No Surf Music


The No Surf Review


The Lowdown:

Bill Kirchen

Based In:
Austin, Texas



Interview Date:
June 27, 2013

Interview Location:
The Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, Ohio

Lost in the Ozone (1971, with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen), Hot Licks, Cold Steel & Truckers Favorites (1972, CC&HLPA), Live from Deep in the Heart of Texas (1974, CC&HLPA), Tied to the Wheel (2001), Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods (2007), Raise a Ruckus (2008)

Americana, rock, country, roots rock, rockabilly, dieselbilly


Related Articles:

Bill Kirchen



July 10, 2013



Bill Kirchen makes his Telecaster sing onstage at the Beachland Ballroom just after our interview. Photo by Jason D. 'Diesel' Hamad, No Surf Music.

Bill Kirchen

by Jason D. 'Diesel' Hamad


They may not have been as well known as other country rock bands of their era like Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, or the Band, but one group that stands as singularly important in my own musical history is Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.

Cleveland—everybody knows—is a rock n’ roll town, and so I was raised on a steady diet of classic rock and wasn’t even exposed to country at all growing up. That didn’t come until I started backtracking through Dylan in college, landed on Woody Guthrie, rode him to the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, and then started the journey back again through Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Willie, Waylon and the whole outlaw crew, and finally right up to modern Somewhere along the way, though, I started stumbling over old friends, among them the Commander Cody versions of songs like “Willin’” (which I knew long before I’d ever heard of Little Feet or knew Lowell George from George Forman), “Hotrod Lincoln,” and, of course, “Seeds and Stems.” It turns out my classic rock education had included some real country after all, even if it was wrapped up in some crazy organ and screamin’ guitars. Songs like these provided an entryway for me to get into even more country-styled tunes, many of which are now favorites. Thus was converted a Rust Belt rock n’ roll kid from the North Coast. You’ll have to ask David Allan Coe how it happened for him.

Because of that history, getting the chance to talk to the Airmen’s legendary guitar player Bill Kirchen was a particular treat. We chatted about everything from his days as a young musician trading in his trombone for a guitar and classical music for folk, then traipsing to Newport to hear legends like Mississippi John Hurt, Johnny Cash, and (oh, yeah) Bob Dylan when he went electric, to his days on the San Francisco rock scene and how he acquired the Telecaster that would become his trademark, to what it’s like playing all around the world after four decades on the road. One thing’s for sure, Bill Kirchen’s put in a lot of miles and collected a lot of great tales over the years. He shows no signs of slowing down, so it’s likely there are plenty more to come, but for now, sit down, pull up a chair, and listen up while a bona fide guitar legend lays it down.



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For a taste of Bill Kirchen, buy Seeds and Stems on Amazon!
mp3 cd


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