“I was watching the Lost Planet Airmen movie and I saw the Commander Cody character and I thought it would be a great name for a band. I had no idea anyone was going to have to be Commander Cody. I mean, there’s no Lynyrd Skynyrd.8 There’s no Steely Dan. There’s no Marshall Tucker. Why did there have to be a Commander Cody? That’s a long story in itself.” —from a 2005 interview for classicbands.com.
Wikipedia: “Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were an American rock band founded in 1967. 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).”
The band played the bar circuit in Ann Arbor for a couple of years then made their way to California, where they quickly got a recording contract. Their first album, Lost in the Ozone, was released in the musically magic year of 1971. Their music is described as country rock, rockabilly, and Western swing, they hit the heights pretty quickly with the remake of the 1955 tune “Hot Rod Lincoln.”
“Hot Rod Lincoln” was initially an “answer song” to a 1950 tune by a group named Arkie Shibley and his Mountain Dew Boys (yee-ha!) called “Hot Rod Race.” That song was one of the first – if not THE first – “car = freedom” songs and inspired a whole lotta cats including one Charles Berry
My daddy said son you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’
If you don’t stop drivin’ that
According to the New York Times, “the Lost Planet Airmen grew to eight core members, several of them sharing lead-singer duties; there would often be 20 or more others onstage, dancing, playing kazoo and even, at certain adults-only shows, stripping. Their music was bright and up-tempo, centered on Mr. Frayne, who sat — or just as often stood — at his piano, longhaired and shirtless, pounding beers and keys.”
This tune, “Too Much Fun,” is – believe it or not – a tune that ME used to (poorly) belt out back in the days when he was young and foolish. This is live from Austin, TX 1973:
Here’s a sad tale from Ozone that says “I’m down to seeds and stems again.” By that I assume he perhaps means watermelon seeds and flower stems:
“Cody was a comic-book character come to life,” Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel said of Mr. Frayne. “He looked the part of the wild man, chomping on a cigar and banging on a piano. But he was also an artist, who happened to use the band as a way to express a much bigger picture.”
Did somebody say Boo-gee, woo-gee? From 1975’s eponymous album, this is “House of Blue Lights.” Tinkle them ivories, Commander:
Don’t they have any fucking fiddles in this band? How about the “Armadillo Stomp?” Steel guitars too. Shitkickin’ music all the way:
Unfortunately for the Commander and his airmen, they were either way ahead of or way behind the times and never could catch a groove outside of a niche audience. Seen somewhat as a novelty band, the geniuses who always run record labels and occasionally know something about the product they sell were always looking for the next “Hot Rod Lincoln.” The band broke up in 1976.
Here’s a nice version of Lowell George’s “Willin'”
The Commander spent the rest of his years solo or with a variety of bands with the name Commander and/or Cody in there somewhere. He was also a visual artist and did pop art stuff of people like Jerry Garcia.
He died just last year at the age of 77. Somewhere in the universe, there’s good rockin’ tonight.
*There’s no Lynryd Skynryd but there was a Leonard Skinner.