Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
(Read all about Commander Cody after the video)
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen is an American country rock band founded in 1967. The group's founder was George Frayne IV (alias Commander Cody, born July 19, 1944 at Boise, Idaho) on keyboards and vocals.
The band's style mixed country, rock 'n' roll, western swing, rockabilly, and jump blues together on a foundation of boogie-woogie piano. They were among 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 (b. January 29, 1948 at Ann Arbor, Michigan) on lead guitar; Andy Stein (b. August 31, 1948 at New York) on saxophone and fiddle; Paul "Buffalo" Bruce Barlow (b. December 3, 1948 at Oxnard, California) on bass guitar; Lance Dickerson (b. October 15, 1948 at Livonia, Michigan; died November 10, 2003 at Fairfax, California) on drums; Steve Davis (b. July 18, 1946 at Charleston, West Virginia) and Bobby Black on steel guitar.
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen formed in 1967 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 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, the core members migrated to San Francisco 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.) The group released their first album in late 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. 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. After appearing in the Roger Corman movie Hollywood Boulevard, Frayne disbanded the group in 1976.
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.
Kirchen and Stein went on to have successful musical careers. 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.
"Hot Rod Lincoln", the band's most famous recording, was voted a Legendary Michigan Song in 2008. The following year Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen were inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame.
Retaining his stage name of Commander Cody, Frayne had a subsequent solo career, touring and releasing albums from 1977 on. 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. Recent releases have been as "The Commander Cody Band" as well as "Commander Cody and his Modern Day Airmen". In addition to Frayne, current[when?] members of the band include Steve Barbuto on drums and Mark Emerick on guitar.
Frayne is also an 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 has had his art exhibited at numerous shows. He is 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. Some of his paintings are oversized, most are medium-sized acrylics and present pop art images from media sources and historic photos. 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 does portraits of famous automobiles for the Saratoga Auto Museum in Saratoga Springs, New York, where he currently resides.[when?]
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.