As Living Blues writer Lee Hildebrand testified, “Hanck is one of the most formidable saxophonists in the blues and soul business. He has a virile tone and attack and an uncanny command of upper-register notes.” But, whether it is a joyous jump blues romp or a steamy slow dance of a stroll–this is the kind of music that has mattered to the tall tenor man all his life…
It took one cross-country journey in the early 1960s for California to ensnare the Chicago-born Hanck. The sun-drenched lure of surfer life spoke oceans to the landlocked Windy City teen. “The whole California lifestyle thing–it just blew me away! There was never any doubt in my mind, once I got out of high school, where I was gonna end up.”
Cut to Orange County, 1964: Surfing, diving, partying. And KBCA, one 24-hour AM jazz station in Los Angeles, that played everything from Muddy Waters to John Coltrane. For Hanck, that was it. As he slyly remembers: “All of a sudden, I needed something to do with my mind.” He picked up a sax. “The tenor was the voice.”
Six years later, in 1970, Hanck moved north to the East Bay. His first band was called Grayson Street. “We played Bo Diddley, R&B, simple stuff,” he says. “We were too bluesy for the funk crowd, too funky for the rock ‘n’ roll crowd. They all hated us, except the musicians: That is always death, you know” Hanck says with a large twinkle in his eyes, “when you have real musicians coming to see you.”
One real musician who did come to see Hanck was Elvin Bishop, an alumnus of seminal American blues-rock group the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. “He heard the band in 1972,” Hanck recalls, “and asked both the harmonica player and I to join, knowing he was only going to pick one guy. So I said no. And the harmonica player said yes.” In 1976, Bishop brought Hanck to Miami to play on what became his classic album, Struttin’ My Stuff, and which included his chart-topping smash hit “Fooled Around And Fell In Love.” Hanck was asked again to join the band, and as Hanck reveals “I said ‘no’ again, like an idiot. I had a single out with my band and I had a false sense of security. But in 1977 he asked one more time and I said ‘yes,’ finally. I joined when the band was on top. I went from riding around in a potato-chip truck to limousines.”
For over a decade, Bishop provided Hanck a worldwide stage to growl, squonk, soar and soothe on his tenor. In 1987, Hanck bid adieu to his friend, and formed his own group.”Terry Hanck is a fine vocalist, an amazing showman and my favorite sax player,” asserts Bishop today. That fact was borne out on the 2011 Delta Groove live album, Elvin Bishop’s Raising Hell Revue, where Hanck re-joined his boss and friend on the 2010 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise where the great vibin’ on the good ship was captured.