Dan Hicks (singer)

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Dan Hicks
Hicks at the Santa Fe Brewing Co., June 28, 2009
Background information
Birth nameDaniel Ivan Hicks
Born(1941-12-09)December 9, 1941
Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.
DiedFebruary 6, 2016(2016-02-06) (aged 74)
Mill Valley, California, U.S.
Genres Folk, pop
InstrumentsGuitar, drums
Years active1965–2016
Associated actsDan Hicks and His Hot Licks, The Charlatans, The Acoustic Warriors
Website www.danhicks.com www.danhicks.net

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.

Folk music musical and poetic creativity of the people

Folk music includes traditional folk music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th-century folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called world music. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, or music performed by custom over a long period of time. It has been contrasted with commercial and classical styles. The term originated in the 19th century, but folk music extends beyond that.

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".

Country music, also known as country and western, and hillbilly music, is a genre of popular music that originated in the southern United States in the early 1920s. It takes its roots from genres such as folk music and blues.


Writing about Hicks for Oxford American in 2007, critic David Smay said, "[T]here was a time from the ’20s through the ’40s when swing—'hot rhythm'—rippled through every form of popular music. That’s the music Dan Hicks plays, and there’s no single word for it because it wasn’t limited to any one genre. Django Reinhardt and the Mills Brothers and Spade Cooley and Hank Garland and the Boswell Sisters and Stuff Smith and Bing Crosby all swing. You can make yourself nutty trying to define what Dan Hicks is. Then again, you could just say: Dan Hicks swings." [1]

<i>Oxford American</i>

The Oxford American is an American quarterly literary magazine "dedicated to featuring the very best in Southern writing while documenting the complexity and vitality of the American South."

Django Reinhardt Belgian-born Romani French jazz guitarist and composer

Jean Reinhardt stage name Django Reinhardt, was a Belgian-born Romani-French jazz guitarist and composer, regarded as one of the greatest musicians of the twentieth century. He was the first jazz talent to emerge from Europe and remains the most significant.

The Mills Brothers American jazz and pop vocal quartet

The Mills Brothers, sometimes billed the Four Mills Brothers, and originally known as the Four Kings of Harmony, were an African-American jazz and pop vocal quartet who made more than 2,000 recordings that sold more than 50 million copies and garnered at least three dozen gold records. The Mills Brothers were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998.

Early life

Hicks was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on December 9, 1941. [2] [3] His father, Ivan L. Hicks (married to the former Evelyn Kehl), was a career United States Air Force non-commissioned officer. At age five, an only child, Hicks moved with his family to California. Following brief stints in Lomita, Cambria, and Vallejo, the family settled in Santa Rosa, the largest city in the North Bay subregion of the San Francisco Bay Area, where he was a drummer in grade school and played the snare drum in his school marching band.

Little Rock, Arkansas Capital of Arkansas

Little Rock is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Arkansas. It is also the county seat of Pulaski County. It was incorporated on November 7, 1831, on the south bank of the Arkansas River close to the state's geographic center. The city derives its name from a rock formation along the river, named the "Little Rock" by the French explorer Jean-Baptiste Bénard de la Harpe in the 1720s. The capital of the Arkansas Territory was moved to Little Rock from Arkansas Post in 1821. The city's population was 198,541 in 2016 according to the United States Census Bureau. The six-county Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is ranked 78th in terms of population in the United States with 738,344 residents according to the 2017 estimate by the United States Census Bureau.

United States Air Force Air and space warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Air Force (USAF) is the aerial and space warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the five branches of the United States Armed Forces, and one of the seven American uniformed services. Initially formed as a part of the United States Army on 1 August 1907, the USAF was established as a separate branch of the U.S. Armed Forces on 18 September 1947 with the passing of the National Security Act of 1947. It is the youngest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the fourth in order of precedence. The USAF is the largest and most technologically advanced air force in the world. The Air Force articulates its core missions as air and space superiority, global integrated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, rapid global mobility, global strike, and command and control.

Non-commissioned officer Military officer without a commission

A non-commissioned officer (NCO) is a military officer who has not earned a commission. Non-commissioned officers usually obtain their position of authority by promotion through the enlisted ranks. In contrast, commissioned officers hold higher ranks than NCOs, have more legal responsibilities, are paid more, and often have more non-military training such as a university diploma. Commissioned officers usually earn their commissions without having risen through the enlisted ranks.

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. After receiving an A.A. in general education from Santa Rosa Junior College, he went on to earn a B.A. in broadcasting from San Francisco State College in 1965. Taking up the guitar in 1959, he became part of the American folk music revival scene during his undergraduate studies, often dropping out intermittently to perform at venues across the United States. Strongly influenced by the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, he would cultivate friendships with several of the group's members (most notably Maria Muldaur) later in life.

Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) is a community college located in the city of Santa Rosa, California with an additional campus in Petaluma and centers in surrounding Sonoma County. Santa Rosa Junior College was modeled as a feeder school for the University of California system.

Jim Kweskin is an American musician most notable as the founder of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, also known as Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band, with Fritz Richmond, Geoff Muldaur, Bob Siggins and Bruno Wolfe. They were active in Boston in the 1960s. Maria D'Amato, known after her marriage to Geoff Muldaur as Maria Muldaur, formerly with the Even Dozen Jug Band, joined the band in 1963. During the five years they were together, the jugband successfully modernized the sounds of pre–World War II rural music. Kweskin released six albums and two greatest hits compilations on Vanguard Records between 1963 and 1970; Jim Kweskin's America on Reprise Records in 1971; and four albums on Mountain Railroad Records between 1978 and 1987. Kweskin is probably best known as a singer and bandleader, but he is also known for his guitar stylings, adapting the ragtime-blues fingerpicking of artists like Blind Boy Fuller and Mississippi John Hurt, while incorporating more sophisticated jazz and blues stylings into the mix. In 2013, the band held a reunion tour that included Jim Kweskin, Maria Muldaur, Geoff Muldaur, Richard Greene, Bill Keith, Cindy Cashdollar and Sam Bevan, most of whom were amongst its original members.

Jug band

A jug band is a band employing a jug player and a mix of conventional and homemade instruments. These homemade instruments are ordinary objects adapted to or modified for making sound, like the washtub bass, washboard, spoons, bones, stovepipe, and comb and tissue paper (kazoo). The term jug band is loosely used in referring to ensembles that also incorporate homemade instruments but that are more accurately called skiffle bands, spasm bands, or juke bands because they do not include a jug player.

Although he maintained an equivocal stance toward rock music (lauding the early recordings of Elvis Presley and The Byrds while retrospectively maintaining that "rock has never really been my thing"), Hicks joined seminal San Francisco psychedelic rock band The Charlatans on drums in 1965. [4] 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.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and in the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Elvis Presley American singer and actor

Elvis Aaron Presley was an American singer and actor. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".

The Byrds American rock band

The Byrds were an American rock band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1964. The band underwent multiple lineup changes throughout its existence, with frontman Roger McGuinn remaining the sole consistent member. Although they only managed to attain the huge commercial success of contemporaries like the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Rolling Stones for a short period in the mid-1960s, the Byrds are today considered by critics to be nearly as influential as those bands. Their signature blend of clear harmony singing and McGuinn's jangly twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar was "absorbed into the vocabulary of rock" and has continued to be influential.


In 1967, Hicks formed Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks with violinist David LaFlamme as a vehicle for new songs rooted in his longstanding appreciation for acoustic-based forms of pre-rock popular music. 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 left to form It's a Beautiful Day and was replaced by jazz violinist and fellow Santa Rosan "Symphony" Sid Page. Following several lineup changes, 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 major Hot Licks lineup lasted until 1971 and then broke up.

David LaFlamme is a US singer and violinist.

Its a Beautiful Day American band formed in San Francisco, California, in 1967

It's a Beautiful Day is an American band formed in San Francisco, California, in 1967, featuring vocalist Pattie Santos along with violinist David LaFlamme and his wife, Linda LaFlamme, on keyboards.

Sid Page is an American violinist who has been active in many genres of music since the late 1960s. He has been a member of Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. From 1973–1974, he was a member of Sly and the Family Stone and appeared on their album Small Talk (1974).

"If Hicks's acoustic stylings react against the excesses of counterculture futurists, then the key moment on this live album [Where's the Money?] comes when he corrects 'his wife' with 'I should say old lady' and no one laughs. Hicks is delicate, tuneful, and droll, with an ear for colloquial history in words and music both, but he's so diffident about focus that his mock nostalgia is too easy to mistake for the right thing."

Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981) [5]

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 Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and 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. [6] 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.” [7]

Over the next decade, Hicks seldom recorded while subsisting on Hot Licks royalties in his adopted hometown of Mill Valley, California. Envisaged as the soundtrack for an early iteration of Ralph Bakshi's Hey Good Lookin' (1982), the acclaimed It Happened One Bite was released as Hicks' first solo album by Warner Bros. Records in 1978; however, it only managed to peak at #155 in Billboard. [8] [9] Often performing under the influence of alcohol, opioids and cocaine, his reputation was sullied by a series of belligerent solo concerts. Following rehabilitation, he appeared with Asleep at the Wheel at Farm Aid II in 1986, auguring his return to the popular consciousness. Although he briefly resumed using alcohol and cannabis in the mid-1990s (a period that culminated in arrests for public intoxication and driving under the influence), Hicks would credit Alcoholics Anonymous with maintaining his sobriety. [4]

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 on bass. [10] 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.

In his later years, Hicks occasionally played jazz standards at intimate venues in the San Francisco Bay Area with Bayside Jazz. [11]

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).

From its founding in 1977 until late in his life, Hicks played with the San Francisco Bay Area's Christmas Jug Band. [12]

Thomas Dolby covered his song "I Scare Myself". [13]

Musical style

Billboard called Hicks an eccentric whose music contained elements of country, folk, jazz, and comedy. [14] Hicks called his music "folk swing". [15]

Personal life

Following an on-and-off relationship spanning two decades, Hicks married concert promoter Clare "CT" Wasserman (a protege of Bill Graham and the former wife of bassist Rob Wasserman) in February 1997. [16] He was diagnosed with throat and liver cancer in 2014. [17] In March 2015, Hicks announced on his website that he had been diagnosed with liver cancer. [2] On February 6, 2016, he died from cancer at his home in Mill Valley. [18] [19]


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  1. "Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks" (PDF). Danhicks.net. Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  2. 1 2 "Welcome to Hicksville!". Danhicks.net. December 9, 1941. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  3. "Dan Hicks". IMDb . Amazon.com . Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  4. 1 2 I Scare Myself: A Memoir. Dan Hicks with Kristine McKenna. Jawbone Press, 2017
  5. Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: H". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies . Ticknor & Fields. ISBN   089919026X . Retrieved February 26, 2019 via robertchristgau.com.
  6. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/enigmas-on-thin-ice-dan-hicks-breaks-up-his-hot-licks-72492/
  7. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/08/arts/music/dan-hicks-bandleader-of-the-hot-licks-dies-at-74.html
  8. https://www.billboard.com/music/dan-hicks
  9. http://www.richieunterberger.com/hicks.html
  10. "Dan Hicks". Music Liner Notes. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  11. "Bayside Jazz with Dan Hicks". Baysidejazz.com. September 11, 2010. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  12. "The CJB Story, Christmas Jug Band website
  13. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 163. ISBN   1-904994-10-5.
  14. "Dan Hicks Biography". Billboard . Prometheus Global Media . Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  15. Dan Hicks Describing His Musical Style 7-3-07 at Riverwalk Center, Breckenridge, CO. on YouTube
  16. Righi, Len (August 21, 2004). "Singer-songwriter Dan Hicks gets in his licks about music and modern culture". The Morning Call . Tribune Media . Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  17. The Associated Press (February 6, 2016). "Wife Says Singer and Band Leader Dan Hicks Dies at Age 74". ABC News . ABC . Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  18. WRAL Staff (February 6, 2016). "Wife says singer and band leader Dan Hicks dies at age 74". WRAL-TV . Capitol Broadcasting Company. Archived from the original on February 7, 2016. Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  19. Jones, Kevin L. (February 6, 2016). "Dan Hicks, San Francisco Folk Jazz Pioneer, Dead at 74" . Retrieved February 6, 2016.