Puremusic interview with Bill Kirchen

Decades before there seemed to be an act on every block that claimed to be playing Americana music, there were bands that played a style called (and rightly called) Country Rock. They were born in the shadow of Gram Parsons, and the Byrds, and other great bands that attempted to truly merge the sounds of classic Country and rock music. One of the greatest of these acts came out of Northern CA via Ann Arbor Michigan, called Commander Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen.

They came to the Bay Area in 1969, helluva time to arrive. In three short years, their song "Hot Rod Lincoln" was in the Top Ten! There was a fabulous Telecaster lead guitar on that song, and that was Bill Kirchen. Like many great guitarists, Bill has had a lifelong love affair with that particular Fender guitar, and the title song of his new album is about the Fender Telecaster, called "The Hammer Of The Honky-Tonk Gods."

The original cast of The Lost Planet Airmen broke up in 1975. Bill had another great Country-flavored Bay Area band called the Moonlighters, which recorded with Nick Lowe in England. Kirchen's friendship with Nick Lowe continues to the present day; Bill played on and toured with Nick for his last record, The Impossible Bird, and Nick is the bassist on the current and fast rising record of Bill's, which also features lifetime cohort Austin "Audie" DeLone and Geraint Watkins on keyboards, and Robert Trehern on drums. Many great Austin artists make cameo appearances, including Puremusic favorite Cindy Cashdollar on steel.

Bill and I go way back, so it was a stone groove to call and reminisce a bit, but mostly to get his thoughts and feelings on the present, and this record that really feels and sounds like a culmination of the many places he has been. When people talk about twang, especially if it's something they love, they're talking about guys like Bill Kirchen. Personally I think that twang is one of the primordial forces that makes the world go around. It's like electricity--they don't know what it is exactly, but they know it's good for us. But even beyond twang and great guitar playing, The Hammer Of The Honky-Tonk Gods is about great songs and great music by one of the classic American artists, and we're gonna have a little talk with him right now.


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