An Interview with Dan Hicks

By blending musical styles of the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks are creating what may be one of the prominent musical forms of the 80s. Their delightful latest album, Striking It Rich, features a diverse collection of original songs.

Leader Dan Hicks has been involved with music for many years and now authors most of the group’s material, in addition to singing the majority of the leads and playing rhythm guitar. Maryann Price, a former jazz singer, adds strong lead vocals and plays rhythm instruments. Also in the group are Jon Girton on lead guitar, Sid Page on violin and mandolin, Jaime Leopold on string bass, and Naomi Eisenberg, who plays second fiddle and rhythm instruments and provides some of the group’s vocal harmonies and solos.

We spoke with Hicks in the dressing room at the Jabberwocky in Syracuse, New York, after a performance there a few weeks ago, and we let the conversation flow freely.

Dan, you were in the Charlatans, one of the first groups out of San Francisco?

Yeah, right, in 1965. The Airplane were forming, I believe, and the Grateful Dead were going around as the Warlocks.

Where did the Charlatans perform?

Mostly the Bay Area. Got as far as the Family Dog in Denver.

Are any of those people doing anything now?

No, they’re all dead. Actually, one of the guys is in an all-girl group now., the Sanitary Napkins. He has a good time, man. He has a better time than we do. We’re theatre. It’s not as much fun as it looks on stage.

How do you like playing this club?

It’s sort of like playing in a basement. I don’t know if this is such a fantastic place to be. We’re not really into the actual playing. We do as best we can. Even if what you really want is like a fix or something, you have to play. Actually, the only reason we play here is to get laid. [John Girton enters the dressing room.] New panel members here: Mr. John Girton. Pretty well-hung cat in his own right. Have you got any documents to present here, cowboy?

Girton: Sorry.

We found a Rolling Stone article about you, but it didn’t say much.

Well, there’s not much to say, as you can see. it’s all there or not there. There hasn’t been much written about us.

When you’re touring, can you tell one town from another?

It really doesn’t matter what town you’re in, ’cause all people do anywhere is sit in white rooms, listen to music, and get stoned.

How old are you?

We’re old.

What year is this?

I was once asked that by a psychiatrist. I got it right, but I couldn’t remember the month or the day. As long as you get the year right, that’s the important thing. If you get that, you’re all set. You know how many years to 1984.

How do you carve those chunks out of the Grand Canyon into your violin?

That’s way over my head. Ask me a straight question.

What were your earliest influences?

Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. Anyone who’s ever taken music appreciation can relate to that one.

There are two songs of yours I really wanted to hear tonight: “I Scare Myself” and “Presently in the Past.”

I don’t like the way they are on the record. Well, nobody likes the way things are done on a record four or five months ago. Things change and evolve.

Well, you really can’t disown something that you did, even if you grew out of it. Dylan Thomas was asked once to change all of the poems that he wrote when he was really young and he wouldn’t do it because, he said, “When I was a kid, I wrote kid poems, and that was right for then.”

Someone asked Dylan Thomas to change his poems!? Who was that idiot?

It was a friend of his.

My God, who needs enemies?

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