Nov 7, 2011

Meet Commander Cody (if not familiar)

Saratoga's most interesting person? Maybe, just maybe...

The Commander orders up a hometown celebration for Nov. 19

“I just got married, so that means it's time to party!”

Saratoga's increasingly newbie population may or may not know of fellow resident George Frayne. If they do, it is mostly likely because of his prominent place in the city's visual arts community; a result of his strikingly colorful paintings and sculptures adorning galleries and private collections about town.

But what most don't know is that Frayne holds a legacy of having headed-up one of the most popular and prominent live-music acts in America, back in rock and roll's glory days of the early and mid- 70's'. That band was the rollicking Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen.

How prominent were they, one might ask? How about this: they produced one of the most recognizable hit singles of the period (Hot Rod Lincoln) and one of the Top 100 Greatest Albums of All Time (Live from the Heart of Texas), as deemed by Rolling Stone magazine.

Frayne will don his Commander Cody persona for a special one-night performance in his adopted hometown, a 9PM show at The Parting Glass Pub on Saturday, November 19. Advance tickets for the affair --- which is doubling as the informal post-wedding reception for Frayne and his new bride Sue --- are available at the venue's website ($16) or at the door on show night ($20).

Formed in the University of Michigan scene of the later 60's (while Frayne was completing his Masters in Fine Art), Cody and company soon thereafter made their way to the left coast's Bay Area, recruiting new group members upon arrival. Their piano-driven boogie woogie-meets-western swing offered up a fresh new twist for the emerging roots-rock movement of the day. Local shaker Bill Graham plugged them into the orbit of contemporaries like the Grateful Dead and (later) their cosmic cowboy cousins the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and the party was on.

In 1971, the group debuted on vinyl with Lost in the Ozone, which included the radio friendly Hot Rod Lincoln. From there, the touring road became their constant companion. The Dead heads, college kids and even the outlaw country crowd all bought into the traveling circus of mayhem and merriment. The bus kept rolling thru five more highly acclaimed albums and hundreds of concerts, finally coming to a dead halt in 1977. 'Unscrupulous management' is to blame, according to Frayne.

The Airmen scattered to various parts and careers, some musical, some not. Guitarist John Tichy, for example, went on to become chair of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering (yes: you read that right) at RPI in Troy. Frayne himself dipped his feet in two different buckets, reviving his somewhat dormant painting and sculpture career while at the same time continuing to hit the stage as the Commander Cody Band (without the Lost Planet Airmen), albeit on a more limited schedule than back in the day. Reunions shows with the originals have popped up over the years, however.

Frayne setup camp in the Spa City (Gansevoort, technically) in 1998, giving in to the the prompting of his native second wife and figuring the area's central location made for easy trips to the nearby major markets. He's been there ever since, blending nicely into the burgeoning arts scene underway and in-flight there. As examples he has a sculpture on permanent display at the Saratoga Auto Museum, is frequently curating his own works at local group and one-man shows, and yes—he painted one the city's beloved thoroughbred sculptures a few years back. Did we mention he is also an acclaimed video artist and art-book publisher?

But lest not forget the music, for that performance bug will never fade away. In his own words, George Frayne and his alter ego are “still trying to pound that piano into submission.”

Commander Cody Band
In Concert
A Special Hometown Celebration of George & Sue's Wedding
Saturday, November 19
9PM, All Ages

The Parting Glass
40-42 Lake Ave
Saratoga Springs NY 12866
$16 Advance Tix / $25 VIPs Tickets : BUY THEM HERE

Read of Cody's encounter with Hunter S Thompson, here in an interview on the very kewl Free George blog.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful show! What a character. Big crowd, all of them in a great mood. I'm glad he has a place to play in town now, after Siro's sent him packing.

"OK, everybody on three: FUCK Siro's!"