Tribute and Variety
Shows are super successful. The buyer gets more bang for the buck, spending the same amount on
4 to 6 names.
The audience gets to hear a variety of artists. Win Win!
Commander Cody, George Frayne, a student in Graduate school at
the University of Michigan in 1967, put a band together with his
pal John Tichy, an engineering PhD candidate. The first group was
more of a "happening" than anything else, featuring the
Tap Dancing Green Sisters, Pat the Hippie Strippie, and of course,
The Galactic Twist Queens with a supporting cast of anywhere
between 5 and fifty hippies, featuring a kazoo section of up to 6
The Commander character is taken from Commando Cody, Skymarshall
of the Universe, the Original Rocket Man, the star of the movie
"The Lost Planet Airmen" (Republic Pictures, 1952).
After graduation in 1968, Cody was not able to cope with an actual
job situation (Assistant Professor of Art) at Wisconsin State
University. He drove back and forth 14 hours a week to Ann Arbor,
Michigan every weekend to appear with the band and their new
singer/ harp player Billy C. Farlow of Decatur, Alabama.
George and Billy C. penned the first original tunes "Down to
Seeds and Stems Again" and "Back to Tennessee" in a
library during a break in finals. After 2 semesters, George quit
teaching and jumped into the Ozone Van with Billy C. and the steel
guitar player, then the West Virginia Creeper, and headed for the
In San Francisco for the summer of 1969, the band caught the tail
end of the famous psychedelic scene. They found a home in the
saloons of Berkeley and after packing a local dive known as
Mandrake's every night, they got some executives from Paramount
Records to sign them up.
Bill Hirchen, who had previously left the band in Ann Arbor for
San Francisco, was the key ingredient in Cody moving West. After a
year, John had gotten his PhD in Engineering from Georgia Tech and
moved to California. Andy Stein moved out in the Fall of 1969 and
the band was complete. That is, after pilfering Charlie
Musselwhite's rhythm section for Paul "Buffalo" Bruce
Barlow on Bass and Lance Dickerson on drums. This eight piece
bought an old Greyhound bus and hit the road.
The first album "Lost in the Ozone" coughed up a hit
single "Hot Rod Lincoln" which sold a million copies and
launched the boys into Rock and Roll history!
They recorded four albums for Paramount Records which are released
today on compact disc and cassette by MCA. They next recorded
three albums for Warner Brothers and broke up after a long
European tour in 1976.
The last of the three albums was a historical 2-album live set Got
a Live One Here with Norton Buffalo, who joined the band for
their last tour.
In 1977, Cody, Kirchen, Stein, Tichy, and Billy C. all went in
different directions. Cody made 2 albums on Arista and worked with
Delaney Bramlett and Nicolette Larson. He teamed up with Bill
Kirchen's Moonlighters in 1979 and some of that personnel are
featured on the Relix release Aces High (April 1990).
In 1995, metal thrasher Sugar Ray sampled Cody's Lincoln vocal for
Atlantic Records hit "Mean Machine". Royalties
Today, the Commander Cody Band features Mark Emerick on guitar, Steve Barbuto on drums, Chris Olsen on pedal steel and Randy Bramwell on bass.
As always, the Commander Cody is still trying to pound his piano
leading the musical mayhem and controlled chaos. This fresh
edition harks back to the virtuosity and spontaneity of the
original band, and the response from critics and crowds has been
overwhelmingly positive. The legend of the Lost Planet Airmen