Hicks at the Santa Fe Brewing Co., June 28, 2009
|Daniel Ivan Hicks|
December 9, 1941|
Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.
|Died||February 6, 2016
Mill Valley, California
|Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, The Charlatans, The Acoustic Warriors|
Daniel Ivan Hicks (December 9, 1941 - February 6, 2016) was an American singer-songwriter known for an idiosyncratic style that combined elements of cowboy folk, jazz, country, swing, bluegrass, pop, and gypsy music. He led Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. He is perhaps best known for the songs "I Scare Myself" and "Canned Music." His songs are frequently infused with humor, as evidenced by the title of his tune, "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away?" His album, Live at Davies (2013) capped over forty years of music.
Hicks was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on December 9, 1941. His father, Ivan L. Hicks (married to the former Evelyn Kehl), was a career military man. At age five, an only child, Hicks moved with his family to California, eventually settling north of San Francisco in Santa Rosa, where he was a drummer in grade school and played the snare drum in his school marching band.
At 14, he was performing with area dance bands. While in high school, he had a rotating spot on Time Out for Teens, a daily 15-minute local radio program, and he went on to receive a B.A. in broadcasting from San Francisco State College in 1965. Taking up the guitar in 1959, he became part of the San Francisco American folk music revival scene during his undergraduate studies, performing at local coffeehouses.
Hicks joined the seminal San Francisco psychedelic rock band The Charlatans in 1965 as drummer; in this capacity, he participated in the group's celebrated summer 1965 engagement at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada. After the band failed to secure a long-term recording contract, he switched to rhythm guitar in 1967 and briefly performed his original material as the group's frontman before leaving in 1968.
In 1967, Hicks formed Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks with violinist David LaFlamme. In one of their earliest engagements, the group opened for The Charlatans; members of the latter band were surprised to see Hicks performing with a different ensemble. In 1968, LaFlamme was replaced by jazz violinist "Symphony" Sid Page after he left to form It's a Beautiful Day. Vocalists Sherry Snow and Christine Gancher, guitarist Jon Weber, and bassist Jaime Leopold filled out the band, which had no drummer. This line-up was signed to Epic and in 1969 issued the album Original Recordings, produced by Bob Johnston. The first Hot Licks line-up lasted until 1971 and then broke up.
When Hicks reformed the band, Page and Leopold remained, and vocalists Naomi Ruth Eisenberg and Maryann Price joined, followed later by guitarist John Girton and drummer Bob Scott. This group recorded three albums, culminating in 1973's Last Train to Hicksville. Following years of critical success, the album gained the group wider acclaim, peaking at #67 during an eighteen-week stay on the Billboard album chart; during this period, the group headlined at Carnegie Hall and appeared on The Flip Wilson Show. Nevertheless, Hicks dissolved the group by the end of the year, a decision that inspired a Charles Perry-penned Rolling Stone cover story. In 1997, he reflected on the decision: "It was getting old. We became less compatible as friends. I was pretty disillusioned, had some money, and didn't want to do it any more." The classic Hot Licks lineup reunited for an appearance on Austin City Limits in 1991.
The program also featured Hicks' new group, The Acoustic Warriors, a combination of folk, swing, jazz and country which included Brian Godchaux on violin and mandolin, Paul "Pazzo" Mehling on guitar, and Richard Saunders (musician) on bass. In 1993 the Acoustic Warriors continued to perform locally around San Francisco and on the road, but this edition placed Paul Robinson on guitar, Nils Molin or Alex Baum on string bass, Stevie Blacke on mandolin and Josh Riskin on drums. Hicks recorded one CD with the Acoustic Warriors. Shootin' Straight was released by Private Music in 1996. Recorded live at McCabe's in Santa Monica, it featured Jim Boggio on accordion/piano, Stevie Blacke on mandolin/violin, Paul Robinson on guitar, Alex Baum on bass and former Hot Lick Bob Scott on drums.
Beginning with Beatin' the Heat featuring Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Bette Midler, Ricki Lee Jones and Brian Setzer in 2000, Hicks returned to releasing albums with a reconstituted lineup of the Hot Licks on Surfdog Records. Alive and Lickin', a live album with the Hot Licks followed in 2001. In 2003, Surfdog released Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks: Featuring an All-Star Cast of Friends, a live CD/DVD package. These albums reinvigorated Hicks, and the guests reflected their longtime admiration for the Hot Licks. Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks' comeback was met with widespread critical acclaim and led to several more albums under the Surfdog label. Selected Shorts featuring Jimmy Buffett, Willie Nelson and Gibby Haynes was released in 2004, then a downloadable compilation of Hicks's previously released duets in 2007, Tangled Tales in 2009, Crazy For Christmas in 2010, and Live at Davies in 2013. To honor Dan on the first anniversary of Dan Hicks passing, Surfdog Records released Greatest Licks - I Feel Like Singin', a compilation album paying tribute and celebrating Dan's life and legacy, in February 2017.
Hicks occasionally played jazz standards at intimate venues in the San Francisco Bay Area with Bayside Jazz.
In the film Class Action (1991), Hicks is seen performing with Eisenberg and Price at Rosatti's in San Francisco. He also can be seen in several documentary films, including Revolution (1968) and Rockin at the Red Dog (1996).
In the Oxford American, Hicks's music is called a form of swing that crossed genres.Bilboard called Hicks an eccentric whose music contained elements of country, folk, jazz, and comedy. Hicks called his music "folk swing".
Hicks married Clare "CT" Wasserman in February 1997. He was diagnosed with throat and liver cancer in 2014. In March 2015, Hicks announced on his website that he had been diagnosed with liver cancer. On February 6, 2016, he died from cancer at his home in Mill Valley, California.