Always one to defy labels, Dan Hicks’ infectious mix of Western Swing, Good-timey, Country-Rock, Folk-Swing and genres as yet un-classified, has made for one appealing soup of styles that has served him well a very long time.
Writing about him for Oxford American in 2007, critic David Smay said, “There was a time from the ’20s through the ’40s when swing—’hot rhythm’—rippled through every form of popular music. That’s the music he 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: He 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.
Through a whole host of different lineups and names (Dan Hicks and His Acoustic Warriors was a more recent incarnation), the core appeal is the same; great music, excellently played and stylishly put together. It’s safe to say there is no other Dan Hicks anywhere near the horizon – he was an institution.
Crank it up and enjoy.