Hickman is best known for co-founding the band Cracker. His fiery lead guitar sound and spirited co-writing give flavor to that band’s alternative radio hits, including Teen Angst, Low, Get Off This, and Eurotrash Girl. Cracker, founded in 1991 with childhood friend David Lowery, has nine full-length releases to date. Kerosene Hat (1994) remains an alternative music collection staple. Lowery and Hickman together are seen as godfathers of the alternative music scene, who turned gently away from plaid-clad grunge in the 1990s with more countrified and bluesy stylings. Their collaboration with the jam-band Leftover Salmon in 2003 further proved that no one genre could contain them. Cracker’s most recent album, Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey (2009), garnered indie press rave reviews, with the song “Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out” finding its way into the soundtrack for the cult TV hit Californication. Cracker (Lowery, Hickman, drummer Frank Funaro and bassist Sal Maida) continue to tour internationally, with a future release likely to appear in 2013.
Johnny’s solo work includes the soon-to-be-released Tilting (July 2012), which takes Hickman’s reliable blazing guitar and roots-rock sounds in a broader direction that includes melodic pop, and 2005’s solo debut Palmhenge. No Depression magazine called Palmhenge “wildly diverse – from the arena rock of ‘Harvest Queen’ to the Bakersfield country of ‘Friends’ to the splendid folk rock of ‘Little Tom’ and ‘The San Bernardino Boy’ – it blends those genres with a dash of alt-rock to create a surprisingly coherent whole.”
Prior to his tenure in Cracker, Hickman toured as a solo/folk acoustic performer, had a brief stint in the Unforgiven (a tongue-in-cheek-Western guitar rock band), and co-founded the Inland Empire (California) cult band the Dangers. Influenced by punk rock, surf guitar, and true Bakersfield country, Hickman’s sound is often imitated but never perfected by anyone but he and his signature 1977 Les Paul.
Occasionally, Hickman ventures away from solo work and Cracker to spearhead side projects, including his Colorado-based outlaw country band The Hickman-Dalton Gang. Retired side projects include All Thumbs Trio (with moe. guitarist Chuck Garvey, and East Coast guitarist Gibb Droll), and Crazysloth, an Arizona-based band he formed while recording Palmhenge. Film and TV work to date include one full film score for the independent River Red, placement of “Lucky” from Palmhenge in the FX series “Sons of Anarchy,” as well as the placement of Cracker songs in several popular movies.