Last week’s Chain Gang track was Hot Club of Cowtown’s ‘Pennies From Heaven’ and it is impossible to imagine artists like Hot Club of Cowtown without the ground breaking example of that true eccentric Dan Hicks who mixed retro styles with his own humorous and original compositions played on generally acoustic instruments. Dan first came to prominence as the drummer, singer and main songwriter with the original San Francisco ’60s band The Charlatans, who mixed jug band, country and blues music and were a major influence on the then emerging San Francisco sound. Dan then formed the Hot Licks and after a tentative start with ‘Original Recordings’ in 1969, hit a purple patch in the early ‘70s before disbanding in 1973. Dan emerged again in the ‘80s and toured and recorded until his death in 2016.
‘I Scare Myself’ is one of his earliest and best loved songs. He wrote it when he was with the Charlatans and it was inspired by a drive home over the San Francisco Bay Bridge after visiting friends and ingesting copious amounts of a marijuana cookie and the bout of paranoia he experienced. He first recorded it on ‘Original Recordings’ but the definitive version is on ‘Striking It Rich’ from 1971 with Tommy LiPuma producing at Sunset Sound in Hollywood. The Hot Licks included John L. Girton guitar, Sid Page mandolin and violin, Jamie Leopold bass, Naomi Eisenberg and Maryann Price vocals with Dan on lead vocals, guitar and harmonica. The album was record live in the studio and while the music was retro, the sound was not with LiPuma using the latest recording technology. It was both an artistic and commercial highpoint of Dan’s career and ‘I Scare Myself’, with Dan’s dry wit in evidence in the lyrics and the latin flavour of the music, is a stand-out track.
‘I Scare Myself’ is also included on ‘ Beatin’ The Heat’ from 2000‘, as a duet with Rickie Lee Jones, and ‘Live At Davies’ from 2013, which is a live recording celebrating Dan’s 70th birthday with guests including Maria Muldaur, David Grisman, Rickie Lee Jones, Van Dyke Parks, Ray Benson, Ramblin’ Jack Eliot, John Hammond and others.
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