Terry Hanck is on the mend, but he has his rhythm back and is looking ahead to a big year in 2016.
An acclaimed R&B saxophonist, Hanck was treated in the fall for an irregular heartbeat and at Christmastime surgeons presented him a pacemaker.
“I’ve got a big wound on my chest so I won’t be able to play for a while,” Hanck told Tahoe Onstage on the telephone from his Florida home. “That was the last thing I thought would happen to me. I’ve always had strong cardio-vascular but I guess you just never know. It’s a lump the size of a baseball on my chest and a big, deep scar. I’m not supposed to lift my left arm and can’t drive.”
Hanck, who will turn 71 on Dec. 29, expects to be back on tour in the West Coast in March.
Hanck recently received his eighth Blue Music Awards nomination. For the second consecutive year, he was nominated for Best Instrumentalist, Horn, an award he received in 2012.
A native of Chicago, Hanck moved to California in the late 1960s to catch waves on a surfboard and to begin a career as blues and rock and roll saxophone player and vocalist.
“I abused the hell out of myself in the early days, but other than that I’ve always stayed active,” Hanck said. “Just playing the horn and singing, that’s a workout. I’ve always lived by the ocean and did stuff like surfing. And back in the old days, I’d go up to Tahoe and go skiing.”
But he realized his heath was failing during a Northern California tour in October.
“When I was playing, I was getting real exhausted,” he said. “I started getting dizzy spells. I was weak. I did a couple of gigs where when I came off stage I just about fell onto the floor. I was sweating and couldn’t move. So I went into the emergency room. I thought I had pneumonia. They said, ‘Well your blood pressure is showing that you are having a heart attack.’ ”
Rather than a heart attack, Hanck had an irregular heartbeat.
“They shocked me back into rhythm. I came back home and did 13 dates,” he said. “Then it kept going in and out of rhythm, so they decided to put a pacemaker in.”
While he has medical insurance, Hanck joked there are no retirement plans for musicians. He already has two tours scheduled for early 2016 in Northern California, where he developed a large fan base from 1977-87 with the Elvin Bishop Band.
“In my early playing days, I was very shy, so the hardest part was facing the crowd between songs,” Hanck wrote in an article this year for Blues Festival Guide. “After I joined Elvin Bishop during his heyday … I gained a lot of confidence. I went from playing in a club with three people who didn’t care, to all of a sudden doing the same thing at the Oakland Coliseum for a Day on the Green with 55,000 screaming people who loved it.”
Afterwards, Hanck fronted his own band. In 2001, he invited 21-year-old Norwegian guitar phenom Chris “Kid” Andersen to join him in California. Andersen has produced Hanck recent albums, including one that is coming out soon. It is a live album recorded during two days in July at Sacramento’s Cal Expo state fair. Jim Pugh appears on keyboards, along with Hanck’s California band, Butch Cousins on drums, Johnny Soubrand on guitar and Tim Wagar on bass.
“I mixed it in October and it sounds really good,” Hanck said.
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