Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

Dieselbilly for the Long Hairs

Somebody [the Commander himself, I would later learn] went to considerable effort to stitch together all these images to tell the story behind Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen‘s “Truck Stop Rock” from 1972’s Hot Licks, Cold Steel & Trucker Favorites album — the least you can do is watch:

“Truck Stop Rock”

Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen (1972)

Five of the band members – Billy C. Farlow, “BuffaloBruce Barlow, Andy Stein, Bill Kirchen, and the Commander himself – would get credit for penning this two-minute blast of truckabilly bop from their second album.

Front side


Flip side

Commander Cody & LPA's 2nd album-b

Years later, an impressionable yours truly would find himself in the same metropolitan area as Kirchen, who helped inaugurate a series of free summertime public performances, “Silver Spring Swings” – along with Jack O’Dell & Johnny Castle i.e., Too Much Fun.   Kirchen and company would also tear the root off Silver Spring’s Half Moon BBQ [RIP], a shotgun shack of a venue with a teeny little stage and almost certainly the world’s smallest balcony (check out this shot of Dagmar & the Seductones photographed from same).  Kirchen would confer between sets with this young dieselbilly scholar and once even direct him/me to a fairly obscure (and gruesome) truckin’ tragedy by Johnny Bond, 1967’s “Gears” from Starday’s Man Behind the Wheel album.

Starday's 'Man Behind the Wheel' LP

Kirchen and his trusty Telecaster serve as the world’s ambassadors for the gloriously satisfying deep, twangin’ sound of truck driving country music.  Kirchen himself is to blame for the contagion that directly fueled Zero to 180’s obsession with the whole truckin’ musical subgenre.

2001’s Tied to the Wheel

Bill Kirchen & Too Much Fun

Kirchen would relocate to Austin, Texas in 2011 but return to Montgomery County, Maryland at the end of that year to perform at Germantown’s Black Rock Center for the Arts — shortly after Zero to 180’s third all-truck driving radio show at WKHS (with host, Martin Q. Blank, son of the late, great Charlie Coleman).  After the show, the ‘Dieselbilly Kid’ would get a chance to tell Kirchen directly that his guitar work had graced three of the 50+ songs that were broadcast on WKHS’s airwaves to the good folks in the Chesapeake Bay area on November 11, 2011 (11/11/11, for real):  (1) “Truck Stop Rock” by Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen; (2) “Semi Truck” (recording from 1996 trucker tribute album Rig Rock Deluxe that features Kirchen’s Telecaster paired with a 6-string bass), and (3) this harrowing bit of science fiction from 2001 album Tied to the Wheel, that was written by Cody and Kirchen (backed by Johnny Castle and Jack O’Dell on this track):

Truck Stop at the End of the World

Bill Kirchen & Too Much Fun (2001)

Good news:  Bill Kirchen is on tour!  Even better news for DC people. Commander Cody will join Kirchen for a set this Saturday – tonight! – at The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA.

Link to previous piece about the performance art troupe – The Galactic Twist Queens – who accompanied Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen during their earliest years in Ann Arbor.

Dagmar & the Seductones

Silver Spring‘s Half Moon BBQ

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