Dan Hicks, a longtime Bay Area music figure and the lead singer of Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, passed away Saturday following a two-year battle with cancer. He was 74. Hicks’ wife CT confirmed the singer-songwriter’s death on his official website. “He was true blue, one of a kind, and did it all his own way always,” she wrote. “To all who loved him, know that he will live forever in the words, songs, and art that he spent his life creating. He worked so hard on each and every detail – they are all pure Dan.”
The Little Rock-born, Bay Area-raised Hicks first served as drummer with the San Francisco psych-rock pioneers the Charlatans before forming his own outfit, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, in 1967; Hicks’ new band first acted as the Charlatans’ opening act before breaking out on their own, signing with Epic Records and releasing their 1969 debut LP Original Recordings.
The country-rock ensemble, complete with the background singers “the Lickettes,” next released 1971’s Where’s the Money? and 1972’s Striking it Rich, the latter featuring one of Hicks’ most renowned tracks, “I Scare Myself.” In 1973, just as the Hot Licks were finding success with their LP Last Train to Hicksville, Hicks dissolved the band, the fallout of which was documented in a Rolling Stone cover story.
“I didn’t say I wanted to end the group, what I said was, ‘I don’t care if this group ever works again,'” Hicks told Charles Perry in 1973. “I just got off the stage in Columbus one day feeling really drug and I said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ It’d become a big business trip; it wasn’t a fun music trip anymore. I wasn’t in love with it the way I used to be. So then everybody started runnin’ around acting like I meant the end of the group. That wasn’t my idea.”
Hicks continued, “I’m gonna be makin’ a slow comeback, because I’m just blown out. Because I don’t think I have the confidence to even get back up on the stage. Can you comprehend a human mind, a state of mind, where everything bothers you? Yeah, there were pressures of touring and hassles in the band. But that ain’t it. It’s also, ah, the inner demons that possess me. Small, miniscule aliens from another planet.”
Following the release of Hicks’ 1978 solo LP It Happened One Bite, which featured unused tunes he penned for a Ralph Bakshi animated film – Hicks went on a 22-year hiatus from recording as a front man. During that time, Hicks recorded music for movies and television and pursued a low-key solo career. In the Eighties, Hicks performed with the Acoustic Warriors.
Over the following decades, Hicks would reform his Hot Licks with varying lineups, including a performance on a 1992 episode of Austin City Limits. In 2000, Hicks and the Hot Licks released Beatin’ the Heat, which featured guests like Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Rickie Lee Jones and Brian Setzer. The album also kicked off a prolific final 15 years in Hicks’ life and career.