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In praise of Dan Hicks

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Will Fly 09 Oct 10 - 02:39 PM
Lonesome EJ 09 Oct 10 - 03:31 PM
Janie 09 Oct 10 - 03:33 PM
Will Fly 09 Oct 10 - 03:55 PM
pdq 09 Oct 10 - 03:58 PM
olddude 09 Oct 10 - 04:28 PM
Janie 09 Oct 10 - 04:38 PM
Sandrolin 09 Oct 10 - 04:51 PM
pdq 09 Oct 10 - 04:56 PM
Desert Dancer 09 Oct 10 - 05:00 PM
David C. Carter 10 Oct 10 - 05:34 AM
GUEST,DH Fan 28 Oct 10 - 09:05 PM
pdq 28 Oct 10 - 09:34 PM
Rain Dog 29 Oct 10 - 04:47 AM
Andrez 29 Oct 10 - 07:04 AM
RWilhelm 29 Oct 10 - 12:05 PM
Trapper 29 Oct 10 - 01:44 PM
GUEST,Boru 05 Sep 11 - 11:40 AM
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Subject: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: Will Fly
Date: 09 Oct 10 - 02:39 PM

I've been digging through albums I haven't played in some time and came across a load of discs by Dan Hicks, of Hot Licks fame. Great stuff! A wonderful mix of country, jazz, blues, western swing and lots of other influences.

Just been sliding around to his version of "I'll See You In My Dreams" - wheee!

Anyone else here a hicks fan?


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 09 Oct 10 - 03:31 PM

Yep, always dug ol Dan. Some may be aware that he was a member of the seminal psychedelic band the Charlatans, who entertained the early San Francisco scenemakers at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City Nevada, which was also where Boz Skaggs got his start.


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: Janie
Date: 09 Oct 10 - 03:33 PM

Count me as one, Will.

Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks are riding again, and I will be going to see their latest incarnation in a couple of weeks here in North Carolina.


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: Will Fly
Date: 09 Oct 10 - 03:55 PM

Lucky you - I wish I could be there as well! Get 'em to play "Hey Bartender" just for me... :-)


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: pdq
Date: 09 Oct 10 - 03:58 PM

"It's early June 1965 and Dan Hicks has had a busy week.

First, he completed his last two finals and subsequently graduated from San Francisco State University. Next was a tense stop at his Oakland draft board. They apparently hadn't yet been notified of Hicks' recent scholastic achievements as he successfully hoodwinked everyone there and failed the psychological test. Finally, he upped and left his life in San Francisco for a three month residency in Nevada with a band he had joined only months earlier. It didn't look too promising and Hicks was dubious about the offer to spend the summer in a ghost town. He sarcastically told band mate George Hunter that he'd do it for a hundred bucks. Well, without blinking, Hunter pulled out a crisp $100 bill from his vest pocket and handed it over. A deal's is a deal.

Mark Unobski was a rudderless kid from Memphis whose parents didn't have much hope for him. That changed when he asked them to underwrite his idea to renovate an old gambling hall in a Nevada ghost town. The Comstock House at 76 North C Street (a three story hotel with a bar called the Gold Leaf on the ground floor) had been on the market for a couple of years, waiting for a boost of life. And here it was; all it took was $5,000 to renovate and rename it –presto! -- The Red Dog Saloon.

Unobski had surrounded himself with some of the most talented crazies on the West coast to help him with the project. A world class painter, a Reno disk jockey with his tough girlfriend who worked as a North Beach waitresses, a mechanics expert, a gourmet cook and a local entrepreneur who lived in a railroad car in town were but a few. All of them lending a hand and making the Red Dog unlike anything else in the country. Red-flocked wallpaper with gold trim, a giant antique mirror running the length of the hardwood bar, velvet drapes, faux gaslight fixtures but working chandeliers, elaborately framed period photos and slot machines.

It didn't take long before the staffers took to wearing period clothes. The women were now in velvet dresses, hair up in a bun playing the parts of Miss Kitties and Calamity Janes. The men donned string ties, vests, black drape pants, boots and everyone wore side arms. Back in the Old West, anyone worth a spit lived by a code. The locals took to these kids with a smile, happy to see them indulge in name of history and visitors no doubt figured that it was all part of the show. The nearest police official lived in a nearby town and told Unobski early on: "If you have any trouble, just shoot 'em." The sly grin smeared across these kid's faces gave a signal to those dialed-in that something was going on here other than just a roll in the hay with history. Everyone involved in the Red Dog's revitalization was practically shimmering with the effects of highly potent LSD, a drug that had been all the rage with Bay area hipsters that spring.

The Saloon also had a well-stocked jukebox, but the novelty wore off after a while. So, the only thing missing from the Red Dog scene was live entertainment. As luck would have it, there happened to be a perfect band for the occasion down in San Francisco. As luck would also have it, Red Dog employee Chandler Laughlin was in town picking up some gaslight fixtures when, while driving in North Beach, he spotted two long hairs on the sidewalk and thought they were famous musicians. He stuck his head out the window and yelled: "Hey, are you guys the Byrds?"

The two longhairs looked over and one of them replied with out blinking: "No, we're The Charlatans."

Ah yes, The Amazing Charlatans, as they were called back then. George Hunter was half of the band's image team who couldn't play an instrument besides strumming the auto harp and maybe singing a bit. A high school classmate of Hunter's, Mike Wilhelm, fresh from the Navy, was an accomplished guitarist especially with the twelve string. As a kid, Richard Olsen was an ace clarinetist but had taken up the bass guitar by this time and was the harmony in the band's vocals.

All of their paths crossed as they drifted around Mike Ferguson's clothing boutique located at the corner of Haight and Divisadero called Magic Theater For Madmen Only. Amidst the strands of marijuana smoke trailing out the door, the place was jammed with Victorian artifacts, clothes and a jukebox that pumped out The Beatles' "You Can't Do That." Soon-to-be crucial counter-culture dignitaries moved in and out of the place trading ideas and making plans. Poster artists, light show artists, organizers, musicians... Ferguson's boutique was one of the bridges between Beat and '60's counter-culture.

The band members naturally gravitated toward each other as Olsen and Hunter had already considered forming a band. Hunter was reunited with Wilhelm after bumping into him at a club called the Blue Unicorn where Wilhelm was doing acoustic sets. Ferguson played a convincing barrelhouse piano... an obvious addition to the band's sound. Things were moving along nicely.

One day, the four were rehearsing in Hunter's Downey Street apartment with a not-so-good drummer acquaintance when a knock at the door brought things to a halt. Seems a gentleman was there to buy some marijuana, Hunter's side job. Turns out the guy can play drums and write songs to boot. Enter Dan Hicks and the band's line-up is complete.

Hunter's love of the Old West and Ferguson's knack for Victoriana formed the band's unmatched style: waistcoats, stiff paper collars, six button vests, cowboy boots, bowler hats, string ties, pocket watches, Ferguson even sported a walrus mustache. And guns, revolvers mostly. The Charlatans were carpetbaggers with musical gear, 50% image and 50% music culminating at just the right time in just the right place. Their peers were dressed in drainpipe pants ankle boots with Cuban heels and flowery shirts...not bad, really, but it wasn't awe-inspiring. Other bands in the vicinity might have been more proficient but no one could touch them as far as gumption, appeal and drive. They had it first and they had it best, they stuck out. They were sharp.

At this point, the British Invasion and Folk sounds were still the rage but, as George Hunter wrote years later, "Everybody and their brother was doing that, we were looking for some strong American identity." Besides their look, they had concocted one of the most unusual sounds in the city: Johnny Cash vs. Chuck Berry vs. New Lost City Ramblers vs. Jelly Roll Morton, all revved up and electrified. The fact that some of them weren't fully adept at their instruments only made it more interesting. It was a raggedy, tumbleweed sound: jumpy, loose, dedicated and determined without a hint of irony. They were serious.

Obviously, these guys were the perfect house band for the Red Dog... but first they had to audition. When they arrived in town, the Saloon's interior was still being worked on and they were ushered upstairs to the rooms. The exterior, on the other hand, had been painted fire engine red; the windows were trimmed yellow and black. The name of the bar was painted in red letter against a blue background on a sign stretched across the entire bottom of the balcony. In the middle was giant white circle with a crazed looking yellow-eyed red dog inside.

After a few days of doing nothing, the big night arrived. A large table had been laid out, a big celebratory feast was underway as the band made they're way down to the bar. Now, in the twilight, The Red Dog Saloon looked stunning, the people looked stunning and the Amazing Charlatans were stunned. It was 1865 all over again. The entire staff would be on hand to watch the audition and what would be the band's very first performance outside Hunter's apartment. Bill Ham and Bob Cohen had built a light box especially for the occasion that blinked gooey light to the pulsed of the music from the Saloon's jukebox and whatever noise came from the stage. It hypnotized everyone; no one had ever seen that kind of light show before.

Even the town's sheriff showed up and was wowed by the scene. These odd kids had been running around town for the last few months wearing authentic-down-to-the-button period clothes, morphing into the spirit of 100 years ago. Astounding. A diorama had come to life in the bar... and the bartender was even wearing sleeve garters. Since it was custom to leave your weapon at the bar, the sheriff walked up and handed it over. "


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: olddude
Date: 09 Oct 10 - 04:28 PM

I am there Will


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: Janie
Date: 09 Oct 10 - 04:38 PM

Entertaining piece, PDQ. Might be a good idea to add attribution info.


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: Sandrolin
Date: 09 Oct 10 - 04:51 PM

oohwee !enjoy the gig Janie...Dan is always full of surprises... often he has local chicks with angelic voices pitch in other than his regular angels..

request ... The Piano Has Been drinking...


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: pdq
Date: 09 Oct 10 - 04:56 PM

Here is more good reading...

                                                                               The Red Dog Saloon and the Amazing Charlatans


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 09 Oct 10 - 05:00 PM

Still at it: http://www.danhicks.net/.

We've caught him here in L.A. recently, looking forward to "Holidaze in Hicksville" coming in December. :-)

~ Becky in Long Beach


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: David C. Carter
Date: 10 Oct 10 - 05:34 AM

There's a lot of humour in his music.
I love"Moody Richard","Canned Music"and the song with the lines...'O Reilly was smashing his face.

Actually,I like all his work.

Good thread Will.

David


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: GUEST,DH Fan
Date: 28 Oct 10 - 09:05 PM

Have you guys heard Dan's Christmas album? It's awesome, classic Dan! Carol of the Bells is the best Christmas song I've ever heard!


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: pdq
Date: 28 Oct 10 - 09:34 PM

GUEST, DH Fan...

Are you familiar with the Christmas Jug Band?

Austin DeLone, Dand Hicks and several other talented songwriters and musicians have been working together doing Christmas concerts since the 1980s.

Great stuff. Mostly original material. Several CDs.


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: Rain Dog
Date: 29 Oct 10 - 04:47 AM

I like his version of the Tom Waits song The Piano Has Been Drinking, a live version of which is on YouTube

Dan Hicks sings The Piano Has been Drinking written by Tom Waits. Taped at the Vancouver Island Music Fest, the crowd loved it.

Dan Hick "The Piano Has Been Drinking"

That song appears on the Hicks album Beatin' The Heat. The album has a number of guest appearances, including one by Waits


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: Andrez
Date: 29 Oct 10 - 07:04 AM

Dan the man has fans in Australia too!

Cheers,

Andrez


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: RWilhelm
Date: 29 Oct 10 - 12:05 PM

Me too!


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: Trapper
Date: 29 Oct 10 - 01:44 PM

I'm a big fan of Dan Hicks also, and I've seen him in recent years in Minneapolis and he has been fabulous. I have one memory of seeing him in the 70's however on an "off-night".

A friend and I arrived at the venue more than an hour in advance, to get advantageous seats to the stage. As we ordered our beers, we saw a guy with his hand and forearm in a cast who had obviously been at the bar even longer still - it was Dan! He kept availing himself of the bar's services until just before showtime when his mates shuffled him backstage.

The show was 45 minutes late in starting, and he was bombed! Not a good condition with some of the lyrical gymnastics his songs take.

- Al


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Subject: RE: In praise of Dan Hicks
From: GUEST,Boru
Date: 05 Sep 11 - 11:40 AM

Anyone know the chords to "O'Reilly at the Bar"?

Would be grateful for them..


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