Lifestyle, News

Guitar legend Bill Kirchen performs this Saturday at BuddyLou’s

by Kate Evans

Bill Kirchen, legendary guitarist and singer-songwriter, will be performing at BuddyLou’ s in Hancock on Saturday, July 15 at 6 p.m. Attendance is first come, first served.

Kirchen was a founding member of Commander Cody and His Lost Airmen, who he played with from around 1964-1976. For 50+ years, he has performed across the United States and the world. Kirchen toured internationally with Nick Lowe and recorded with Lowe, and also performed with Elvis Costello, Gene Vincent, Dan Hicks, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Hornsby and many other musicians.

Kirchen will be performing at BuddyLou’s with his bass player Jack Saunders and drummer Rick Richards. Saunders has played with Shake Russell and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Richards has also played with Hubbard as well as Joe Walsh, Hal Ketchum and Gurf Morlix.


Kirchen was named “Titan of the Telecaster” by Guitar Magazine. His lightning guitar picking on Commander Cody’s 1972 version of “Hot Rod Lincoln” took the tune to the top 10 nationwide. Kirchen was also nominated for a Grammy for best country instrumental for his original song “Poultry in Motion.”

Kirchen won a number of Washington Area Music Awards (Wammies) over the years for his songs, vocals and instrumentals, along with singer-songwriter and musician of the year. He was in- ducted into the Washington Area Music Association Hall of Fame in 2002.

Bill Kirchen, legendary guitarist and singer-songwriter and founding member of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, will be performing at BuddyLou’s in Hancock on Saturday, July 15 at 6 p.m.

His music

Kirchen plays a wide variety of music that includes rock and roll, rockabilly, country, western swing, blues, honky tonk, jazz, boogie woogie and roots rock

and roll. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen was one of the original Americana bands, playing music that was far past American boundaries, Kirchen said.

Kirchen’ s performances include original tunes along with songs from his Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen years, tunes from over the decades and songs that he wrote with his wife, singer-songwriter Louise Kirchen.


Kirchen grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan and said he started playing trombone in fourth grade. He got into playing acoustic and electric guitar and banjo after seeing camp counselor Dave Siglin at the Michigan Interlochen Center For the Arts summer camp sing and play guitar. Kirchen thought a guitar would be easier to haul around than a trombone.

Early on Siglin ran The Ark in Ann Arbor, which was a premier music club. Kirchen said. The club is still open and Kirchen is performing there in August.

Kirchen started out on acoustic guitar, bought a Gibson electric and then got a Fender Telecaster in 1968. He said he discovered a whole other world of music with the electric country sound. Kirchen picked a Telecaster because Merle Haggard and Buck Owens played or had Telecasters in their bands.

“That was the sound that appealed to me,” he said.

Kirchen said he loved country blues and that his original guitar heroes were Doc Watson and Mississippi John Hurt. He also loved the Jim Kweskin Jug Band and other old folk music.

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen moved to California and brought Asleep at the Wheel there. Kirchen recalled visiting Asleep at the Wheel in Paw Paw with his wife Louise when Asleep at the Wheel lived. The Commander Cody band housed Asleep at the Wheel in California when the band first got started. Kirchen said the two bands did a lot of gigs together.

Kirchen has highly acclaimed solo albums and formed different bands before and after his time with Commander Cody and His Lost Airmen, including the Moon- lighters, the Seventh Seal and the Who Knows Pickers jug band during senior year of high school. His jug band shared the stage with the Iguanas (Iggy Pop) during their senior year talent show.


Kirchen is famed for his vocals and guitar on Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s recording of “Down to Seeds and Stems Again Blues.”

Kirchen’ s solo albums include “Seeds and Stems,” “Tombstone Every Mile (original and reissue), “Wax- works” “Have Love-Will Travel”, “Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods” and “The Proper Years.”

Kirchen said he backed Nick Lowe on guitar on Lowe’ s albums “Party of One” and “The Impossible Bird.” He also met Elvis Costello while working with Lowe.

Kirchen said he enjoys playing a lot of his original songs at his performances.

“With originals, no one can tell you you’ re doing it wrong,” he quipped. He noted that his best tunes are the songs he’ s written with his wife Louise.

Kirchen just turned 75 years old and said he’ s “a lucky old hippie.” As the years go by with over 50 years performing music, he enjoys it more and more.

“I’m very lucky to be able to do something I love,” he said.

Kirchen said that playing music has given him a rich connection with others. He has friends and connections from music all over the world.

“We’re all friends. I’m traveling with my friends,” he emphasized.

Kirchen has played Buddy- Lou’ s before and said that it’ s a very historic spot.

“I can’t wait to be back,” Kirchen said.