The 'Art, Music And Life' Of Commander Cody George Frayne, better known as Commander Cody, has been making music with his band, The Lost Planet Airmen, for decades. But beyond the boogie-woogie, swing, country and rock, there's another side to Frayne: He's also a visual artist. His new book contains pop-art portraits of cultural icons, along with personal anecdotes.
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The 'Art, Music And Life' Of Commander Cody

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The 'Art, Music And Life' Of Commander Cody

The 'Art, Music And Life' Of Commander Cody

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His real name is George Frayne. But if you're an old enough rocker, you probably know him as Commander Cody, who along with his Lost Planet Airmen, has been making music on and off for decades and decades and decades.


COMMANDER CODY: (Singing) Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette. Puff, puff, puff and if you puff yourself to death. Tell Saint Peter at the Golden Gate that you just hate to make him wait. You just gotta have another cigarette.

HANSEN: George Frayne, aka Commander Cody, joins us now from member station WUSF in Tampa, Florida. Welcome to the program.

CODY: Greetings from the sunny South.

HANSEN: And do I call you George? Do I call you Commander? Do I call you Cody? How would you want to be referred to?

CODY: Any one of the three. People call me all those things and more.

HANSEN: Okay. Well, we'll see what happens. This is, I mean, a really entertaining book, just thumbing through it. You've got pop art portraits of musical legends from Willie Nelson and Jerry Garcia to Sarah Vaughan and drawing of a mammoth as a machine, an elaborately painted sculpture of a horse, lots of automobile grills. Are you inspired by a lot of things?

CODY: Well, yeah. There's...


CODY: And that intricate little inner portrait is the kind of thing that we do. I'll take a Harley engine and concentrate on the heating vane and stuff like that.

HANSEN: You say in the book though, I'm probably the only musician who actually stayed in art school. Was there a constant tug between music and art? And how did you manage to balance both?

CODY: My friend Bill Kirchen, the guitar player - famous guitar player now - is out in San Francisco and he's telling me that all the bands out there are starting to become a little countrified. Jerry Garcia is learning how to play pedal steel guitar. You better go out here. And I got to California on June 4, 1969, and by August 28th, we were opening up for The Grateful Dead.

HANSEN: Oh, we want to play a little bit of your most famous song from those days. It's from your first album "Lost in the Ozone," "Hot Rod Lincoln."

CODY: Ah, the big hit.

HANSEN: Yeah, let's reflect a bit.


CODY: (Singing) My Pappy said, son you're going to drive me to drinking if you don't stop driving that hot rod Lincoln. Have you heard the story of the hot rod race where the Fords and the Lincolns were setting the pace? That story is true, I'm here to say, that I was driving that Model A. Got a Lincoln motor and it's really souped up. That Model A body makes it look like a pup. It's got eight cylinders and uses them all. Got overdrive, just won't stall.

HANSEN: Ah, it's nice to have a little nostalgia.


HANSEN: Brings up your love of cars. You know, your book, you have anecdotes of this bygone era. You actually start off with a Hunter Thompson event, which opens with the line: Yes, it's true that the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson once tossed a bomb into my hotel room.

CODY: It wasn't like a bomb. It was more like a bowling ball size group of M-80s all gaffers-taped together. So the bomb didn't go off kaboom. It went off ba, ba, bam, bam, bam, bam.

HANSEN: Oh, my goodness.


CODY: At the time, this was a bummer. But now it makes a great story.

HANSEN: It makes a good story. You know, and I turn the page, the next thing I see is Louis Armstrong. And you were actually what, sort of providing security for...

CODY: Yes. At Jones Beach, you know - I don't know if everyone knows where Jones Beach is...

HANSEN: In New York.

CODY: And they're lining up to go through customs at JFK and Louie is on the end of the line. He realizes, when I get down to the end he's going to get busted. So at that same moment, the famous Richard Nixon, South American tour - we almost got killed by the mob - happens to coincide and into the customs area comes Richard Nixon, followed by all the press, click, click, click, flashbulbs, flashbulbs, hug, hug. How you doing? How you doing, Louie? Hands him the trumpet case and Richard Nixon walks the trumpet case through customs.


CODY: And they're out and he's home free.

HANSEN: I want to flash forward a little bit with your career. I mean, you and your Airmen, your fortunes waxed and waned over the years. You made some poor albums. The band broke up, you semi-retired from music and concentrated on painting. But then you reformed the Airmen. Last year you recorded your first album in almost 20 years on Blind Pig Records...

FRAYNE: Right.

HANSEN: ...and "Dopers, Drunks and Everyday Losers." I want everyone to hear your remake of your earlier classic "Wine Do Your Stuff."


CODY: (Singing) Today was the last day of business for a fool. So I stopped in here like I always do before I lose my cool. I need to make my mind relax, I think I've had enough. Come on wine, wine, wine, do your stuff.

HANSEN: I have to say, in this era of clean and sober living, your songs and stories are unabashedly pro-decadence. Is that the stand you still take?

CODY: Yes, thank you.


CODY: Someone's got to carry the flag.

HANSEN: Well, is it fun to be out there playing gigs again? It sounds like it is.

CODY: Oh, it sure is. You know, not just playing three sets, four sets a night at sleazy bars, you know. I'm back doing the regular show bars and the comeback has been really great. I mean, who would've known that I would even live to be 65 years old, let alone be healthy and doing really well? Well, healthy except for the fact that I still walk with a little bit of a limp from the giant collision I got into. But other than that, I'm doing pretty good. And Lord knows, I'm still alive and rocking.

HANSEN: Sure. And can you separate the satisfaction you get from music from the satisfaction of making art? Or is it all part of it all?

CODY: Well, yeah. It's completely different.


CODY: A lot of times I'll do a painting and it's not going very well and sometimes I'll paint that over with white and start again. Sometimes I'll put it aside and pick it up five years later.

HANSEN: George Frayne, also known as Commander Cody. His new book is called "Art, Music and Life." Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us.

CODY: My pleasure. My pleasure. Thanks a lot.


HANSEN: You can see paintings by George Frayne and hear Commander Cody's music at

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