Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
Andy Stein (L) and John Tichy (R) at the Hollywood Bowl opening for Grateful Dead, July 21, 1974. The Wall of Sound PA is in the background. Photo: David Gans
Background information
OriginAnn Arbor, Michigan
United States
Genres
Years active1967–1976 as Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
1977–2021 as Commander Cody[1]
Past membersGeorge Frayne
Billy C. Farlow
Bill Kirchen
John Tichy
Andy Stein
Bruce Barlow
Lance Dickerson
Steve Davis
Bobby Black
Ernie Hagar
Norton Buffalo
Rick Higginbotham
Nicolette Larson
Peter Siegel
Rick Mullen
Steve Barbuto
Mark Emerick
Randy Bramwell
Chris Olsen
Professor Louie
Sean Allen
Tim Eshliman

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were an American country rock band founded in 1967.[2] The group's leader and co-founder was pianist and vocalist George Frayne IV, alias Commander Cody (born July 19, 1944 in Boise, Idaho, died September 26, 2021 in Saratoga Springs, New York).[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]

The band's style mixed country, rock and roll, Western swing, rockabilly, and jump blues together on a foundation of boogie-woogie piano. They were among the first country rock bands to take its cues less from folk rock and bluegrass and more from the rowdy barroom country of the Ernest Tubb and Ray Price style. The band became known for marathon live shows.

Alongside Frayne, the classic lineup was Billy C. Farlow (b. Decatur, Alabama) on vocals and harmonica; John Tichy (b. St. Louis, Missouri) on guitar and vocals; Bill Kirchen (Kirchen was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, June 29, 1948 but grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan) on lead guitar; Andy Stein (b. August 31, 1948 in New York City) on saxophone and fiddle; "Buffalo" Bruce Barlow (b. December 3, 1948 in Oxnard, California) on bass guitar; Lance Dickerson (b. October 15, 1948 in Livonia, Michigan, died November 10, 2003, in Fairfax, California) on drums; and Steve "The West Virginia Creeper" Davis (b. July 18, 1946 in Charleston, West Virginia), followed by Bobby Black, on pedal steel guitar.[2]

The Lost Planet Airmen

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen formed in 1967 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States, with Frayne taking the stage name Commander Cody. The band's name was inspired by 1950s film serials featuring the character Commando Cody and from a feature version of an earlier serial, King of the Rocket Men, released under the title Lost Planet Airmen.

After playing for several years in local bars, in 1969 the core members migrated to Berkeley, California[12][13] and soon got a recording contract with Paramount Records. (About a year later, Commander Cody invited western swing revival group Asleep at the Wheel to relocate to the Bay Area.[14]) The group released their first album in November 1971, Lost in the Ozone, which yielded its best-known hit, a cover version of the 1955 song "Hot Rod Lincoln", which reached the top ten on the Billboard singles chart in early 1972.[2] Shortly thereafter drummer Lance Dickerson, Bruce Barlow, the band's manager and the band's bus driver moved to a ranch in Kenwood California named "The Casa Felice". Here in the basement of one of the 3 houses is where the band set up a studio and practiced for upcoming tours. The tour bus at the time was a converted Greyhound bus with the name and logo "Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen" painted on the side. For a short period of time the bus could be seen parked on the side of Warm Springs Rd. in Kenwood. The band's 1974 live recording, Live from Deep in the Heart of Texas features cover art of armadillos by Jim Franklin. The band released several moderately successful albums through the first half of the 1970s. Their 1975 album Tales From The Ozone was produced by Hoyt Axton. After appearing in the Roger Corman movie Hollywood Boulevard, Frayne disbanded the group in 1976.[2]

Geoffrey Stokes' 1976 book Star-Making Machinery featured Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen as its primary case study of music industry production and marketing. Stokes relates the difficulties the band had recording its first album for Warner Bros. Records. The label wanted a hit album along the lines of the soft country-rock of The Eagles, but the band was not inclined to change its raw-edged style.

Later some unauthorized Lost Planet Airmen recordings were released in Europe and Australia along with previously unreleased LPA tracks and some outtakes from existing Paramount and Warner releases.

Kirchen and Stein went on to have successful musical careers, with Kirchen being acknowledged as one of the preeminent Telecaster players in the world. Stein had a long association with the radio program, A Prairie Home Companion. Tichy had previously earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and became head of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York.[14]

"Hot Rod Lincoln", the band's most famous recording, was voted a Legendary Michigan Song in 2008.[15] The following year Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen were inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame.[16]

Members of the original group, excepting Frayne, held a 50th anniversary reunion in the San Francisco Bay area in June 2019.[17][18]

The band disbanded in 1977, but the name "Commander Cody" survived, being used by Frayne in various iterations in his solo career.[A]

Commander Cody

Frayne performing as Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen in Sonoma, California in 2018
Frayne performing as Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen in Sonoma, California in 2018

Retaining his stage name, George Frayne had a subsequent solo career, touring and releasing albums from 1977 on under various names including Commander Cody, the Commander Cody Band, Commander Cody and His Modern Day Airmen, and Commander Cody and His Western Airmen.[4][19][20]

Frayne was also a visual artist. He received a bachelor's in design from the University of Michigan in 1966 and a master's in Sculpture and Painting from the Rackham School of Graduate Studies of the University of Michigan in 1968. He taught at University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and his art was exhibited at numerous shows around the country.[21] He was a student of cinematography, and has a video (Two Triple Cheese Side Order of Fries) in the Museum of Modern Art's permanent video archive. He has assembled many old movies to go with the band's music as shown on his YouTube channel. Some of his paintings are oversized; most are medium-sized acrylics and present pop art images from media sources and historic photos.[22] His book, Art Music and Life was released by Qualibre Publications in 2009 and is a mix of his best work and anecdotal comments and related stories. He still did portraits of famous automobiles for the Saratoga Auto Museum in Saratoga Springs, New York, where he resided in April, 1997.[21]

George's brother Chris Frayne is credited with the cover art for the Lost in the Ozone, Sleazy Roadside Stories, Hot Licks, Cold Steel & Truckers' Favorites, and Country Casanova albums. He shared credit with George for the album cover for Aces High, and designed other album covers in the music industry. Chris Frayne died in 1992 of multiple sclerosis.[14]

On September 26, 2021, George Frayne died in Saratoga Springs, New York; he was 77 years old.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

Discography

Albums

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
Recordings featuring the original Lost Planet Airmen:

Year Album Chart Positions Label Notes
US US Country CAN
1971 Lost in the Ozone 82 75 Paramount
1972 Hot Licks, Cold Steel & Truckers Favorites 94
1973 Country Casanova 104 47
1974 Live from Deep in the Heart of Texas 105
1975 Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen 58 95 Warner Bros.
Tales from the Ozone 168
1976 We've Got a Live One Here! 170
1988 Sleazy Roadside Stories [23] Relix recorded in 1973
1990 Too Much Fun: The Best of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen [24] MCA compilation album
1996 The Tour from Hell – 1973 [25] Aim recorded in 1973
2003 King Biscuit Flower Hour Archive Series: Greatest Hits Live! [26] KBFH recorded in 1976
2020 Bear's Sonic Journals: Found in the Ozone Owsley Stanley Foundation recorded in 1970

Commander Cody
Recordings featuring George Frayne with various other musicians:

Year Album Chart Positions Label Notes
US US Country CAN
1977 Rock 'n Roll Again [27] 163 Arista The New Commander Cody Band
1978 Flying Dreams [28] Commander Cody
1980 Lose It Tonight [29] Line Commander Cody Band
1986 Let's Rock [30] Blind Pig Commander Cody
1990 Aces High [31] Relix Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
1994 Worst Case Scenario [32] Aim Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
2000 Live at Gilley's [33] Atlantic Commander Cody; recorded in 1982
2005 All the Way Live from Turkey Trot [34] Fa-Ka-Wee The Commander Cody Band
2009 Dopers, Drunks and Everyday Losers Blind Pig Commander Cody
2013 Live from the Island [35] Woodstock Commander Cody and His Modern Day Airmen
2019 Live from Electric City [36][37] Liberation Hall Commander Cody and His Western Airmen

Singles

Year Single [38] Chart Positions Album
US US Country AUS[39] CAN CAN Country CAN AC
1971 "Lost in the Ozone" / "Midnight Shift" Lost in the Ozone
1972 "Hot Rod Lincoln" / "Wine Do Yer Stuff" 9 51 45 7
"Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar" / "Daddy's Gonna Treat You Right" 81 82
"Mama Hated Diesels" / "Truck Stop Rock" Hot Licks, Cold Steel & Truckers Favorites
1973 "Watch My .38" / "Semi-Truck"
"Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)" / "Rock That Boogie" 94 97 99 37 Country Casanova
"Daddy's Drinking Up Our Christmas" / "Honeysuckle Honey" Non-album track
1974 "Diggy Liggy Lo" / "Sunset on the Sage" Live from Deep in the Heart of Texas
"Riot in Cell Block #9" / "Oh Mama Mama"
1975 "Don't Let Go" / "Keep On Lovin' Her" 56 85 Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
"Roll Your Own" / "It's Gonna Be One of Those Nights" Tales from the Ozone
1977 "Seven Eleven" / "Snooze You Lose" Rock 'n Roll Again
1978 "Thank You Lone Ranger" / "My Day" Flying Dreams
1980 "2 Triple Cheese (Side Order of Fries)" / "Rockette 88" Lose It Tonight

References

Notes

  1. ^ "Frayne continued with a solo career, still using his stage name, and toured and released albums under various titles including Commander Cody, the Commander Cody Band, Commander Cody and His Modern Day Airmen and Commander Cody and His Western Airmen."[4]

Citations

  1. ^ "The Bio". Commander Cody. Retrieved 2013-06-27.
  2. ^ a b c d Larkin, Colin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). London: Virgin Books. pp. 292/3. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  3. ^ a b Barnes, Steve (September 27, 2021). "George Frayne, AKA Commander Cody, Dies at 77". Times Union. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d Lewry, Fraser (September 27, 2021). "George Frayne A.K.A. Country Rock Maverick Commander Cody Dead at 77". Louder. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  5. ^ a b Rapp, Allison (September 27, 2021). "George Frayne, 'Commander Cody', Country-Rock Pioneer Dead at 77". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Willman, Chris (September 27, 2021). "Commander Cody, aka George Frayne, Roots-Rock Band Leader and 'Hot Rod Lincoln' Singer, Dies at 77". Variety. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  7. ^ a b Risen, Clay (September 30, 2021). "George Frayne, a.k.a. Commander Cody, Alt-Country Pioneer, Dies at 77". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 2, 2021.
  8. ^ a b Crowther, Linnea (September 28, 2021). "George Frayne IV (1944–2021), Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen frontman". The Telegraph.
  9. ^ a b Schudel, Matt (September 29, 2021). "George Frayne, roots rocker known as Commander Cody, dies at 77". Washington Post.
  10. ^ a b Nash, Indiana (September 29, 2021). "'His music chased my blues away' — George Frayne of Commander Cody and His Lost Airmen remembered". The Daily Gazette. Sarasota Springs, Florida.
  11. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff (September 27, 2021). "George "Commander Cody" Frayne, 1944–2021". Relix. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  12. ^ Arnold, Corry (September 18, 2010). "Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen Performance List 1969: Berkeley Beginnings". Berkeley in the Sixties. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  13. ^ Ward, Ed (April 16, 1970). "Interview: Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  14. ^ a b c "Vile Gossip", Jean Jennings, Automobile Magazine, February 2007
  15. ^ "Legendary Michigan Songs". Michigan Rock and Roll Legends. 1965-02-25. Retrieved 2013-06-27.
  16. ^ "Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen". Michigan Rock and Roll Legends. Retrieved 2013-06-27.
  17. ^ Freedman, Richard (June 11, 2019). "Lost Airmen Reunion Tour Lands in Bay Area". Times-Herald. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  18. ^ Laddish, Kate (June 28, 2019). "Bill Kirchen: Five Lost Planet Airmen Fly Again This Weekend". iPinion Syndicate. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  19. ^ "The Gigs: I ain't never had too much fun!". Commander Cody. 2018. Retrieved 2019-01-19.
  20. ^ "Shows". Evanston S.P.A.C.E. 2019. Retrieved 2019-01-19.
  21. ^ a b "Curriculum Vitae - The Art of George". CommanderCody.com. Archived from the original on August 13, 2006. Retrieved September 28, 2021.
  22. ^ "A brush with art: Sensitive painter George Frayne still rocks as Commander Cody", Austin American-Statesman (October 18, 1986) p D-1
  23. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff. "Sleazy Roadside Stories". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  24. ^ Campbell, Al. "Too Much Fun: Best of Commander Cody". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  25. ^ AllMusic. "Tour from Hell 1973". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  26. ^ Jurek, Thom. "King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents: Commander Cody". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  27. ^ Chadbourne, Eugene. "Rock 'n Roll Again". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  28. ^ "Flying Dreams". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  29. ^ "Lose It Tonight". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  30. ^ AllMusic. "Let's Rock". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  31. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff. "Aces High". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  32. ^ AllMusic. "Worst Case Scenario". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  33. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Live at Gilley's". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  34. ^ "All the Way Live from Turkey Trot [DVD+CD]". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  35. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Live from the Island". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  36. ^ "Live from Electric City". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  37. ^ Montesano, Lou (October 4, 2019). "Commander Cody and His Western Airmen: Live From the Sunbanks Festival, Electric City". Elmore Magazine. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  38. ^ "Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen: Singles & EPs". Discogs. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  39. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 71. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.