Dan Hicks has been wrongly accused, and more than once, as he recalls.
“I’ve guess I’ve been accused of havin’ some kind of southern twang,” he says over the telephone from his home in Mill Valley, located just north of the Bay Area, near the edge of California’s Muir Woods National Monument. “I don’t think so. I call it a California twang. That’s my story.”
And quite a story it is.
Hicks thought he had what was supposed to be a summer gig when he hooked up with a Bay Area band called the Charlatans at the age of 24 (he began playing drums at age 11). That was in 1965.
The group, one of San Francisco’s earliest rock bands, would dissolve three years later. But more than four decades as a music-industry headliner later, and Hicks is still going strong, still defying pigeon holes, still irreverent as ever, and, along with his band, The Hot Licks, is headed this way.
Described by friend and fellow Bay Area resident Tom Waits as “fly, sly, wily and dry” (dry, as in sense of humor) — Hicks and the Hot Licks will hit the stage of the San Juan Community Theatre as part of a nationwide summer tour, Saturday, beginning at 8 p.m.
An army brat and only child, Hicks was five years old when mom and dad packed up and moved to the Bay Area from Little Rock, Ark. And while the boy may have left the country, the country never really left the boy. You can hear a down-home country echo in many tunes that Hicks has penned over the years, like “How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away” or “Canned Music”. Then again, you’ll also hear plenty of folk, jazz, bebop, pop, swing and a little gypsy influence in many of his tunes as well.
In fact, keepin’ ‘em guessin’ is one of the hallmarks of Hicks’ 40-year career in the music industry. So are wry, insightful and playful lyrics, for that matter.
Hicks been featured several times in Rolling Stone magazine, which includes a 1971 article entitled: “Dan Hicks: two girls, one fiddle and a white sport coat.” He’s also earned the admiration of many colleagues, as evidenced when the likes of such music-industry heavyweights as Rickie Lee Jones, Harry Shearer, Maria Muldaur, Van Dyke Parks, Tuck and Patti, John Hammond, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and more, all showed up on stage at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall several years back to help celebrate Hicks’ 70th birthday.
The recording of that birthday bash turned into a recently released CD, “Live at Davies”, and, in addition to many signature songs, will be highlighted by Hicks and crew as part of their summer tour.