Charlatans and Dan Hicks


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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Il complesso che fondo` l'acid-rock di San Francisco, ovvero il primo complesso a rompere con le convenzioni del Merseybeat e a ingerire dosi di LSD, fu quello dei Charlatans, costituitosi attorno alle figure di due folk-singer, il cantante e batterista Dan Hicks e il chitarrista Mike Wilhelm, e a uno sperimentatore underground di light-show, George Hunter.

Nell'estate del 1965 a Virginia City, in Nevada, i Charlatans capeggiarono un gruppetto di hippies che s'impadroni` del Red Dog Saloon e vi tenne concerti sei giorni la settimana. Al locale arrivarono il guru psichedelico Ken Kesey e giovani da tutte le citta` dei dintorni. Hunter vi creo` i primi light-show. Soltanto quando la polizia li scaccio` da Virginia City, il centro degli hippies si trasferi` a San Francisco, e tutto cio` che accadde in seguito a San Francisco fu semplicemente una replica di cio` che i Charlatans e i loro amici avevano fatto a Virginia City.

Ma del loro sound giunsero su disco soltanto sparuti e sbiaditi echi molti anni dopo. L'album registrato nel 1967 con la cantante Lynne Hughes, contenente Codine e The Shadow Knows (gia` edita su singolo nel novembre 1966), verra` pubblicato soltanto dieci anni dopo come The Charlatans (Groucho, 1977). (The songs actually came out as a series of limited-edition 45 rpm singles on KAPP Records in late 1966 and early 1967).

Persi Hicks e Hunter, Mike Wilhelm e i superstiti del gruppo registreranno The Charlatans (Philips, 1969), un disco che non ha nulla di acid-rock.

Mike Wilhelm avrebbe formato i Loose Gravel, il cui repertorio figura sul live Thanks For The Memories (Bucketful Of Brains, 1992), e poi si sarebbe poi unito ai Flamin' Groovies. Wilhelm registrera` anche il solo album, Mean of Frisco (1985).

Dan Hicks formera` gli Hot Licks, un complesso di western swing (modellato sulla falsariga del quintetto senza batteria di Django Reinhardt) che diede con Original Recordings (Epic, 1969) e le sue acustiche How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away, Canned Music e I Scared Myself un genere di ballata folk-jazz non certo in sintonia con l'acid-rock. Per qualche anno il complesso continuo` a sfornare dischi spiritosi e intelligenti, Where's The Money (Blue Thumb, 1971), Striking It Rich (Blue Thumb, 1972) e Last Train To Hicksville (Blue Thumb, 1973), antologizzati su Return To Hicksville (Hip-O), con una formazione che annoverava il violinista Sid Page, il chitarrista John Girton, il bassista Jaime Leonard e due cantanti femminili.

Hicks tornera` sulle scene con Beatin' The Heat (Surfdog, 2000), ancora accreditato agli Hot Licks (anche se e` rimasto soltanto il violinista Sid Page) e sempre all'insegna di quel roots-rock multiforme.

(Translated by Ornella C. Grannis)

The founders of San Francisco acid-rock, the first band to break away from the conventions of the Merseybeat, and to ingest massive doses of LSD, were the Charlatans. The group was built around two folksingers, singer and drummer Dan Hicks and guitar player Mike Wilhelm, and one underground light show experimenter, George Hunter.

In the summer of 1965 in Virginia City, Nevada, the Charlatans and a small following of hippies took over the Red Dog Saloon and held concerts six days a week. The premises, where Hunter created the first light shows, and psychedelic guru Ken Kesey had become a fixture, were soon filled by young people from the neighboring towns. When the police chased them out of Virginia City, the hippie gathering moved to San Francisco. What happened afterwards in San Francisco was nothing but the continuation of what the Charlatans and their friends had started in Nevada.

But only after many years scanty and faded echoes of their sound reached vinyl. The album they recorded in 1967 with singer Lynne Hughes, that includes Codine and The Shadow Knows, was released after ten years with the title The Charlatans (Groucho, 1977).

After losing Hicks and Hunter, Mike Wilhelm and the remaining members recorded The Charlatans (Philips, 1969), a record that has nothing acid about it.

Mike Wilhelm went on to form the Loose Gravel, whose songs can be found on the live album Thanks For The Memories (Bucketful Of Brains, 1992); then he joined the Flamin' Groovies. He also recorded a solo album, Mean of Frisco (1985).

Dan Hicks formed the Hot Licks, a western swing band. Original Recordings (Epic, 1969), which includes the acoustic How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away, Canned Music and I Scared Myself originated a genre of folk-jazz ballad that has nothing in common with the acid-rock of the Charlatans. With a lineup that included Sid Page at the violin, John Girton at the guitar, Jaime Leonard at the bass, and two female vocalists, the band produced songs that were both intelligent and witty on Where' s The Money (Blue Thumb, 1971), Striking It Rich (Blue Thumb, 1972) and Last Train To Hicksville (Blue Thumb, 1973), all collected on Return To Hicksville (Hip-O).

Hicks came back with Beatin' The Heat (Surfdog, 2000), credited to the Hot Licks, although only Sid Page remains of the original lineup, an album worthy of the multi-form roots-rock that characterized his earlier works.

The jazzy acoustic Shootin' Straight (1994) includes the original versions of Who Are You and 13-D.

Tangled Tales (2009) proved that Hicks was a songwriter and arranger as good as any of the new generations. His Tangled Tales as well as the songs recycled from Shootin' Straight (Who Are You and 13-D in particular) would have been standout tracks on many of the hyped albums of that year. Guests include veterans such as David Grisman, Charlie Musselwhite and Richard Greene.

Dan Hicks died in 2016.

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