To say Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks sounds like a jug band on acid might be, well, close to literally true.
It’s not easy to define Hicks’ sound, so, in his spirit, one should have fun trying.
The Hot Licks band, which plays the Half Shell this Tuesday, looks pretty much these days like it did when Hicks formed it in San Francisco in 1968.
It’s an “innate” formula, he says, one that just works: two female backup singers, two guitars, a fiddle and, in the middle with his guitar, providing the humor and the off-beating heart, is the affable Hicks. No drummer.
“The girls play percussion. There’s never been the need for a drummer,” he said. “It’s been a good sound for me.”
Last week, Hicks spoke with The News-Review from his home in Mill Valley, Calif., high above the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco, where he got his start as a musician in 1965 as the drummer for the psychedelic rock band The Charlatans.
Hicks leaves Monday on a six-day, four-show jaunt up the coast, which will include Tuesday’s Half Shell show, set for 7 p.m. in Stewart Park in Roseburg.
A self-described purveyor of “alternative swing” and “happy jazz,” Hicks has recorded 17 albums, and along the way chalked up a few mainstream hits, including “Canned Music” and “I Scare Myself.”
Never going more than a few months without having a show to play, he’s toured Europe and Asia, and done television shows from Flip Wilson to Conan O’Brien.
He’s built a loyal following, but he’s used to playing to those unfamiliar with his distinctive sound.
“It can take a couple songs,” he said. “We do pretty well with a general audience. But we try not to, you know, do it on purpose.”
Over the years he’s found he can have wide appeal without watering down his sound or dumbing down his humor.
On Tuesday, he’ll be joined on stage by vocalists Daria (who goes by one name) and Roberta Donnay, Paul Robinson on guitar and Benito Cortez on violin.
Hicks is currently promoting his new album, “Live at Davies,” a collection of some of the hottest tracks from a birthday concert he gave last April. Nearly 40 friends and collaborators joined him onstage — some he hadn’t played with or seen in decades — and 3,000 people came to hear him at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco.
But while it was happening, he said he was too busy with the task at hand to get sentimental.
“I’m not thinking, ‘That’s Ricki Lee Jones standing next to me on stage.’ I’m thinking, ‘Is she going to remember the words? Am I?”
Hicks is currently working on material for a new album and has been sitting for interviews with a biographer once a week.
“Supposedly, it’s going to become a book,” he said.
At 71, Hicks is content to keep perfecting his winning formula.
“I never really thought that much about doing anything else. I never really thought about doing music for a living, either. I just started doing it and kind of kept going,” he said and laughed. “Still going.”
• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.