About this time last year I wrote the first of a couple of articles about silly songs, spotlighting not only the music but also how modern practitioners such as Weird Al Yankovic have been preceded by generations of musicians. One of those I featured was Phil Harris, whose "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette" was a special favorite of mine.
It's a song that's been tackled by a a lot of different singers through the years, most notably Tex Williams, who was also one of its composers. One of the many other singers was one who was the leader of a rock band that had a minor hit with the tune — but it wasn't their biggest by a long shot.
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen was the colorful name of a very good rock band organized in the Detroit area by pianist George Frayne (aka The Commander) in the late 1960's. The group struggled at first and went through a number of personnel changes, relocating to San Francisco and searching for success in that city's exploding musical scene.
In addition to the Commander, the band featured lead guitarist Don Bolton and John Tichy on steel guitar, a combo that could hold its own with many of the big-name groups of the time. The musicians were at home with everything from rockabilly to Western Swing to R&B, but their best sellers were destined to be songs that were decidedly a little different.
Their biggest hit, 1972's "Hot Rod Lincon," was a novelty song that had earlier been a minor success for country singer Johnny Bond, but it was Commander Cody's lively version that captured the imagination of the listening public (especially teenage boys). It ended up leaping into the top ten on the Billboard pop charts, and the band's success seemed assured.