I always check the Gazette when it comes out to see who is playing. One day the new Gazette had a small headline at the bottom of the cover: "The Return of the Textbook of the Telecaster". I turned right to the page to see what this was about. There was a half-page article about Bill Kirchen who was coming to town that Saturday night (03/25/00). I had never heard of him but it sounded like a show to see. He was the guitarist in the original lineup of Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, a psychedelic/country/folk/rock'n'roll band who had a hit in the early 70's with "Hot Rod Lincoln". The show was at the Blue Door, which I had never been to. The place holds about 100 and wasn't quite full. I got to sit on the front row. Man, oh man, did I get a guitar lesson. This guy is definitely the master of the Telecaster. Whenever I see someone like this it has the opposite effects of making me want to give up trying to play the guitar but on the other hand inspiring me to go home and practice like crazy. His band is called Too Much Fun. He had just a drummer and bass player with him, who both also sang. They played all kinds of rockabilly, country, and rock and roll. "Hod Rod Lincoln" has been turned into a showcase where he strings together dozens of little quotes from all kinds of great guitar players. They also did another old Commander Cody song, "Seeds and Stems Again". He's got about 4 records out and they did lots of songs from those. He's not only a great guitar-player but a great showman with lots of positive energy. For the gearheads: he had a Fender Deluxe Reverb amp and a couple of old Fender Telecasters. He played the first half on a Tele that looked like it had seen some use, it was either plain wood or a yellow finish with a black pickguard. For the second set, he used a Tele that looked like it had been through several wars. He said he had been playing it for 30 years. The finish (once cherry) was worn off of most of the body. He had 3 pedals on the floor, all made by Boss: Turbo Overdrive (CD-2), Delay (DM-3), and a Chromatic Tuner (TU-2). One of the first things that caught my attention was how he used the volume knob on the Tele to create a sound like a pedal steel. He used that effect alot, sometimes to imitate a car or truck horn (some of his songs are what he calls diesel-billy). I guess that's a standard technique but I had never seen it. He had a trombone with him, which he got out for one song. My buddy who went with me got one of his records, Raise a Ruckus, which I got to listen to a little bit later that night - it's great. I would assume all of his records are cool. I'll be getting them someday. If you ever have a chance to see this guy, don't miss him!
Rockabilly Hall of Fame
AllMusic Guide Entry
The 2 O'Clock Cowboy Interviews Bill Kirchen
Commander Cody - Official Site
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