From the very second I first heard Dan Hicks’ music I knew there was something different about him. I was maybe 7 or 8 the first time I can remember dancing around the living room, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks playing on the turntable. “The Last Train To Hicksville” was the first album I remember. But there were so many afterward, which turned to tapes, which turned to CD’s, then MP3’s, and now I stream his music from the web.
Dan Hicks started playing around San Francisco in the 1960’s. He was in other bands, he had other band members, but he had a sound in his head that would not go away. After finally assembling the right folk, “Striking it Rich” was released. Dan Hicks gained some popularity across the music world right then and there, turning people like Tom Waits into instant fans. His shows were part fun, part comedy, part ridiculousness, part insane, and filled with incredible musicians. He himself was both a drummer and guitarist and of course, lead song writer and singer. His talent and ability to transcend music of the 1960’s and 1970’s brought him into the hands of other musicians, hippies, geeks, and weirdos.
Dan decided not to plug in his guitars and try to copy what was heard on the radio. There would be no searing over driven stratocaster gleaming across his waist, but rather a wood grain acoustic hung tightly around his neck. One time I heard someone say, “Dan Hicks was so behind the times in the 1960’s that he was way ahead of his time.” The Americana revival that we hear today in the dreary Mumford and Son’s was long done by Mr. Hicks and gang some 40 years previous. And the musicianship was second to none.
He died over the weekend of liver cancer in San Francisco. He will be missed, at the very least, in this house. And I hope yours too.
“The fruit on the trees you catch as you can. There’s only the leaves for the lonely madman.”