For years, when Tucson music lovers had a hankering for, say, songs about smoke, or tunes on trolleys, they'd know exactly where to turn the dial--to Mike Landwehr's Blue Plate Specials on Friday afternoons on radio KXCI.
"He'd have a theme every week," says Betsy Mason, who was a longtime KXCI DJ. "It might be smoke--and he'd have all these old vinyls lined up. People would call in and he'd play all these things."
But Landwehr wasn't only a specialist in obscure oldies. During his dozen years at the community radio station, five as program director, he advocated for progressive causes, hosting daylong programming on disability rights, environmentalism and black history. And he made a point of promoting Tucson artists--musicians, painters, writers, actors. His Tucson Arts Journal was long the only local program of its kind, and even when he switched to the Home Stretch show on weekday afternoons, he continued to champion the arts. On any given afternoon, his guests might include a statuesque black actress from a traveling musical stopping at the UA, a local folkie with a guitar slung over his shoulder and a writer holding forth on a local puppet renaissance.
Last summer, Landwehr decided to sally forth from the studio and take to the stage himself. With plans to become an actor, he quit his KXCI post--and almost immediately was felled by a major health crisis. While he's recovering slowly, he's saddled with medical bills and living costs he can't meet. Tucson musicians who long enjoyed his support are returning the favor with a benefit this weekend. A top priority is buying Landwehr a new wheelchair--when his health insurance ran out the equipment company came and confiscated his old one.
The Landwehr lollapalooza is folded into the annual holiday music bash of the Tucson Kitchen Musicians' Association, set for 6 p.m. Saturday, December 15, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4831 E. 22nd St., just east of Swan Road. Admission is $8 general, and $7 for members of KXCI, TKMA and Tucson Friends of Traditional Music. Tentative lineup includes Trim the Velvet, Damaris and Damaris, the John Coinman Trio, the Determined Luddites and Elise Greco, with a grand finale jam led by mandolin player extraordinaire Gary Kuitert of the Titan Valley Warheads and fiddler Lindianne Sarno. Proceeds from a silent auction--of objets d'art, services and assorted cool gifts--will go directly to Landwehr.
Partygoers can buy the traditional dinner of turkey chili and corn muffins, desserts and beverages. Beer is BYO. To donate items to the auction call 323-6516. For information on the event call 319-8599.