Look in any book on the History of Rock and Roll and you will find Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen. This 8 piece super band was Billboard Magazine International’s WORLDS BEST LIVE BAND in 1974-75 and their album Deep in the Heart of Texas is one of Rolling Stone Magazine & top 100 albums of all time.
Its no wonder-Billy C Farlow, the lead singer, also played trumpet and blues harp.The fiddler, Andy Stein, played saxophone; the guitar player, Bill Kirchen, played trombone, and Cody -the piano pounder- doubled on Kazoo. AND THEY ALL SANG except Cody, of course, who bellowed. They made 7 original albums and the individual players all had their own bands and the CD total for the LPA is over 20.
Since the breakup in 1977, each band member has continued the legend by fronting their own smaller groups-sitting in with each other bands and doing the occasional band revival (see Prairie Home Companion 1/14/01). Each has produced award – winning albums and CD (Cody and Kirchen Stein and Farlow) and keep in touch by getting together regularly. The Commander Cody Band with Cody – having moved to the East Coast in 1997 – is going strong in the new century and still does KICK BUTT on a nightly basis….. still doing festivals- giant biker conventions – various sizes of college concerts as well as the usual suspects (sleazy, downhome/uptown and/or very posh bars) – and best of all Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise extravaganzas.
Today Commander Cody Band features Mark Emerick on Guitar, Steve Barbuto on Drums, Chris Olsen on pedal steel, and Randy Bramwell on Bass – of course all vocalize. Cody is still trying to pound his electric piano into submission. The band has been touring the US for the last 10 years. They recorded a new studio album-the first in 20 years – from the Woodstock studio of producer Professor Louie (of Crowmatics fame ) -it features the new band players and was released on April 21 2009 by Blind Pig Records.The title; Drunks Dopers and Everyday Losers – and has 14 great tracks-some new some classics redone (better) and a few surprises. Still rockin the USA and the world!
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen was a country rock band formed in 1967 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 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. The band’s founder and leader, George Frayne, took the stage name Commander Cody.
The band’s style was basically a mixture of country music, rockabilly, and blues with a foundation of boogie-woogie piano. It became legendary for marathon live shows, but many felt that the spirit of those performances was never fully captured in the band’s recordings. In addition, they were among the very first country-rock bands to take their cues less from folk-rock and bluegrass and more from hardcore barroom country of the Ernest Tubb, Ray Price style, and to incorporate Western Swing into their style along with rockabilly and rhythm and blues. Other bands, such as Asleep at the Wheel, would later follow a similar pattern.
After several years spent playing in local bars, core members of the group migrated to San Francisco (along with Asleep at the Wheel) and scored a recording contract with Paramount Records. The group’s first album release, titled Lost in the Ozone, arrived in late 1971 and yielded the group’s best-known hit, a version of the country song Hot Rod Lincoln, which reached the top ten on the Billboard singles chart in early 1972. They then moved to Texas; the band’s 1974 live recording, Live from Deep in the Heart of Texas features cover art of armadillos by Jim Franklin, and the band released several moderately-successful albums through the first half of the decade. After appearing in the Roger Corman movie Hollywood Boulevard, Frayne disbanded the group in 1976. The core members of this version of the band were Frayne, John Tichy, Billy C. Farlow, Bill Kirchen, Andy Stein, Paul “Buffalo” Bruce Barlow, Lance Dickerson, and Bobby Black on pedal steel. John Tichy, now Dr. John A. Tichy, is former head of the the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, having earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.
The 1976 book Star-Making Machinery by Geoffrey Stokes was an analysis of music industry production and marketing using Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen as its primary case study.
Retaining his stage name of Commander Cody, Frayne has a solo career, touring and releasing albums from 1977 to the present day; some later albums were released under the Lost Planet Airmen name.