Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks Hit Bakersfield

Get your kicks with Dan Hicks
BY MATT MUNOZ, Bakotopia.com editor
mmunoz@bakersfield.com | Wednesday, Jun 08 2011 05:59 PM

Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Bright House Networks Amphitheatre at the Park at Riverwalk, 11200 Stockdale Highway

Admission: $10

Information: 852-7777 or bakersfieldamphitheatre.us

Get ready to take a trip back in time with some hothouse jazz during an outdoor concert with Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks at Bright House Networks Amphitheatre at the Park at Riverwalk on Saturday night.

Hicks hasn’t changed his tune since making a splash in the folk music era of ’60s San Francisco. He’s still slow-churning out his smooth and swingin’ melodies blended with his signature wit and charm.

Growing up in Santa Rosa, Hicks became drawn to the folk troubadour sounds of Pete Seeger and The Kingston Trio as a young college student at San Francisco State, where he majored in broadcasting and radio. Picking up drums and toying around on the guitar, he took a detour after graduating in ’65 to become a member of psychedelic rockers The Charlatans, where he made a modest living as the group’s drummer. Leaving the band to pursue his love for a more vintage sound, Hicks formed the Hot Licks in ’68 stepping up front as both guitarist and lead vocalist. Releasing three critically acclaimed albums before making the abrupt decision to disband the original Hot Licks in ’74, Hicks continued making music as a solo artist and in various groupings.

Hicks, who still lives in his hometown, may have changed his mind on being a band leader on occasion, but one thing hasn’t wavered: his love for the music of his youth.

“I got into jazz in high school, when I was playing drums,” said Hicks via telephone. “Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, the big band stuff, Dave Brubeck, those artists. I didn’t really get into rock and roll as much as everyone was.”

A young artist with an old soul in the dizzying ’60s, Hicks’ early popularity helped score him a coveted spot on the cover of Rolling Stone three times. Recognizing he does possess a certain degree of bragging rights for that, he’d much rather just play music and leave the glitz to the rock stars.

“I like being me and I like whatever talents I’ve been given.”

In conversation, Hicks’ voice and demeanor are as mellow as his melodies — French coffeehouse-style chic with a dash of country twang and gypsy-like flair, he could be the reincarnation of Django Reinhardt had the legend been born in the rich bluegrass areas of Kentucky.

“I keep it light, and we’re kinda funny. Kinda deadpan stuff, and nothing serious,” he said. String bass, mandolin, violin. I always liked the jazz fiddle, and there wasn’t a lot jazz fiddle back when we started. Keep it acoustic is always great for me. It gets a little loud sometimes.”

Not accustomed to his status as roots music hero, Hicks has an almost cult-like following with an influence among underground heroes. In 2000, Hicks released one of the biggest records of his career, “Beatin’ the Heat,” a project that teamed him with fellow groundbreakers Elvis Costello, Rickie Lee Jones, Bette Midler, Tom Waits and Brian Setzer. Hailed as his comeback into the mainstream, he’s done his best to up the ante on his latest CD, “Tangled Tales.” Sounding as feisty and tight as ever with the latest incarnation of the Hot Licks, it kicks off with the shuffling “Who Are You,” and keeps on simmering with some help from his chirpy backup vocalists, the “Lickettes.” It’s so undeniably Dan Hicks, it’ll remind you of a balmy afternoon in Georgia with a cool tall glass of sweet iced tea.

Hicks says listeners will be happy to know he hasn’t lost his knack for keeping good company in the studio and onstage, considering the caliber of players on the disc.

“I try to get guys that can cut it. I need someone who’s open enough to take suggestions. It’s like a compromise. Feel is definitely a part of the music I do. You just don’t jam on every song.”

Saturday’s show will be Hicks’ first appearance in Bakersfield, and he hopes to make a lasting impression.

“I pay attention to trying to make sure the crowd was glad they showed up and smiling on their own way home.”

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