Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen formed in 1967 in Ann Abour, Michigan, with Frayne taking 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 an earlier serial, King of the Rocket Men, released under the title Lost Planet Airmen.
After playing for several years in local bars, the core members migrated to San Francisco and soon got a recording contract with Paramount Records. (About a year later, Commander Cody invited western swing revival group Asleep at the Wheel to relocate to the Bay Area.) The group released their first album in late 1971, Lost in the Ozone, which yielded its best-known hit, a cover version of the 1955 song "Hot Rod Lincoln", which reached the top ten on the Billboard singles chart in early 1972. The band's 1974 live recording, Live from Deep in the Heart of Texas features cover art of armadillos by Jim Franklin. The band released several moderately successful albums through the first half of the 1970s. After appearing in the Roger Corman movie Hollywood Boulevard, Frayne disbanded the group in 1976.
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 the band was not inclined to change its raw-edged style.
Kirchen and Stein went on to have successful musical careers. Tichy had previously earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and became head of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.
"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.
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