Wade Hickam first picked up a guitar at 17, and never looked back. Playing in bands over the years, he acquired a number of foot pedals to get the sounds and effects he wanted for rock guitar.
Around 2000, Mr. Hickam, a Milton resident and professional musician, put most of those pedals aside to dedicate his talent to the more unadorned sound of classic Chicago blues: Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and especially Otis Rush.
Playing a wide circuit of taverns, family-friendly festivals and other public venues in Washington as a member of regional bands Night Train, The Fabulous Mojo Kings, and most recently the Moe Ribbs Blues Band, Mr. Hickam was held in the highest esteem by fellow musicians and blues enthusiasts in the state.
“He was pretty accomplished and respected,” says Rich Greenberg, a harp player and co-founder of Moe Ribbs. “He had a great tone, and played authentic blues. He didn’t play over the top.”
Mr. Hickam died of COVID-19 on March 26. He was 67.
Greenberg says Mr. Hickam’s soft spot for developing musicians led to their collaboration and friendship, beginning seven or eight years ago when they met at a blues jam night at Elmer’s Bar & Grill in Burien.
“He had a gruff way of dealing with people. He didn’t suffer fools,” Greenberg says. “On the other hand, if he thought you were trying and working at music, he was really kind and patient. Early on, when he was playing with me in bands, I was pretty awful. I got to be competent partly through his help.”
Mr. Hickam’s younger brother, Greg Hickam, concurs. “If he felt a musician had something, he would love working with them.”
Born in Seattle to Jack and Marilyn Hickam, Wade Hickam was one of two children. He started playing music as a student at Franklin High School. Mr. Hickam was completely self-taught, and supplemented a large part of his music career by working in a lumber mill for 23 years.
“He could play like no tomorrow,” says Greg Hickam. “I knew he was good, but I didn’t know how good until I started reading all the comments on Facebook after he passed. His whole world revolved around music.”
Mr. Hickam cared for his mother in his home. (She now resides in an adult family home near her younger son.) A motorcycle enthusiast, Mr. Hickam owned several, and his friends included fellow bikers.
A memorial or tribute will be organized after restrictions lift. A charity will be named to receive donations in Mr. Hickam’s name.