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Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen

Andy Stein (left), and John Tichy (right) at the Hollywood Bowl July 21, 1974 opening for the Grateful Dead
Photo: David Gans
Background information
Origin Ann Arbor, Michigan
United States
Genres Country rock, rockabilly and blues
Years active 1967 - 1976, and in subsequent years as "The Commander Cody Band"
George Frayne (Commander Cody)
Steve Barbuto
Mark Emerick
Greg Irwin (interim)
Former members
John Tichy
Billy C. Farlow
Bill Kirchen
Andy Stein
Paul "Buffalo" Bruce Barlow
Lance Dickerson
Bobby Black
Steve Davis (The West Virginia Creeper)
Peter Siegel
Rick Mullen

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen was an American country rock band, active from 1967 to 1976.



Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen was 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, (b. July 19, 1944 in Boise, Idaho), 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. 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)[1] 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[1]; 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 a professor, and the former department head, of 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.[1] In his classes, he has a Powerpoint presentation about the band that he often shows students about halfway through the semester, in his Engineering Dynamics classes. On several occasions, Tichy has stated his appreciation for the music of American Blues musician Muddy Waters.

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. It delved into great detail of the difficulties they had recording their first album for Warner Bros. Records, with the label wanting a hit album and the band disinclined to change their more or less raw-edged approximations of straight ahead country, honky-tonk rockabilly and western swing music while the label wanted something closer to the country-rock of The Eagles.

Retaining his stage name of Commander Cody, Frayne had a solo career, touring and releasing albums from 1977 to the present day; some later albums were released under the Lost Planet Airmen name. Recent releases have been under the name The Commander Cody Band; in addition to Frayne, current members of the band include Steve Barbuto on drums, Mark Emerickon guitar. Their bassist, Rick Mullen quit the band in late 2007, and continues his journey as a studio/touring musician and master luthier with his own company.

Frayne is also an artist, having received his bachelor's degree in Design from the University of Michigan in 1966 and a master's degree in Sculpture and Painting from the Rackham School of Graduate Studies of the University of Michigan in 1968. He has taught at University of Michigan and Wisconsin State University, and has had his art exhibited at numerous shows. [2] He is a student of cinematography, and has a permanent feature at the Museum of Modern Art's permanent video archive. His paintings are oversized, and present photorealistic images from popular culture. [3]

George's brother Chris Frayne was also an artist; he is credited with the album cover for Lost in the Ozone, Sleazy Roadside Stories, and Hot Licks, Cold Steel & Truckers' Favorites, shared credit with George for the album cover for Aces High, and designed other album covers in the music industry; he also wrote songs including The Letter That Johnny Walker Read (on Asleep at the Wheel's album Take Me Back to Tulsa)[4] and produced albums such as Comin' Your Way by John Mooney.[5] Chris died in 1992 of multiple sclerosis.[1] As can be discerned by their art as well as the topics of their musical work, both brothers were also interested in hot rods.[1]

"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.




Year Album Chart Positions Label
US US Country
1971 Lost in the Ozone 82 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 Warner Bros.
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
1987 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
2005 All the Way from Turkey Trot Fa-Ka-Wee
2009 Dopers, Drunks and Everyday Losers Blind Pig


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 Diggy 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


  1. ^ a b c d e "Vile Gossip", Jean Jennings, Automobile Magazine, February, 2007
  2. ^ Curriculum Vitae, George Frayne
  3. ^ Davis, John T., "A brush with art: Sensitive painter George Frayne still rocks as Commander Cody", Austin American-Statesman (October 18, 1986) p D-1
  4. ^ Asleep at the Wheel, Lyrics, The Letter That Johnny Walker Read
  5. ^ Comin' Your Way

External links


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