Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks – Live at KSAN-FM, San Francisco – July 4, 1971 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks to end up the holiday weekend. Live in a studio session at KSAN-FM in San Francisco on July 4, 1971. One of the most difficult things about Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks was describing just what genre they were. They weren’t – they were a mashup of Americana you could never quite put your finger on. Folk, Country, Jazz-ish, 30’s vocal groups, Old Timey (if there was actually a genre called that), 40’s scat singing – you couldn’t definitely say what they were. All you knew is they were like nothing you ever heard. They were completely unique in that respect and they were huge in their home turf of the Bay Area through the late 60s up to the early 70s when Dan Hicks called a halt and quietly slipped away for a few years.
Writing about Hicks for Oxford American in 2007, critic David Smay said, “[T]here was a time from the ’20s through the ’40s when swing—’hot rhythm’—rippled through every form of popular music. That’s the music Dan Hicks plays, and there’s no single word for it because it wasn’t limited to any one genre. Django Reinhardt and the Mills Brothers and Spade Cooley and Hank Garland and the Boswell Sisters and Stuff Smith and Bing Crosby all swing. You can make yourself nutty trying to define what Dan Hicks is. Then again, you could just say: Dan Hicks swings.”
In 1967, Hicks formed Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks with violinist David LaFlamme as a vehicle for new songs rooted in his longstanding appreciation for acoustic-based forms of pre-rock popular music. In one of their earliest engagements, the group opened for The Charlatans; members of the latter band were surprised to see Hicks performing with a different ensemble. In 1968, LaFlamme left to form It’s a Beautiful Day and was replaced by jazz violinist and fellow Santa Rosan “Symphony” Sid Page. Following several lineup changes, vocalists Sherry Snow and Christine Gancher, guitarist Jon Weber, and bassist Jaime Leopold filled out the band, which had no drummer. This line-up was signed to Epic and in 1969 issued the album Original Recordings, produced by Bob Johnston. The first major Hot Licks lineup lasted until 1971 and then broke up.
As a reminder of that original lineup and a taste of what they were all about, here’s that KSAN radio session, as it aired live on July 4, 1971.