RIP: Dan Hicks, 1941-2016
By Greg Haymes
Photograph by Andrzej Pilarczyk
No question about it – Dan Hicks was the walkin’ one and only.
He was a ham on wry kind of guy. A hepcat with a heart of gold. A romantic who was quick with a sarcastic putdown. A folkie with swing on his brain. Back in the 1970s when Hicks was leading the Hot Licks, he was the hippest of the hipsters, whipping off sensational albums like Striking It Rich and Where’s the Money?
Dan Hicks died on Saturday (February 6), following a lengthy battle with liver cancer. He was 74 years old.
Even back in their heyday, Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks were obviously caught up in some kind of time warp. While bands like Foreigner, Foghat and Frampton were clogging up the airwaves in the ’70s, Hicks forged a wickedly witty hybrid of Django Reinhardt’s Gypsy jazz, Jim Kweskin’s jug band jams, Mose Allison’s sardonic jazz, Bob Wills’ western swing and Cab Calloway’s jumpin’ jive.
His deadpan wit permeated nearly all his songs, and his sharp combo dressed up those same songs in a sophisticated kind of jazz-folk-swing style. It was vintage, but not camp. It was sly, but not silly. And at times it was so laconic that it was nearly comatose.
As a solo, with the Acoustic Warriors or with the re-formed (but not reformed) Hot Licks, Hicks played a wide variety of Greater Nippertown venues over the years, including Pauly’s Hotel, the Albany Tulip Festival, Caffe Lena, Mill Road Acres, the Van Dyck and most recently The Egg, showcasing a batch of of his always snappy signature songs including “I Scare Myself,” “Milk Shakin’ Mama,” “Canned Music” and “How Can I Miss You if You Won’t Go Away.”
Now Dan Hicks has gone away, and, yes indeed, we miss him…
CD: Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks’ “Crazy for Christmas”
LIVE: Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks @ The Egg, 4/23/10
Dan Hicks, What Was the First Album You Ever Bought?
CD: Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks’ “Tangled Tales”