Sep 26, 2021: George Frayne, Musician Known as ‘Commander Cody,’ Dies

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Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, circa 1971 (sitting, l. to r.): Andy Stein, Billy C. Farlow; (standing, l. to r.): Bill Kirchen, Lance Dickerson, Bruce Barlow, John Tichy, Bobby Black, George “Commander Cody” Frayne

George Frayne, who led the country-rock band Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, died September 26, 2021, at age 77. The announcement of his passing was posted on his Facebook page by his wife, Sue Casanova. The cause of death, at the couple’s Saratoga Springs, N.Y. home, was esophageal cancer.

The eight-piece band, with Frayne on keyboards and as one of their many vocalists, was formed in 1967, and brilliantly fused country, rockabilly, western swing, R&B and vintage rock ’n’ roll.

The news of his death arrived three days after another post from his wife asked, “Can you send George some brilliantly good energy and love right now?”

The obituary for Commander Cody was written in the form of a poem:

Early this morning
As I lay my head upon his shoulder
George’s soul took to flight
I am heartbroken and weary
And I know you are too
Thank you so much for all the love you gave
And the stories you shared
We are working on 2 big gatherings
On both the east and west coast
(The Island and the Bay Area)
To celebrate the Old Commander’s phenomenal life
And to benefit musicians in need.

The band’s name was inspired by 1950s film serials featuring the character Commando Kody and from a feature version of an earlier serial, King of the Rocket Men, released under the title Lost Planet Airmen.

The Cody band’s classic lineup, whose members came from such far-flung locales as Alabama, California, Connecticut, Michigan, West Virginia, Idaho and New York, also featured Billy C. Farlow (harmonica, vocals), John Tichy (guitar, vocals), Bill Kirchen (guitar, vocals), Andy Stein (saxophone, fiddle), “Buffalo” Bruce Barlow (bass guitar), Lance Dickerson (drums), and Steve “The West Virginia Creeper” Davis, followed by Bobby Black (pedal steel guitar).

They toured non-stop to a legion of dedicated fans and recorded seven studio albums, preferring a no-frills, back-to-basics approach. Their 1971 debut, Lost in the Ozone, released by the Paramount label, included their sole Top 40 hit, a cover of “Hot Rod Lincoln.”

Related: Our Album Rewind of Lost in the Ozone

None of their studio albums, released in a six-year period, made it to the upper reaches of the sales charts. Though they had developed a strong fan following, particularly in the New York and San Francisco areas, the Cody band broke up in 1977. Since the breakup, the individual members continued touring in smaller groups, sitting in with each other from time to time, and doing occasional band reunion performances.

Frayne was born on July 19, 1944, in Boise, Idaho, and earned a B.S. in Architectural Design and an M.F.A. in Sculpture and Painting from the Univ. of Michigan. He retained his stage name for a solo recording and touring career. Any obituary of “Commander Cody” needs to note that he was also known for his paintings of automobiles.

For an exhibit of his work at the Saratoga Automobile Museum he wrote, “I have always loved cars… I have been in more car wrecks than Evel Knievel and have had more than 40 auto­mo­biles. I have painted cars my entire life and have made sculp­tures from chrome bumpers and auto­mo­tive parts. I’ve been per­fect­ing my auto­mo­tive por­traits and abstract details of cars for over 50 years, I guess you could call me a chrome addict and I’m proud of it!”

Listen to “Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar,” recorded live

Related: Musicians we’ve lost in 2021

Best Classic Bands Staff

8 Comments so far

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  1. mickey
    #1 mickey 27 September, 2021, 08:27

    Dang! The old Commander was always one of the anchors of our music collection back in the 70s. When we were all lost in the ozone. You will be missed.

    Reply this comment
  2. beatseeker
    #2 beatseeker 27 September, 2021, 09:11

    goodbye, commander.. see you in the ozone…

    Reply this comment
  3. Infrareddy
    #3 Infrareddy 27 September, 2021, 11:55

    My eyes are moist as I write this……..CC and his LPA, I saw him in Lawrence, Kansas and have never had so much fun at a concert in my life. I feel like I’m down to seeds and stems again………..

    Reply this comment
  4. Coolpop
    #4 Coolpop 27 September, 2021, 12:12

    His piano was exquisitely fun! We will never forget him or his great band!

    Reply this comment
  5. Bubba
    #5 Bubba 27 September, 2021, 17:33

    Damn! I have never had a band affect me so much as CC&HLPA. What an entertaining group! Their album, “Live at the Armadillo World Headquarters” was a true classic.

    Reply this comment
  6. Sherrill
    #6 Sherrill 28 September, 2021, 14:22

    Saw the Commander in Jasper, Ab long after the original band had broken up. An amazing performanced rocked by the Commander! You will be missed George.

    Reply this comment
  7. BUZZ
    #7 BUZZ 28 September, 2021, 17:46

    R.I.P. Commander….saw you perform at least a dozen times….always a great show. Your show in Central Park, NYC was especially memorable. As was the time you put your head through a low ceiling doing your signature leap off the piano bench.

    Reply this comment
  8. Penne
    #8 Penne 29 September, 2021, 18:26

    RIP commander last time we saw you was on the legendary blues cruise and you were great. Always have loved your music ❤️

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