Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
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
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
GenresCountry rock, Western swing, rock and roll, rockabilly, jump blues, Americana
Years active1967–1976, 1997–present as "The Commander Cody Band"[1]
Associated actsAsleep at the Wheel
MembersGeorge Frayne (Commander Cody)
Steve Barbuto
Mark Emerick
Randy Bramwell
Greg Irwin (interim)
Past membersJohn Tichy
Billy C. Farlow
Bill Kirchen
Andy Stein
Paul "Buffalo" Bruce Barlow
Norton Buffalo
Lance Dickerson
Bobby Black
Steve Davis (The West Virginia Creeper)
Peter Siegel
Rick Mullen
Rick Higginbotham
Ernie Hagar
Nicolette Larson

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen is an American country rock band founded in 1967.[2] 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 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 (b. 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 at New York City) 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 "The West Virginia Creeper" Davis (b. July 18, 1946 at Charleston, West Virginia) and Bobby Black on steel guitar.[2]


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, 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.[3]) 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.[2] 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.

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.[3]

"Hot Rod Lincoln", the band's most famous recording, was voted a Legendary Michigan Song in 2008.[4] The following year Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen were inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame.[5]

Members of the original group, excepting Frayne, held a 50th anniversary reunion in the San Francisco Bay area in July 2019.

George Frayne[edit]

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

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. At least from 2011 through 2019, George Frayne continues to tour with his reconstituted Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.[6][7]

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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[3]



Year Album Chart Positions Label
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 Brothers
Tales from the Ozone 168
1976 We've Got a Live One Here! 170
1977 Rock 'N Roll Again (Midnight Man) 163 Arista
1978 Flying Dreams
1980 Lose It Tonight Line
1986 Let's Rock Blind Pig
1988 Sleazy Roadside Stories Relix
1990 Aces High
Too Much Fun: The Best Of MCA
1994 Worst Case Scenario Aim
1996 The Tour from Hell (1993)
2000 Live at Gilley's Atlantic
2002 Command Performance BMG
2003 King Biscuit Flower Hour Archive Series: Greatest Hits Live KBFH Records
2005 All the Way from Turkey Trot Fa-Ka-Wee
2009 Dopers, Drunks and Everyday Losers Blind Pig
2020 Bear's Sonic Journals: Found in the Ozone Owsley Stanley Foundation


Year Single Chart Positions Album
US US Country CAN CAN Country CAN AC
1971 "Lost in the Ozone" Lost in the Ozone
1972 "Hot Rod Lincoln" 9 51 7
"Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar" 81 87
"Truck Stop Rock" Hot Licks, Cold Steel & Truckers Favorites
1973 "Semi-Truck"
"Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)" 94 97 99 37 Country Cassanova
1974 "Diggy Liggy Lo" Live from Deep in the Heart of Texas
"Riot in Cell Block No. 9" single only
1975 "Don't Let Go" 56 85 Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
"It's Gonna Be One of Those Nights" Tales from the Ozone
1981 "2 Triple Cheese (Side Order of Fries)" Lose It Tonight
"Roll the Dice"


  1. ^ "The Bio". Commander Cody. Retrieved 2013-06-27.
  2. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 292/3. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  3. ^ a b c "Vile Gossip", Jean Jennings, Automobile Magazine, February 2007
  4. ^ "Legendary Michigan Songs". Michigan Rock and Roll Legends. 1965-02-25. Retrieved 2013-06-27.
  5. ^ "Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen". Michigan Rock and Roll Legends. Retrieved 2013-06-27.
  6. ^ "The Gigs: I ain't never had too much fun!". Commander Cody. 2018. Retrieved 2019-01-19.
  7. ^ "Shows". Evanston S.P.A.C.E. 2019. Retrieved 2019-01-19.
  8. ^ [1] Archived January 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "A brush with art: Sensitive painter George Frayne still rocks as Commander Cody", Austin American-Statesman (October 18, 1986) p D-1

External links[edit]