"One thing that I learned from both of them is to take it serious. It's a job, and you need to work it as a job. You may enjoy the fire out of it, but you make it your job."
And, while some band leaders (Jimmy Martin, notably) were known to be demanding as far as having things played exactly the way they wanted, Hicks says, "(Bill and Lester) gave me free reign, they really did. Bill especially. I mean, he pushed me to be an individual."
Now, as Summertown Road gains momentum, Hicks' conversation is peppered with words like "amazed", "thrilled" and "happy" at how things have turned out.
"We're booked pretty well, and I added two more today. I can't believe how good things are going, just to be honest. I'm just amazed at it. I'm just thrilled to death. I'm having more fun picking now than I ever have in my life, and at my age, it's just amazing."
The album was produced by Don Rigsby, a cousin of John's, one of the most accomplished producers in bluegrass and himself a veteran of bands including Longview and the Lonesome River Band.
"Don is so good to work with, I've known him for years. He's always been a good friend to me, and he's just a good old boy, you know? I was the one who actually chose him. I think he did really good, I think he did as good as he could for us. Actually, he and I are fixing to start a booking agency together. I've started helping him book some, and he's booking us some, so he and I decided we'd just get together and form an agency."
John Rigsby, in fact, has since departed the band and is now back working for the Stanleys, though this time around it's for Ralph II. Stepping into his place is 21-year old Zach Rambo, and once again, Hicks didn't have far to go to find him, though it took a while.
"He played with a band here called Bottomline, they toured all over. But it's kinda funny. I talked to people all over the U.S. and Canada about the job, and he was sitting right here, about three blocks up the street from me, and I didn't even realize it. So, we got together, and it fit perfectly, I couldn't ask for it to fit any better. We played at Wilmington, Ohio last Friday, and we wound up getting four standing ovations. I just couldn't believe it."
Having a "second career" in the music has energized Hicks, and he says he's in it for the long haul.
"I've kind of retired from everything (else). I piddle around, I'm a pilot also, I fly people every once in a while to places and stuff like that, piddle around airports, but that's about it."
"As long as I can go up and down the roads, I'm gonna go. I love it, I really love it, and I love this band. We get along so good and everything, and we enjoy picking - it's just going great."