October 14, 2006

Michigan's Musical Connection: Commander Cody

This installment of Michigan's Musical Connection is slightly off the beaten path. This week's spotlight shines on Ann Arbor-born George Frayne. Frayne was born in July 1944 and around 1967 took the stage name of Commander Cody. I found little in the way of personal bio information but I'll give ya' what I've got.

Wikipedia -
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen was a 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. 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.

After several years spent playing in local bars, core members of the group migrated to San Francisco and scored a recording contract with MCA 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. The band released several moderately-successful albums through the first half of the decade and appeared in the Roger Corman movie Hollywood Boulevard before 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 the "West Virginia Creeper" on pedal steel.
Commander Cody web site -
After graduating in the spring of 1968, I took a job as instructor of art at Wisconsin State University in Oshkosh. I went back to Ann Arbor every weekend, which kept the band going, but eventually got me fired. Danny Erlewine took Tichy's place as 2nd guitar and Bill and Billy C shared lead vocals, until Kirchen took of to San Francisco. Through phone calls he told us the time was right in SF, and in June of '68 Creeper, Farlow and me jumped in my van and headed West. Our first gig was with Kirchen's band, (the Ozones) at the Town Pump on Mission St. Later the first Cody gig was playing on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley, for Cody's Bookstore on July 4, with the Skiffle Bands "Pookie" on drum (snare).That date was one of the famous Berkeley Riots and we all wound up being gassed by the cops, (we grabbed our shit and split). Later that month we all moved into a big house on the Emeryville border, called it Ozone West and started practicing and going out on the street, (Telegraph Ave.) to play, (I played a really bad accordion). Here we met our very first "groupies" the fabulous Richmond Girls, (who were actually from Portland Ore). We got audition dates with Bill Graham in the City, and at Mandrakes in Berkeley.



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