Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks
"There's no one else who sounds like Dan Hicks, who
writes like him, who has that
dry sense of humor, or has that manner on stage. He's
really one of a kind."
-- San Francisco Weekly
"So few truly original figures exist in pop music that
Dan Hicks should be a national treasure."
-- San Francisco Chronicle
Singer-songwriter Dan Hicks is truly an American
original. Since the early 1960s, Hicks has deftly
blended elements of Swing, Jazz, Folk and Country
music to create the appealing sound he sometimes calls
The lyrics of his songs range from the simply sublime
to the sublimely ridiculous, all presented with his
uniquely skewed and inscrutable touch. Dan's
irresistible sense of rhythm, hip lyrical styling,
laid-back vocalizing, and infamous on-stage wit will
make most who listen fans for life. He's a snappy
Dan Hicks was born December 9, 1941 in Little Rock,
Arkansas, the son of a career military man. The family
moved to California when Dan was about five,
eventually settling in what was then the small city of
Santa Rosa, some 50 miles north of San Francisco.
Musically, Dan started out as a drummer, beginning
while still in grade school. He played the snare drum
in his school marching band, and by the age of 14 was
playing gigs with area dance bands.
In High School, Dan developed an interest in
broadcasting, and had a rotating spot on a daily
15-minute local radio program called "Time Out for
Teens". He entered San Francisco State College in
1959, eventually earning a degree in Broadcasting. He
took up the guitar around '59, and became part of the
San Francisco folk music scene, playing and singing in
local coffeehouses. In the spring of 1965, Dan became
the drummer for a nascent San Francisco folk-rock
group called The Charlatans, who at that time were
more of a concept than an actual working band. They
did, however, find employment that summer as the house
band at the newly-opened Red Dog Saloon in Virginia
City, Nevada. The popular hallucinogen-fueled dances
held at the Red Dog were the direct inspiration for
the legendary psychedelic San Francisco dancehall
scene that blossomed shortly thereafter. In addition
to drumming, Dan also played guitar and sang with The
Charlatans, performing some of his original songs. The
Charlatans played for several years at all the noted
San Francisco halls, but never achieved the commercial
success enjoyed by other groups that came on the scene
after them, such as Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful
Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service. As Dan
explains it, "The Charlatans were kind of
dysfunctional anyway. There was no real management,
and it was just kind of some loose guys". Dan had
other ideas about the kind of music he wanted to make,
and began putting together an acoustic combo which
included two female backup singers, who were dubbed
"Lickettes". Billed as Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks,
the group began as an opening act for The Charlatans.
However, Dan soon left the Charlatans and focused his
energy on the Hot Licks. Their efforts resulted in a
recording contract with Epic Records. "Original
Recordings" was released in 1969, but Epic's promotion
of the album and the group was lackluster, and it was
not a commercial success.
After some personnel changes, and a deal with Blue
Thumb Records, what had then become the "classic" Hot
Licks ensemble went on to produce the critically
acclaimed and commercially successful albums "Where's
The Money?", "Striking It Rich" and "Last Train To
Hicksville". But, owing to pressures both internal and
external, Dan broke up the Hot Licks in 1973, at the
height of the band's popularity. Dan then began a
low-key solo career of acoustic performances. He wrote
music for commercials, television, and movies--
including the music for a never-released Ralph Bakshi
animated film. That music was eventually packaged and
released in 1978 by Warner Bros. Records as "It
Happened One Bite", with cover artwork by Dan. In the
1980s, he formed The Acoustic Warriors, a male combo
with whom he toured. In 1994, they recorded the superb
(and now out-of-print) live CD "Shootin' Straight",
for the Private Music label.
Dan signed with Surfdog Records in 1998. "Beatin'
The Heat", Dan's first studio opus since 1978,
featured a return to the Hot Licks name and format -
complete with new Lickettes - and was released in
August of 2000. It garnered rave reviews, and was
chosen by Time.Com as one of the Top Ten CDs of 2000.
A live CD ("Alive & Lickin'") soon followed.
In September of 2003, Surfdog released a DVD/CD
package featuring much of Dan's 60th Birthday Bash
concert, as well as interviews with musicians of note
speaking about Dan's influence.
2004 saw the release of "Selected Shorts", a dynamic
and critically acclaimed studio CD, featuring
contributions from such stars as Jimmy Buffett, Jim
Keltner, Gibby Haynes, Van Dyke Parks and Willie
Today, Dan tours worldwide with an updated version
of the Hot Licks, and occasionally gigs at various
jazz venues in the San Francisco Bay Area as a
vocalist, with Bayside Jazz.
Not only does Dan continue to delight his long-time
fans, he has earned the attention of a whole new
generation of music lovers.