I Scare Myself
I Scare Myself
By Dan Hicks
When I interviewed Dan Hicks years ago, I asked him about his rich history – starting out in the proto-psychedelic Charlatans in mid ’60s San Francisco all the way through his singularly genre melding conglomeration that became Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks – and asked if A) he agreed he was the perfect subject for a rock biography, and B) if I could write it. He said “maybe” to the first question and “no” to the second. It seems that he may have said “no” to everyone because, in the end, he wrote it himself. And considering this is a posthumous publication (he died in February 2016), the end is really the end.
I Scare Myself is Hicks’ story, and a story that so clearly sounds like him that the reader can easily hear his voice. From the obligatory VW van drive back east, to his return to San Francisco where he met up with like-minded individuals with whom he would found The Charlatans (the reason the English version has “UK” after their name rests with this lot), to his greatest achievement with the Hot Licks…complete with a chick singer duo called The Lickettes, I Scare Myself is a smooth journey with an American Treasure.
In 1965 Hicks helped found The Charlatans and together they began their journey alongside other more famous Bay Area bands. Like most bands, The Charlatans, who dressed in Victorian garb, established a residency at a specific venue where they played/lived and had free-reign of the place… this one was five hours away across the border in Nevada. “Went to the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, NV,” Hicks writes. “One of the Red Dog guys was looking for people he could hire for his new club…cooks, bartenders and all that…and he needed a band. The story goes that he saw some of the guys in The Charlatans on the street in North Beach and he asked them if they were The Byrds – there weren’t a whole lot of people who had this look yet, so I can see why he thought that. They said, ‘No, we’re somebody else.’ Because he liked the way they looked, we were hired, sound unheard, and were told when we needed to be there.”
His story intersects with Dylan producer Bob Johnston, the cover of Rolling Stone, Johnny Carson, Elton John, Flip Wilson, The Beatles, and others who helped Hicks craft his signature sound. He is very candid with his bout with alcoholism and efforts to remain valid to himself first, knowing the fans would support and follow. He had many noteworthy fans, and Tom Waits and Elvis Costello, who penned the forward, get special attention. His dry humor pokes throughout; opening for Steppenwolf and getting booed by their fans is a classic story.
A full annotated discography, a rich photo collection from his personal archive and a final chapter written by a Hicks scholar after he passed are included. Friend and well know producer Tommy LiPuma may sum up Hicks best. “We decided to name our second daughter after Dan,” he says. “Our daughter’s name is Danielle, and every time Dan and I spoke, he would ask me, ‘How’s what’s-her-name doing?’”