Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen was a country 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, (b. July 19, 1944 in Boise City, 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) 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; 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 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.
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.
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 Emerick on guitar, and Rick Mullen on bass.
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.
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 and produced albums such as Comin' Your Way by John Mooney Chris died in 1992 of multiple sclerosis. As can be discerned by their art as well as the topics of their musical work, both brothers were also interested in hot rods.