Dan Hicks has recorded and performed with many top artists over the course of his more than four decades in the music industry, so when he was booked to play a couple of shows with John Hammond, he was excited about the opportunity to work with the soon-to-be Blues Hall of Fame member.
"When I first heard of it, I thought it was going to be a good bill," Hicks said in a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Fort Myers, Fla. "I played a few times with him — at least three times that I can think of right away — and it seemed like a pretty good fit.
"We’ll do a tune or two together, though we still haven’t figured out what we’re going to do this time. Last time together, we did `Chattanooga Choo-Choo.’ "
Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, which released their first album in 1969, has been on the road quite a bit since the 2009 release of their latest traditional studio album, “Tangled Tales.” Hicks said his shows no longer are geared toward the promotion of that album, but rather a hodgepodge of songs he’s picked up throughout his career.
"I’m kind of more or less promoting the band, really," he said. "We’re playing a lot of different songs from different things. We’ve been out for a while, so I’m just kind of pitching a lot of stuff here.
"We’re doing this trip without a lead guitar, which is OK because we’ve still got a mandolin and a violin, so we’re still good."
Hicks and his crew have released a record since “Tangled Tales,” which was a bit of a curveball for his loyal followers. It was a holiday album, called “Crazy for Christmas,” which was greeted by rave reviews in the music press.
"That was great. That was one of the highlights of my career these days," said Hicks, 69. "It was thrilling just to get that kind of response and feedback because a person doesn’t really know what others think about them that much.
"No one writes reviews anymore. I used to go play and I’d check the local papers the next day and there would be a review or something in there. So there’s not a lot written about me as much, but when this came out, it hit good. There was a lot of people that reacted to it — all complimentary — so I’ve got to like it."
While “Crazy for Christmas” came out more than 40 years into his recording career, Hicks always knew it was just a matter of time.
"I knew I was going to do it. It was something that I knew I was going to do eventually, and it certainly was a long time coming," he said. "I’d been in this kind of side band, a little novelty band, in Mill Valley, Calif., where I live, which was The Christmas Jug Band. So I’ve been doing songs with them, and I had the feel for Christmas stuff.
"It was kind of time for it and I’m glad I finally did it."
As far as new music goes, Hicks said nothing is imminent, but he’s got a few ideas he’s been kicking around.
"There’s been some thoughts of it on the back burner," he said. "I just have to, as they say, get my head around it.
"At some point, I do want to get songs organized and get them released as some kind of a collection of tunes. I still have to finish writing some of them and arranging them, so it’ll be a while. Maybe in about a year I’ll have another album out."
In the meantime, Hicks still keeps a steady touring schedule and most recently introduced his latest theme concert, the Kollege of Musical Knowledge tour. For these shows, “Professor” Hicks takes his fans on a journey of musical education, fleshing out the songs with some of the history behind their creation.
"I kind of wanted to do a concept thing," Hicks said. "I’ve done other ones where I concentrated on the folk years — where I did The Kingston Trio and Odetta and other songs from the folk-boom era — and I did another one on singing cowboys — where we just kind of featured songs by Gene Autry and the like.
"The Kollege of Musical Knowledge is just a way to have a concept or an angle on a different kind of presentation. It turned out pretty good. I did a lot of research, and I did it in kind of a chronological order. We did things from the Swing Era and there are jug-band tunes and some country stuff and there’s a narration going on of facts I found out, just stuff to lay on the people.
"It was pretty well received. I don’t know what I’m going to do with that, but I’ve got it and I’m willing to spring it on somebody if I have to."
The Quick Center at Fairfield University is at 200 Barlow Road, Fairfield. Friday, April 15, 8 p.m. $35-$40. 203-254-4010, 877-ARTS-396, www.quickcenter.com.
Read the original article by Sean Spillane