Hicks gives heave-ho-ho to holiday standards
December 14, 2006
Aspen, CO ColoradoCARBONDALE About this time of year, I become an expert on all aspects of Christmas music – the songs, the history, the styles. And the press releases. Invariably, the singers, everyone from Aimee Mann to Lou Rawls, will profess their love of Christmas songs, and how recording their Christmas album connected them to the home-and-hearth sentiments of their childhood holidays.Don’t count Dan Hicks among them. Hicks played psychedelic rock as the drummer of ’60s San Francisco band the Charlatans, and more famously, he invented a style of humorous, string swing with his long-running band, Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks. Hicks also does the occasional gig as a straight jazz vocalist in San Francisco clubs, as part of Bayside Jazz. But don’t expect his next turn to be putting his swing stamp on “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” or “Jingle Bell Rock.””Per se, I don’t know if I love Christmas music,” said Hicks, by phone from Telluride. “Don’t send me to heaven and have the soundtrack be Christmas music, thank you, please. It’s too much of the same music, the same songs. You hear them every step.
“I used to be bothered by them; now I’m neutral,” he added. “I’ve gotten numb.”That ever-so-slight warming trend is not the reason Hicks is on a short tour with his Holidaze in Hicksville show. Hicks’ habit of playing holiday music – he has done the Holidaze in Hicksville show six years running – stems not from a fondness for the classics, but from a tradition established three decades ago in his hometown of Mill Valley, Calif.In the late ’70s, Hicks was a member of the Christmas Jug Band. The group, featuring members of such iconoclastic ensembles as Commander Cody, did a series of low-key gigs in Mill Valley. The shows were heavy on humor and irreverence, and Hicks developed a taste for making novelty holiday tunes. In 1999 or 2000, Hicks had a Christmastime Hot Licks date in San Francisco. He decided to expand his repertoire by adding a couple of season-themed songs.Holidaze in Hicksville features some of the best-known songs from Hicks’ past, like “I Scare Myself,” as well as tunes from his most recent CD, 2004’s “Selected Shorts.” But the core of the show are originals like “Someone Stole My Santa Claus Suit”; “Santa the Man,” based on the Horace Silver jazz tune “Song For My Father”; and Commander Cody’s “Daddy’s Drinking Up Our Christmas.” All of them are arranged for the Hot Licks’ toe-tapping style, bolstered by the Hickettes, the two-part female vocal section that is the Hot Licks’ signature.
In other words, anyone looking to carol along with “The Christmas Song” should find the nearest Christmas tree.”I have been able to do ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ and ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas,'” said Hicks. “But this is more of a mood kind of show, more a cheeky type of Christmas. I just took the same formula – the swing rhythm, the Django [Reinhardt]-style guitar, the three-part vocals – and it lends itself just fine to all that stuff. “There’s plenty of the other. It’s fun to do something else.”Hicks even makes a small stab at dressing up the show with the proper themes. He and the band will go as far as making sure there is some red and green in their clothes. “But it’s not elves and things,” he said.
Hicks has made some start-and-stop attempts to record a Christmas CD. He’s not so hot on the idea, but his wife/manager Clare is, and in the spirit of giving, he’s likely to acquiesce.”She’s definitely bugging me about doing a Christmas album,” he said. “So it’s definitely going to happen.” Advance-sale tickets are $29 and $39 at Sounds Easy in Carbondale (963-1303) and at The Great Divide Music Store in Aspen (925-7492). They will also be sold at the door. The theatre is located at 67 Promenade, one block north of Main Street in Carbondale. Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is email@example.com