October 25, 2021

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George Frain dies at 77: As Commander Cody, sings ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’

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George Fryne IV, who led the band Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airman, a group that combined elements of rock counter culture with a love for root music in the early 1970s, died Sunday at the age of 77. Several years.

“This morning, when I put my head on his shoulder, George’s spirit flew,” his wife Sue said in a post on her Facebook page. “I am heartbroken and tired, and I know your heart is broken too. Thank you so much for all the love you have given and the stories you have shared.”

Frein’s seminal group was best known for the 1955 remake of the rockabilly-flavored song “Hot Rod Lincoln”, which peaked in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972. Listening chart.

Although the group’s style was often described as country-rock in its early days, the Bay Area-based band had a strict driving style এবং and, as its sci-fi-serial-based name would suggest, the sense of humor is more -country gals or poko-like los. Other country-influenced artists are coming to Angeles. The words Rockabilly, Western Swing, Jump Blues, Jazz and Boogie-Woogie Piano have easily found a place in the band’s free-wheeling style, finding enthusiastic fans among rock group followers like Grateful Dead, for whom Commander Cody sometimes opens, as well as more traditional. Fans of form.

Although it took until 1971 for their main label debut, “Lost in the Ozone”, to be released, the group was originally formed in 1967 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, against the tide of psychedelics that were high with flowers – like the last few Western swing pioneer Bob Wills. The energy movement in favor of sound deeply immersed in the so-called square music of the decade.

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airman have released seven albums on the Paramount and Warner Bros. labels since 1971-76. After the separation of the original group in 1976, Frein continued to record and tour under the name of Commander Cody until shortly before the epidemic began.

He told the ClassicBands.com website about the origin of the group’s name, saying they “got it from the same place where George Lucas got it: from Republic Pictures. In 1948, 1949, operations like Flash Gordon would run in theaters. Then, the character Commander Cody made three movies.” , One of which was ‘Lost Planet Airman’. I was watching the movie Lost Planet Airman and I saw the Commander Cody character and I thought it would be a great name for a band. I didn’t know anyone had to be Commander Cody. No. There’s no Steely Dan. There’s no Marshall Tucker. Why should there be a Commander Cody? It’s a long story in itself.

But, of course, there was a little bit of knowledge in the music … although there was a lot of weeds. “Around 1966 I found a Bob Wills album and marijuana,” Frein said in an interview with No Depression in 2018. “I’m sure these guys were stoned most of the time. I started listening to Jerry Lee Lewis ‘albums which included’ Crazy Arms ‘and Buck Owens’ biggest hits. We did. [Owens’] ‘Tiger by the Tail’ is regular. No country music was expensive for us there were no rehearsals; We listened to the record, we drank a bunch of whiskey and coke, and played. Country music is very easy to make If someone knows the lyrics and the song, you can follow it relatively easily.

But, despite such comments, Frein was a serious musician, whose greatest influence as a pianist was Fat Domino. “The commander I knew was a music-history buff, a fine-arts scholar, and one of my sharpest minds ever,” David Malachowski, a guitarist who joined Cody’s band in the late ’90s, told the Times Union. A newspaper in Saratoga Springs, the final town of Frein. Malachowski pointed to the complex nature of a piano-playing style that required different rhythms and even motion for the left hand and right hand parts. “I asked him once how he did it, and he said he played left-handed images all day for about a year, until it became second nature,” said the guitarist.

Born in Boise, Idaho in 1944, Frein grew up in the Long Island area before attending the University of Michigan, where he earned a master’s degree in painting and sculpture, joining Lost Planet Airman the same year.

Frein’s first Ann Arbor band was Fantastic Surfing Beavers, a different frontman. After the formation of the Commander Cody band, according to Ed Ward’s 1970 profile at Rolling Stone, “Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airman dedicated their bodies and souls to country music and old-fashioned rock and roll. But that devotion is not easy in the Midwest. Yeah Al that sounds pretty crap to me, Looks like BT aint for me either, Looks like BT aint for me either. Put Arbor and Detroit on the map. “

Frein told Rolling Stone on that profile: “We didn’t think of appealing to anyone. We just had a good time, picking and playing and earning a few dollars on the side. That’s when psychedelic ballrooms started to get bigger. We played the same bill with the ballroom canned hit at the Grand in Detroit, so naturally the audience hated us, hated us, you know. Yet the audience of the dead and other groups was inspired by this group after they moved to the San Francisco area in 1969. In those early days, Fryen said, “What we (Paul) have done for the Butterfield Blues we want to do for country music.”

In the “Hot Rod Lincoln” hit, Frein said, referring to how he became its lead singer, “At the time I couldn’t really sing a note, but I could speak fast. It became clear that I had to be Commander Cody, because All the guys in the band who wanted to be Commander Cody were out of the question. So, the band voted that I had to be Commander Cody because I could basically talk fast and rap well and give a pretty good radio. Then people started saying ‘Who is the Commander and he What will you do? ‘ So I had to come and do a number; because I couldn’t sing, I found out that boys have a long history of not being able to sing.I first found it through Phil Harris and found it with Johnny Bond.

He got his shot in a remake of “Hot Rod Lincoln”, originally conceived as a hit song in 1955 titled “Hot Rod Race”. If it was lucky enough to be their one-hit surprise commercially, he was right that it was a hit: “I like the song, so it doesn’t bother me to do it every night. No problem.”

In the 1970s, the original band’s voice grew in lesser countries. “We really liked it [our sound] And we play this kind of music until we get excited from our stage at the CMA Convention in 1973, “he said. Seattle PI 201 in 2013. Because their attitude was, ‘Who are these hippies? Take a bath, find a rock concert, and so on. Our interest in the country and the Western Swing was over. People in Texas found out I wasn’t from Texas and they thought I was stealing their music and they didn’t get it.

In that same interview, he said, “I smoke a lot of marijuana and it’s really easy to change your groove when you throw stones.… I especially enjoy painting when I throw stones and that’s what I do to this day. On the other hand, I’m in rock and roll gigs. I don’t smoke weeds, whatever, because I was more interested in remembering all the words in the song. Don’t forget, I’m an old geyser. I can’t forget the words. “

In a 2012 interview, Frein quipped, “The secret is we’ve been doing the same set for 40 years. It’s like ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ without gay costumes and dancing. “

Frein was well known as a painter and band leader, and published a book of his visual art, Art Music and Life, in 200 visuals. – Ashkosh. An experimental video he created, “Two Triple Cheese Side Order of Fries”, is included in the permanent collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Frein’s wife said on Facebook that a memorable event was being planned. “We are working on two large gatherings on the east and west coasts (islands and bays) to celebrate the unprecedented life of the Old Commander and to benefit musicians in need,” he wrote.

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