severe lack of friends and respect from my peers. Middle school was the loneliest time of my life, and each day I would wish the school hours to fly by as quickly as possible so I could escape back to home.

My brother Michael was still around at this time, still a couple years away from college. After dinner, we would spend hours listening to the radio, anticipating the next pop hit we loved to be played. We even engaged in the time-honored tradition of hovering over our boom boxes, pouncing upon the “record” button just in time to capture the most song with the least amount of DJ chatter. It was a special time in radio.

I quickly fell in love with Kidd. To me, he was special: he had That Voice, he oozed confidence, and above all he seemed kind. I needed kind people in my life at the time, and each night he delivered. I’d listen to him until mom told me to go to bed. Of course, my mom forgot about my old crystal diode radio, which I would sneak into bed and use to continue my late-night FM rendezvous. In many ways, Kidd was one of my few childhood friends. He never burned my buns.

Here’s a sampling of what I heard each and every night:

Years later, after I had grown up and away from radio, and in many ways had forgotten about the essentials of my childhood, I met my wife. Jenn turned out to be a big Kidd fan, and she re-introducted to me the disembodied personality that filled my youth. Coincidentally, Kidd had a similar effect on Jenn during her adult life, buoying her daily spirits while she toiled away at a less-than-fulfilling job. And for years on a regular basis, Jenn would share with me recordings of Kidd’s funny bits and stories of his inspiring charity work with Kidd’s Kids.

I’m tearing up while writing this, because thinking of Kidd reminds me of a tough childhood, an era of my life that still affects my character to this day. But I tear up less because of the bad memories but more of the calming effect he had on me. I think that many Metroplex locals shocked by his passing were also similarly touched by his presence in our formative years. Today, I’m also thinking of the people Kidd personally touched with his works — he not only served as people’s morning coffee, he also left behind a family and co-workers, and so many children benefitted from his charity. As I grow older and have become a husband and father, I can empathize with his survivors well enough. But knowing that a childhood friend has passed only compounds my emotions.

R.I.P. Kidd. You’ll be missed!

Image credit: Dallas Morning News, via Robert Wilonsky

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