James Squires at his home in Jupiter. Photography by Jason Nuttle

Jinhabitant of upiter James Squires entertained thousands of people all over the world, some with very familiar names. In the 80s, he sang three times at the White House for President Reagan. In 1988, he performed at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II. He has entertained audiences from Florida to New York with his tenor voice and the various instruments he plays – bongos, congas, tambourine, shakers and the Zendrum, which is a wooden instrument carried like a guitar and programmed like a computer.

He’s built movie sets in Miami, starred in iconic Broadway musicals (The music man, guys and dolls, my lovely lady) and promoted theaters and arts organizations like Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington Ballet, and the former Coconut Grove Playhouse. At the other end of the spectrum, he is also a self-taught computer whiz who has built websites and computer networks and maintained Windows operating systems for corporate and residential clients.

“I don’t do this for the money,” says the 70-year-old performing musician. “Musicians travel 50 miles to set up equipment worth $50,000 for a salary of $50. I love performing and interacting with the audience. When you get feedback from the audience, it’s magic.

Currently, Squires is a member of two bands – Hot Sauce Moon, a five-member band that features eclectic classic rock, blues and Americana, and No Prince Charmings, a four-piece jazz-inspired combo. His bands play regularly from Stuart to Lake Worth, at venues such as Mulligan’s Beach House and Terra Fermata in Stuart, Taco Tiki in Jensen Beach, Brewhouse Gallery in Lake Park and Rudy’s Pub in Lake Worth. He is now putting together a third band that specializes in Cajun zydeco, a mix of blues and rhythm and blues with Mardi Gras themes. “Seasonal South Florida residents love local live music,” he notes. “We are fortunate to have many world-class musicians living here.”

Born in Battle Creek, Michigan, Squires was drawn to music from an early age. “I’ve always loved it, ever since I listened to classic gems like ‘War of 1812’ that my parents played while cleaning our house in Michigan,” he says. When he was 5, he moved to Miami with his divorced mother and older sister to be near his mother’s parents. He remembers him and his sister singing pop music together for fun at a local ice rink, and he joined the choir in middle school. The first time he sang in front of a real audience was as a student at Southwest Miami High School. “In my senior year of high school, I sang in a professional band that performed at major Miami Beach hotels like Eden Roc and Alger,” he says. I was master of ceremonies and I sang two or three songs.

Squires playing with his Zendrum.  Photography by Jason Nuttle
Squires playing with his Zendrum. Photography by Jason Nuttle

In 1970, while studying at Miami Dade College, he auditioned for a 24-singer madrigal choir with 12 harmony parts and was named a tenor. “It was a blast for me,” he says. “We sang six new songs at each rehearsal and played in French, Latin and English and also did gospel. Two years in college, he quit school to pursue music full-time. He played with different bands all over Miami and even became an on-air radio personality. He also began performing in theater productions at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, including 140 performances of the 1973 play. Equus by Peter Shaffer, and built sets for Italian films and various trade fairs.

As happens to many musicians working for the love of the art, however, the cost of living has caught up with him. So in 1982, he decided to leave Miami to go on the road promoting arts organizations (and some sports venues), staying for several months in a row in different cities around the country. Eventually he moved to Long Island, New York to work for the Long Island Philharmonic and Long Island Stage. While in New York, he joined the Men’s and Boys’ Choir at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Center, which led him to three European tours singing with the choir at cathedrals, including his esteemed event for the pope. “This tour was a great experience,” he recalls. “I’ve sung tenor, played lead roles and worked as a cantor in church music. It was like a guerrilla theater with amazing sound systems. Throughout this time, he also continued to work with his IT clients.

Squires’ nomadic lifestyle ended in 2014. His mother suffered from dementia and he moved to Jupiter to care for her until her death last July. He may not have planned to put down roots in town, but in the end, it was meant to be. “I started singing with an old friend who lived in Stuart, then expanded to play music with other Stuart guys,” he says. “It was great therapy for me while taking care of mom, a total escape from everyday stress. Jupiter was very low key, like old Miami.

Today, he continues to perform locally and pursues his parallel activity in the computer field. And at 70, there’s no slowing down for Squires, who has one more dream he hopes to achieve. “Later on, I want to have a big 12-piece funk band,” he says. “That’s my only unfulfilled ambition.”