Commander Cody - vocals, keyboards; Bruce Barlow - bass; Bobby Black - pedal steel guitar, vocals; Tom Flye - percussion; Cisco G - saxophone; Darius Javahler - guitar; Fred Myer - drums; Nicolette Larson - background vocals; Charra Penny - background vocals
This was an important show for Commander Cody (a.k.a. George Frayne), for a number of reasons. First off, it was the Manhattan coming out party for his new group, entitled simply the Commander Cody Band. Also, having recently recorded what was considered his first "solo" album, Midnight Man, Frayne was eager to showcase new material for a captive audience over the nationally syndicated King Biscuit Flower Hour, who recorded the performance.
Although they had attained a fair amount of success recording on the Paramount Records label (including a Top 40 hit with a re-make of the 1958 rockabilly classic, "Hot Rod Lincoln"), Frayne's previous big band group, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, had fallen on hard times after switching to a major label, Warner Brothers Records, in 1975. Warner Bros. had no idea how to market the pro-hippie, pot enthusiasts who played a sassy blend of country-swing, old time rock 'n' roll and classic rockabilly material. The band eventually splintered in 1976, after recording We've Got a Live One Here during their European tour that year.
When he returned to the road, the Commander enlisted a new group to replace the Lost Planet Airmen. Now dubbed the Commander Cody Band, the new lineup featured two key members from the Lost Planet Airmen - bassist Bruce Barlow and pedal steel guitarist Bobby Black. Having Black on board, in particular, was crucial to re-capturing the sound that characterized the Lost Planet Airmen. Frayne used the broadcast to promote songs from Midnight Man, released on the newly formed Arista Records (headed by Clive Davis), but had no problem playing a healthy amount of his hits from the Lost Planet Airmen days. "Beat Me Daddy, Eight To the Bar," "Rumba Girl," "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!," "Down To Seeds and Stems Again" and "Lost In The Ozone" are among the crowd pleasers heard here.
A special guest on the tour was vocalist Nicolette Larson, who had scored a big hit of her own with Neil Young's "Lotta Love." She lends her voice mostly to the newer material, and she, along with co-vocalist Chandra Penny, provide strong backing vocals throughout the set. Frayne ends the show with a double whammy of Leiber and Stroller's "There's A Riot Goin' On" and his own "Lost In the Ozone Again."
After recording a few albums on Arista, Cody returned to the Lost Planet Airmen as a name for his back-up band, and released a series of albums on a number of independent labels. He continues to tour and record, but his latest offerings have been mostly live albums, on which he can still easily combine his musical ability and a ferocious sense of humor. Musically, Commander Cody and all of his bands have been similar to Asleep at the Wheel, with an emphasis more on rockabilly and less on country swing. Like his contemporary, Frank Zappa, Frayne has always incorporated humor into his live show - and this performance is no exception. Unfortunately, he has never gotten credit for his enormous talent as a piano player, though his skills are clearly evident on this recording. Regardless, if humor and talent are what you crave in a live show, look no further than this fine, rollicking campaign.