Vietnam veterans are in town this weekend for an event called LZ Lambeau. It’s being billed as a long-overdue welcome home. There are four days of events, with the biggie tonight at Lambeau Field.
One of the bars within walking distance of the stadium booked the Commander Cody Band for Friday night.
They once were called Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. They’ve long been a guilty pleasure, and I’ve never seen them, so I went.
The group is just a quartet these days, not the eight-piece big band of old. It’s still fronted by the fine piano player George Frayne and it still cranks out a crowd-pleasing mix of rock, boogie, country and swing.
Good show, but an interesting vibe, one I’d not experienced in quite some time.
As you’d expect, most folks at the show wore something, most often black, proudly proclaiming themselves as Vietnam vets. That also made it clear who was not. Even though it was a friendly, mellow crowd of about 200 that turned out for Commander Cody, it still left me feeling a little like a party crasher.
I’m in my early 50s, and I’m too young for this group. Always will be. I didn’t graduate from high school until five weeks after the fall of Saigon.
So there’s that, and there’s this.
The band was set up in a banquet hall with a couple of cash bars along the side. Seeing all the slightly older folks at the bar and on the dance floor, it felt like I was crashing another wedding at the Colonial Ballroom, a big old rural dance hall not far from where I grew up.
If anyone was on to me one way or the other, they were cool about it. We were all digging Commander Cody, anyway. Here’s a little of what we heard. All are live tracks. The Commander is best heard in the wild.
“Down To Seeds and Stems Again Blues,” Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, from “Lost in the Ozone,” 1971. Recorded live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in April 1971.
Frayne proclaimed it the only slow song they play, and it was.
“Beat Me Daddy (Eight to the Bar),” Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, from “Live From Deep in the Heart of Texas,” 1974. Recorded live at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas, in November 1973.
This is what they play to pick up the pace after playing that slow song.
“Lost in the Ozone,” Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, from “We’ve Got a Live One Here!” 1976. Recorded live in England in January or February 1976.
This closed those long-ago shows, and it closed Friday night’s show.