Date: Sept. 18 2010
From:Brian Kelly
Subject: Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, Knuckleheads, Kansas City, MO
To: hixlist

Knuckleheads is in an old building right by the railroad tracks in a very-hard-to-find part of northeast Kansas City, Missouri. It bills itself as “Kansas City’s finest blues bar.” Although we only saw this area in the dark of night, it appeared that Knuckleheads was the only business open within a four-block area. The building is an old, plain, wood structure that has been home to various enterprises over the past century, including a motorcycle shop. There is only a small area of wall that is not barback, windows, or glass garage doors and those walls are all covered by photographs of past performers. “No waiter” policy: If you want food or drink, go get it yourself! Smoking policy: outside the building only. The bar has an inside stage, about one foot above the floor, where Dan performed; and an outside stage, protected by a canopy. The overflow crowd this night – maybe 400 total -- spilled into the seating area of the outside stage. Inside, every seat was taken, and my wife and I took up a location in the back corner, away from the bar and kitchen and directly under one of the openings that separates the inside from the outside. It turned out to be the perfect place for me to stand and take these notes. I seriously thought that I could be discreet and make a videotape of the performance, but I was only able to capture a brief part of the concert. I’ll try to post a clip later…

Dan’s showtime was 9pm, but some guy got to the mike at 9 and announced he was showing out-takes from a film he had made. The crowd reacted with polite indifference. (During the film, BB King was interviewed. He mentioned that among his heroes growing up was Django Reinhardt.) The audience was “Typical Aging Boomers.” No drunken behavior was seen or heard. My people.

At 9:30 the band took the stage, Dan in grey slacks and red socks, black long-sleeve shirt with red trim and red roses on the yoke. Later he introduced the band in a hurried fashion and I confess I did not get all the names. The Hot Licks were Daria and Roberta, although I could not tell which was which. (Sorry, girls. You were both great.) Perhaps the most striking visual element of the show was the display of facial expressions and head movements by the guitar player. He was really happy and he showed it.

Throughout the show, Dan was composed and spoke very little between songs. Toward the end of the show, as one couple danced (on the very small area between the front row of seats and the stage) Dan remarked something like, “Oh, look, folks; pay careful attention to the steps… it appears to be some kind of mating dance. And I can tell what’s gonna happen as a result… not much!” In other words, gentle ribbing. The only other bon mot was when he was "hawking the merch." He said, "After the show, we'll be selling LPs, but now they're called CDs..." That was about it for witticisms.

One major part of the whole experience was a monster thunderstorm that moved through Kansas City during the show. Several lightning bolts struck very close by, rocking those of us standing so close to the elements. We jumped four feet. The band was not fazed; they played on, without comment.


1. Avalon (instrumental)

2. Blues My Naughty Baby… Dan scat-yodels

3. ???

4. Never Too Late to be Up to Date

5. I Scare Myself

6. ??? Dan scats a chorus

7. I’m An Old Cowhand Lickettes sing lead and one (in the red hat) solos on the Hohner Melodica

8. Milk-Shakin’ Mama with more scat-yodels by Dan

Band breaks at 10:20 and returns at 10:40. Dan now in a plain black shirt and shades, as are the girls (in shades)

9. Peach Pickin’ Time in Georgia

10. Medly: Somewhere in Between / I Feel Like Singing (very nicely done: I love medleys!)

11. Payday Blues

12. Canned Music

13. ??? We were up dancing… Dan scats and the Lickettes had a kazoo chorus!

14. Evening Breeze (remarks about the dancers…)

15. ??? Dan called it “a Bob Wills tune..."

Took a bow at 11:32 Return to stage at 11:34

Encore: How Can I Miss You…

Polite, happy applause before the crowd slogs out to their cars in the (now) light rain.

My first time ever to see Dan live and he did not disappoint. Personal to Dan: “Thank you, Dan, band, girls (I use the term in the “business vernacular” only!) I sincerely hope you enjoyed the performance as much as the crowd did. The show was a hit!

Brian Kelly