California raised Dirk Hamilton is our guest this week. I am really looking forward to this episode of Listening Lyrics as we dig into some of the lyrics of his songs. Dirk will appear at the Palms in Winters, CA Saturday April 15, 2017. You ca visit Dirk at www.dirkhamilton.com. (link is external)
Dirk: “I began playing guitar and singing songs when I was 8 years old. I was writing stories and poems before that. I always thought of the two activities as completely different and separate -- writing was ‘serious’, playing and singing was ‘fun’. Then I discovered Dylan and learned that songs could be just as deep as the best poetry. It was an epiphany! At that moment I knew what I wanted to do with my life.”
At 15, Dirk wrote two more songs for another 45, this one under his own name. Both records were on the IKON label in Sacramento. “These two were stinkers too but after what seemed like a real long time, I began writing good songs and realized I’d done it! I had enjoyed myself into a real songwriter poet!”
By the early 70’s, he was playing professionally in nightclubs in the San Joaquin and Central Valleys and in the San Francisco Bay Area. In ’74, he moved to LA where he eventually signed with ABC records thanks to Steely Dan producer Gary Katz who produced his first album, ‘You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right’. Dirk went on to record 3 more major label records, another one for ABC (‘Alias i’) and two for Elektra (‘Meet Me at the Crux’ and ‘Thug of Love’). He toured the country with his band for 5 years receiving good and rave reviews for his records and live performances but somehow never became a huge commercial success.
In the early 80’s, Dirk traded the record business for a seat at ‘The Shamrock’ a bar below a boxing gym in Stockton, California. To this day he says it was ‘the best deal I ever made’. When he ran out of money, he painted walls and guarded sugar as a rent-a-cop at the Holly Sugar plant near Tracy, California. Eventually he became a counselor for emotionally disturbed teenagers and joined a cover band with his buddy Dave Halford. During the following two years he rediscovered his calling as a songwriter, quit his counseling job and began playing solo in coffee houses and clubs with a new band.
In the mid 80’s, Dirk self-released a cassette of original songs called ‘Big at the Blackwater’. The cassette somehow made it’s way to Italy where he was invited by Franco Ratti (president of Appaloosa records and CEO of International Record Distributers in Milan) to make records and tour in Europe.
In the decades that followed, Dirk toured Europe and the US every year, playing solo and with bands, and released 14 more CDs on Appaloosa, Fan Club and Comet Records in Italy, also on CORE (Nashville) and his own Acoustic Rock Records in the US.
Dirk currently lives in Texas, still writing and performing. His latest CD is called ‘Touch and Go”.