SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Resident music legend George Frayne, leader of the band Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, passed away in Saratoga Springs at age 77 on Sunday, September 29. His high-energy music and countless local concerts left a legacy.
“Hot Rod Lincoln” hit number 9 on the Billboard hot 100 in 1972. The rockabilly cover featured the eight-member band with Frayne on vocals and the keys.
Frayne assembled Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen in 1967 in Michigan. The band moved to California and released their first album in 1971.
They opened for big names like Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, and the Grateful Dead. Although the band disassembled in 1976, Frayne played under the name Commander Cody throughout his life.
NEWS10’s Stephanie Rivas spoke with Steve Barbuto, who joined Frayne’s band as a drummer in 1997.
“The king of the boogie-woogie. No doubt,” Barbuto said. “While his right hand was soloing, he had that left-hand boogie-woogie bass thing going that not a lot of people can do these days.”
The band was never in one category, in a genre most can’t put their finger on. Some say it’s rock others say country or somewhere in between.
Ward Hayden, a bandleader in Massachusetts who has admired Frayne for years, simply called it “truck driving music.”
Hayden had the opportunity to play in the same lineup as Commander Cody at a musical festival in Lake George. His band, Ward Hayden and the Outliers, often covers the Commander Cody song “I Took Three Bennies.”
“He gave them the hits and they ate it right up,” Hayden said. “he came alive.”
Kevin Maul a steel guitarist from Schenectady recalled looking up to Frayne in his youth.
“I knew all the songs because I had been listening to his records for years,” Maul said.
Then in a surprising turn of events, Maul played a few gigs with the Commander at the Hangar on the Hudson in Troy and several more concerts across the Capital region.
Those who played with Frayne recalled the incredible energy he had onstage.
“He took command,” Barbuto said. “When we send out a post, we would always say come and join in the mayhem.”
Barbuto said George was like a brother to him, and although they had ups and downs, he was always there for him.
Steve performed at the Parting Glass in Saratoga with the Commander many times and added that George was the kind of guy that spent all night talking with every person in the room.
Linda Diblasio was working the last time Commander Cody played at the bar, and she echoed the same story. She recalled George arriving early and leaving late to connect with everyone. Diblasio said he never failed to pack the house with people and smiles.
“Anyone who saw him will remember him,” Barbuto said “I hope they just remember that he brought a lot of joy with his music, a lot of joy with his art, and people really had fun when they came to see this band.”