I awoke this morning knowing I was facing a very special day. Another one of those golden anniversaries. They come around pretty frequently at this age. One of the first things I did once I got settled into my blue La-Z-Boy was to fire off e-mails to George Frayne of Gansevoort NY and Bill Kirchen of Austin TX, two men who helped make it all possible. Here’s what I wrote to Bill (I personalized it a little for George):
“On this day 50 years ago during an all-campus end of classes blowout, I snuck into Hill Auditorium and saw Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen for the very first time, beginning a lifetime love affair with the band and all the crazy hippies in it. To celebrate, I’m playing all my Cody records (yes records; we didn’t have CDs or MP3s in those days. I may make an exception for Let’s Rock, your all time best IMHO). For dinner, Kathy’s excusing me from my usual Saturday cookout so we can go to Krazy Jim’s and get Two Triple Cheese Side Order of Fries!
So thanks for all that joy, the memories, and, yes, fun! Haven’t had too much yet, but I get close sometimes*. I hadn’t gotten deep into my concert poster snitching hobby then, but I exercised my modern snitching skills picking out the poster for this memorable concert right from the Commander’s web site. It now hangs in my entry way.
The celebration began in earnest around 3, when WCBN’s Down Home Show concluded. See the records we’ll be playing. If you get one, get one of the first 2, both from ’71. After that they started practicing and lost something in the process, although they remained the greatest live act going.
You may have figured by now that Mr. Frayne (U of M B.S. ’66, M.F.A. ’68) is Commander Cody and Bill (Ann Arbor High ’66, classmate of James Osterberg (Iggy Pop), with who he was in a band – the Ann Arbor High symphony band, Bill on trombone, don’t know what Iggy played) was lead guitarist. The original band broke up in’ 76 having never struck it rich, and members have carried on in various different guises. My love and interest in their long intertwining careers is a matter for another post. Today is a celebration of the beginning, and all that it opened up. I’m typing this early in the celebration, as the Commander’s music does not necessarily promote the most responsible behavior. At least I won’t be able to do any damage in the kitchen, as we’re going out!
And if you need a reminder of the significance of that menu order, here ya go: (1). That video won an Emmy and is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, ya know.
So there’s a long afternoon and evening ahead of us. We may have to break down and spin CDs or even click Spotify. Somewhere downstairs is a reel-to-reel tape I made of the broadcast of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally at Crisler Arena in December ‘71, which includes CC&HLPAs show-stealing set, on a bill that included John Lennon, Bob Seger, Stevie Wonder, and Phil Ochs. Three of their songs made it on the John and Yoko produced documentary of the event “Ten for Two”. I ripped them off and uploaded them to YouTube. Here they are (2).
The prospect exists of having Too Much Fun*. Won’t know what to do if that happens! We, being elderly, plan to split the two triple cheese order.
Coda: should you wish to visit Krazy Jim’s to have your own triple cheese, there’s a few things you need to know. It’s not as easy as stepping up and ordering the song, as you can do at another campus haunt Angelo’s (3).
First you have to find it. For decades it was on a corner right by South Quad. This is the place Guy Fieri visited in 2009 (4). Several years back the U decided it wanted that patch of land to build its new grad students’ dorm. Fans of great greasy burgers breathed a sigh of relief when Krazy Jim’s emerged at a spot just off Main Street, right next door to another hippie icon, the Fleetwood. The two don’t really compete as the Fleetwood offers a broader menu with longer hours. The management has planted an appendage in East Landfill, and now claim cool diners in 2 midwestern towns (5). Low bar in EL. Do those Spartoons even know what “hippie hash” is? Regardless, the gleaming Ann Arbor spot is perfect for that last stop after a night in the bars.
No outdoor dining at Krazy Jim’s. And they are serious about that COVID thing.
You just walk in and give your order to the guy at the grill who’s going to cook it for you. If you have the temerity to ask for “Two triple cheese side order of fries”, you’ll be met with a stern rebuke to observe the ordering directions so clearly posted on the way in.
This attitude is hardly new. I recall being met with the same impatience for my sloppy ordering when I came in as a student. I lived at West Quad, just north of South, and they didn’t feed you on Sunday nights. Had to eat somewhere.
Before you get a chance to start with your burger instructions, you’ll be asked for your fry order. Their fries are great – thick, light, and crisp – but should you be in the mood for something healthier, they’ll be happy to throw some breaded vegetables into the deep fat.
Now the sequence, first the number of patties. They’re small, so a triple is just a quarter pound. Patties are made 10 to a pound, so calculate away. You can’t get a single. My dainty-eating wifey ruined our song by ordering herself a double.
Then the fried toppings. Then the cheese (no Velveeta). Then the condiments (no secret sauce, alas). We were in and out pretty quick. Not McDonalds, but oh is this a world apart. Everything was plenty hot after the 5 minute drive home.
We had “Let’s Rock” on the car CD player to and from, first CD of the day, IMHO the best Commander Cody album ever. CC&LPA’s breakup was 11 years in the rearview mirror, but Bill Kirchen and bassist Buffalo Bruce Barlow were on board, and Kirchen brought in his buddy from the Moonlighters, his post Airmen gig, Austin DeLone. Great songs, great performances, great production.
As we got home and sat on the deck with beers each, just as the sun was setting, and dived into our burgers, we understood what the ol’ Commander was singing about: “You wanna know where paradise lies?”
- Two Triple Cheese Side Order of Fries – Commander Cody. YouTube 5/2/13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1Cvg5VCpT4
- CC&LPA@JohnSinclair121071. YouTube 3/3/21. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZ21BHiSlJ4
- Angelo’s by Dick Siegel. YouTube 8/23/15. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgzZXtrNreA
- Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger | Food Network. YouTube 5/27/09. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCr8WX61FAc
- FLEETWOOD DINER. The hippest little diners in the hippest Midwest towns… http://thefleetwooddiner.com/