Thank you, Dan Hicks

So sad to hear the news about Dan Hicks’ passing this morning, February 6, 2016.

I grew up in San Francisco. I was teenager on the loose and an aspiring musician in the 1960s. One night, in 1965 (?), my friend, with whom I often “tripped”, and I headed for a music show at one of the many small concert halls in SF.

There was barely anyone there. The lights were dim. There was a swing suspended on long ropes from the ceiling on which anyone could swing. A young woman in a long light-colored flowing dress was swinging back and forth. It was magical, or “trippy” might be the better word. On stage were several musicians who looked like they’d time-travelled from a saloon from the late 19th century. They wore frock coats, string ties, vests, long hair, moustaches and full sideburns. The music was part “old-time”, part rock, some psychedelia. Now that was interesting. We were transfixed.

The band was the Charlatans, Dan Hicks’ first band which had been playing regularly in Virginia City, Nevada.

The Charlatans ~ Golden Gate Park Conservatory, San Francisco ~ 1964

The Charlatans had something special — their own style and their own sound. I found that impressive and memorable. To this day. I have never understood why the Grateful Dead had the success that eluded the Charlatans. The Grateful Dead practiced near where I was living. They always sounded hopelessly ordinary to me.

Thank you, Mr. Hicks for your lifetime of music and the wonderful batch of tunes you have left behind. And thank you for teaching me the lesson that talent, creativity and originality don’t always lead to success, fame and fortune. At least, not right away or in direct proportion.

That you did go on to enjoy success with the Hot Licks and your other projects is a testament to your musical talent and persistence.

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