by Patrice Johnson
Thursday night music at Cravingz in Stockbridge usually hops with a hearty number of customers. On Feb. 21, the debut performance of Gary Hicks not only attracted a standing-room-only audience, it also wowed them. Even the chattiest attendee fell silent under Hicks’ impressive range of voice and resonant acoustic guitar.
Hicks, who recently relocated to the Stockbridge-Gregory area, is a Police Sergeant at the University of Michigan and lifetime hobbyist musician. During the first hour of his solo performance, Hicks sang tunes that ranged from upbeat classical to popular love songs, and he played acoustic and jazz guitars.
While taking a short break, he expressed surprise and relief at the enthusiasm of his friends and new fans. “I can’t hear myself up here,” he demurred. “Hope it’s okay considering we’ve got some great musicians in the audience tonight.”
Daughter Autumn Hicks, 36, of Farmington Hills, and one of Hicks’ biggest fans, was in attendance at her father’s first public performance. She recalled with fondness, “I used to fall asleep to Dad strumming his guitar and singing to me.”
During the second hour, Hicks sang to the accompaniment of Detroit native, Gary Allen. Come to find out, for the past several months, Hicks has been honing his musical talents under the tutelage of Allen, also a regular performer at Cravingz. Allen, a legend among jazz players. used to play professionally with Al Jarreau, the deceased American singer and musician who received seven Grammy Awards and was nominated for over a dozen more—a resume that accounts for the reverent expressions of music aficionados who frequent Allen’s performances.
Hicks’ wife, Mary Jo David, also works at U-M for Michigan Medicine. David volunteers as a director on SCN’s board and as a writer and editor. The couple regularly attends the Cravingz Thursday-night events, which are gaining a reputation for debut and quality live music.
These events have also proven to be a great place to meet friends, old and new. Karen Bertodatto is a jazz enthusiast who read in a smooth jazz Facebook group that Allen would be playing at Cravingz for part of the evening. She and her husband, George, drove from Mount Pleasant to take in Allen’s performance. Bertodatto was stunned to walk in and see old friends Hicks and David from her high school days in Redford, Mich. “We only knew we were coming to hear Gary Allen. I was completely surprised to find we’d also get to take in a performance by my old friend Gary Hicks,” Bertodatto remarked.
In addition to Allen, other regulars at Cravingz include jazz-keyboard-musician Paul Crandall, guitar and mandolin player and singer Jack Falk, and guitarist-singer Greg Adsit. Performances generally begin at 6:00 p.m. and end 8:00 p.m.