Musicians remember cult heroes Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks

Dan Hicks in 1973

San Francisco, 1967: The counterculture was in full swing to the psychedelic sounds of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Janis Joplin with Big Brother & the Holding Company. The heady atmosphere helped shape Dan Hicks’ perception of the possible as he quit drumming with the psych-rock Charlatans to front his own band.

Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks bridged Beat poet hip and Americana earthiness with goofy humor, fleet-fingered musicianship and an open-minded blend of cowboy music, bluegrass, gypsy jazz and Western swing. The band (including the harmony-crooning “Lickettes”) accrued a certain cachet among peers and serious music aficionados with a taste for sophistication served wry.

Kindred spirit Tom Waits memorably described Hicks as “fly, sly, wily and dry.” Hicks himself, who died of cancer at age 74 last February, referred to his music as “folk swing.” His colorful recollections of his rites of passage through the Summer of Love and various personal demons form the backbone of the recently published “I Scare Myself: A Memoir,” titled after a popular song from his debut album, 1969’s “Original Recordings.” Four more acclaimed albums emerged in the ’70s — and then nothing until 1994. That set the pattern for the mustachioed guitarist’s wary dance with the music industry, charting his future as a cult favorite.

Hicks’ memoir is bookended by a foreword from Elvis Costello and an afterword by producer Tommy LiPuma, and a discography by music journalist Kristine McKenna, who was also good friends with Hicks. McKenna will sign copies of “I Scare Myself — A Memoir” and moderate a discussion with Hicks compatriots Van Dyke Parks, Maria Muldaur, Jim Kweskin and Hot Licks guitarist Paul Robinson on Sunday in Culver City.

— Bliss Bowen

The panel and book signing is from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, June 18, at Arcana Books, 8675 Washington Blvd., Culver City. Free. Call (310) 458-1499 or visit arcanabooks.com and danhicks.net.

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