The Charlatans in 1966
The Charlatans with Dan Hicks (2nd from left) – Before there were Hot Licks there were Charlatans.

The Charlatans with Dan Hicks – Live At The Straight Theatre, July 22, 1967 – KSAN-FM – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

The Charlatans with Dan Hicks. Before Dan Hicks introduced the world to the Hot Licks, there was this San Francisco institution, The Charlatans. One of the bands who became the mainstay of the San Francisco sound during the early days, they were an interesting and engaging soupçon of musical genres – from Western Swing, to Olde Timey, to Rock, to Psychedelia – and in true fashion to what Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks were to become a few years later; a band you really couldn’t put your finger on, but you liked everything they did. The Charlatans had only one album to their credit, a souvenir of their somewhat haywire stay at Philips Records, a stay which netted them one banned single (“Codeine”) and an A&R Department who had no clue what they were all about. Signs of the times, to be sure – and during the initial rush to sign anything vaguely psychedelic, a lot of bands were either completely misconstrued (i.e. Sopwith Camel) or lost in the shuffle (i.e. Mystery Trend).

The Charlatans did have an image, which appealed in that sort of Wild-Wild-West meets Great Gatsby kind of way. And it wound up being borrowed by Dan Hicks in putting together an image for The Hot Licks; an image we all came to know and love.

But since we’re looking back on the career of one of the most original, uncompromising and brilliant artists who just left us, I thought I would drag to the surface this very rare recording of The Charlatans in concert, the last 13 minutes of their set at The Straight Theatre in San Francisco on July 22, 1967, and broadcast from the stage by KSAN-FM. It’s early Dan Hicks and its vintage Charlatans, in an all-too rare live setting, and one which may put a bit of strain on the ears, but a historic glimpse of a band and a time that changed perceptions of popular music forever.

Further evidence Dan Hicks was a musical wonder and one of the best to come along.

No need to crank it up – just enjoy it and remember Dan Hicks for all his amazement.

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