San Francisco 'Folk Swing' Troubadour Dan Hicks Dies At 74
February 9, 2016 at 11:55 AM (PT)
DAN HICKS, a singer, songwriter and bandleader who countered the '60s psychedelia of SAN FRANCISCO with his own vintage, old-time sound, died SATURDAY (FEBRUARY 6th) at his home in MILL VALLEY, CA, at 74 from liver cancer.
HICKS began performing with his HOT LICKS, in the late '60s in the BAY AREA, featuring two guitars, violin and stand-up bass, along with two female back-up vocalists providing harmony, with his clever lyrics giving the throwback music its eccentric slant, what he called "folk swing."
HICKS' eclectic influences encompassed the GYPSY jazz of DJANGO REINHARDT, BOB WILLS' Western swing, the harmonies of the ANDREWS SISTERS and the ribald satire of FATS WALLER.
“It starts out with kind of a folk music sound,” HICKS explained in a 2007 interview, “and we add a jazz beat and solos and singing. We have the two girls who sing, and jazz violin, and all that, so it’s kind of light in nature, it’s not loud. And it’s sort of, in a way, kind of carefree.”
DAN HICKS AND THE HOT LICKS songs included buoyant numbers like “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?,” “Milk-Shakin’ Mama” and “Hell, I’d Go,” about a man longing for alien abduction. On the other hand, one of the staples of his set, “I Scare Myself,” was about being afraid to commit oneself to love.
In the early 1970s, DAN HICKS AND HIS HOT LICKS were staples on on network television, headlined at CARNEGIE HALL, and once even appeared on the cover of ROLLING STONE.
His 2000 album, “Beatin’ the Heat,” a comeback after a long hiatus, included BETTE MIDLER, ELVIS COSTELLO and TOM WAITS. WILLIE NELSON and JIMMY BUFFETT, appeared on "Selected Shorts" four years later.
Born DECEMBER 9th, 1941, in LITTLE ROCK, AR, DANIEL IVAN HICKS was the son of a career military man IVAN HICKS, and the former EVELYN KEHL. While still a child, they moved to SANTA ROSA, CA, where he grew up.
He took up drums in sixth grade and guitar as a teenager. After graduating from SAN FRANCISCO STATE with a degree in Broadcasting, he performed in local folk clubs while also playing drums with dance bands.
From 1965 to 1968, HICKS played drums and sang for THE CHARLATANS, one of the first SAN FRANCISCO psychedelic bands, before forming the first version of the HOT LICKS, releasing its debut in 1969, "Original Recordings." Three subsequent albums for BLUE NOTE established them as a cult group that could attract an audience on tour.
At the height of their popularity in 1973, HICKS broke up the group, not returning until the following decade with a new group, the ACOUSTIC WARRIORS, essentially THE HOT LICKS without the female singers. In the late 1990s, he added two singers and brought back the HOT LICKS name.
The band, with frequent changes in personnel, toured regularly and continued to perform occasionally in recent years when HICKS' health allowed, most recently last DECEMBER in NAPA, CA.
Said HICKS in a 2013 interview in his typically whimsical manner. “On my dying day I will explain to the world how lucky they have been to be alive the same time as me.”
In addition to his wife CLAIRE, HICKS is survived by a stepdaughter, SARA WASSERMAN.