As he admits, Dan Hicks was in the right place at the right time when, after moving from Arkansas to California as a child, then cutting his musical teeth in the US’ burgeoning folk clubs, he landed in 1966 San Francisco, where the counterculture was coalescing into the city’s psychedelic revolution. As drummer with The Charlatans, he played the acid-coated residency at Virginia City’s Red Dog Saloon credited with kickstarting 1967’s short-lived summer of love, but soon struck out to lead the old-time hothouse jazz of his Hot Licks.
Hicks had written most of his autobiography before succumbing to liver cancer in February 2016, leaving his editor Kristine McKenna and widow Clare to bring his remarkable story up to date. Bookended by Elvis Costello’s glowing introduction and McKenna’s detailed discography, plus a trove of priceless photos and memorabilia, Hicks writes with brutal honesty, vivid insight and humour as dry as the Nevada desert as he recounts The Charlatans’ brief ride, glory years with the Hot Licks and slide into chronic alcoholism, which he eventually trounces to make his late-life comeback before cancer presents a battle he can’t win.
All told, a magnificent little artefact coursing with rare truths and observations.