It is not true, in spite of the stories you hear on the street in Ann Arbor, that George “Commander Cody” Frayne burned down his fraternity house. True, the brothers had just thrown him out, but there was always the treehouse next door.
It was quite a treehouse, with several floors which looked down on some of the finest campus scenery at the University of Michigan. “It was really chic to have a beer with me in my treehouse and throw the beer cans down at the sorority house,” the Commander remembers. “It became the social center of campus. That was one nice treehouse. It was my major undergraduate achievement.” But somebody was jealous, and one day George found that the treehouse had been condemned and the tree was coming down. It looked suspiciously like the work of the fraternity, and soon after the demise of the treehouse came the total leveling of the frat house.
But for every story that gets debunked, a few more takes its place. Like the one that has the Commander working as a bodyguard for Louis Armstrong. It’s all hero worship, because Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen are most definitely culture-heroes in Ann Arbor. Take the word “Ozone,” for instance. It’s been a Commander Cody word for a long time coming from one of Billy C’s songs that goes: “One drink of wine/Two drinks of gin/And I’m lost in the Ozone again.” Nowadays the word is everywhere. There is an Ann Arbor comic book called Tales From the Ozone, the word appears on the Commander Cody t-shirt some eight times and it’s an essential part of Ann Arbor vocabulary.
But it was not always thus. Like any good band, the Lost Planet Airmen have had their hard times and paid some dues. The band story is at least as strange as some of the stories making the rounds, and even a bit stranger in places. What follows is the true story of the making of one of the very best unknown rock and roll bands in America today, so hold on, here we go — into the Ozone.