Throughout his decades-long career, Dan Hicks stood as one of contemporary music's true eccentrics. While steeped in folk, his acoustic sound knew few musical boundaries. He drew on country, call-and-response vocals, jazz phrasing, and no small amount of humor to create a distinctive, albeit sporadic, body of work that earned him a devoted cult following.
Hicks was born December 9, 1941, to a military family then living in Arkansas, and grew up in California, where he was a drummer in a number of high-school bands. He attended college in San Francisco, where he switched to guitar and began playing folk music. He returned to the drums, however, when he joined the Charlatans, one of the Bay City's first psychedelic bands. Although the Charlatans were short-lived — they issued only one single during their existence — they proved influential throughout the San Francisco musical community and were one of the first acts to play the legendary Family Dog.
Hicks had formed the acoustic group Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks in 1968 as an opener for the Charlatans, but soon the new band became his primary project. After adding a pair of female backing vocalists — "the Lickettes" — the group issued its debut LP, Original Recordings, in 1969. After a pair of 1971 records, Where's the Money? and Striking It Rich, they issued 1973's Last Train to Hicksville, which proved to be the Hot Licks' most successful album yet. At the peak of the group's popularity, however, Hicks dissolved the band and did not resurface until 1978, releasing the solo LP It Happened One Bite, the soundtrack to an uncompleted feature by animator Ralph Bakshi. He then phased in and out of the music industry for more than a decade and did not issue another major recording until 1994's Shootin' Straight, a live recording cut with a new band, the Acoustic Warriors.
In 2000, over two decades after the group's dissolution, Hicks re-formed the Hot Licks and issued Beatin' the Heat. Alive and Lickin' arrived a year later and then, after another hiatus (this time for eight years), in March of 2009 he resurfaced with Tangled Tales. In 2010 Hicks brought his jazzy, hip sense of humor to bear on the holiday season with Crazy for Christmas, released by Surfdog Records. Dan Hicks died on February 6, 2016 at his home in Mill Valley, California; he was 74 years old. ~ Jason Ankeny