04 March 2011

TGIF Rock-n-Roll Oldies: Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen - 1971

"That story is true, and I'm here to say:
I was drivin' that Model A..."

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen was a pioneering American country-rock band founded in 1967 in Ann Arbor, Michigan: they're known for such hits as "Hot Rod Lincoln", "Smoke Smoke Smoke (that Cigarette)", "Don't Let Go", as well as an exceptional cover of boogie-woogie standard (and Andrews Sisters hit) "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar" that also managed to chart...

The band’s style fused country, rockabilly, and blues together on a base of boogie-woogie piano. It was among the first country-rock bands to take its cues less from folk-rock and bluegrass and more from real hardcore barroom country- they became legendary for raucous, extended live performances.

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen was formed in 1967 with a newly-recruited George Frayne (7.19.1944 Boise, Idaho), who then took 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 another serial, King of the Rocket Men, came the "Lost Planet Airmen."

After playing for several years in Michigan bars, core members migrated to San Francisco, where they promptly landed a recording contract. They subsequently released the 1971 debut album Lost in the Ozone.  The record brought the group's best-known hit, a version of the rockabilly standard Hot Rod Lincoln, which went Top Ten on the Billboard US singles chart in early '72 (featured video below). 

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen then headed-off for Texas, where they made their 1974 live recording Live from Deep in the Heart of Texas. 

The band released several moderately-successful albums through the first half of the 70s. After appearing in the Roger Corman movie Hollywood Boulevard, Frayne disbanded the group in 1976. 

Interestingly, 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 this band was not interested in losing their rough-edged style and adding a bunch of layered harmonies.

Staying with the stage name Commander Cody, George Frayne had a subsequent solo career, touring and releasing albums from 1977-on. He released some later albums under the Lost Planet Airmen name. Recent releases have been as The Commander Cody Band.

And back in a time when I wasn't into country music really -say, late teens/early 20s- I sure was plenty into "Hot Rod Lincoln"- went out and bought the record, too. How could any red-blooded American gearhead not relate?

But I couldn't find a live version with decent sound to post, so here's the '45' single with a hot rod slide show somebody put together... what a great tune:

Commander cody, commander cody and his lost planet airmen, hot rod lincoln, smoke smoke smoke (that cigarette), beat me daddyGeorge Frayneoldies, rock n roll, 1972, 1971, video xxx Commander codycommander cody and his lost planet airmenhot rod lincolnsmoke smoke smoke (that cigarette)beat me daddy 


Randy-g said...

I still listen to them....

Reaganite Republican said...

Me too buddy... obviously lol

Anonymous said...

Also great live - when they fell off the stage they weren't kidding

Reaganite Republican said...

I missed them, but have heard they're pretty nuts lol

"The Hammer" said...

I first heard Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen at the Rod & Gun Club at Caserma Ederle, Vicenza, Italy 1974. They had a song on the juke box (an old Hank Williams tune) called Smoke Smoke Smoke. Great beer drinking music!
RR you must be an old bastard like me.

Reaganite Republican said...

I'm in my late forties, Hammer... but musical tastes stretch back to from a little before my time to way, way back- just looking for great music

I love that "Smoke Smoke Smoke" toon too, remember it from when I was a kid

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