Grammy nominated guitarist, singer and songwriter Bill Kirchen first gained national recognition as a founding member of Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen. They recorded seven albums for Paramount and Warner Brothers, one of which (Live From Deep in the Heart of Texas) rightfully made Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Best Albums of All Time.” The original band established its place in the infancy of the Americana movement by being one of the first and only rock ’n’ roll bands to infuse their honky-tonk sound with pure, blood-and-guts country roots and Western swing. It’s Kirchen’s indelible guitar licks that define their top-ten charting hit, “Hot Rod Lincoln,” a song that eventually took on a post-Cody life of its own.
He has released a dozen CDs under his own name, and recorded and/or played guitar live with a who’s who of Americana and Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll, among them Gene Vincent, Link Wray, Bo Diddley, Hazel Dickens, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Narada Michael Walden, Doug Sahm, Hoyt Axton, Emmylou Harris, Maria Muldaur, Dan Hicks, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello.
Before Bill Kirchen ever picked up a Telecaster he was a classical trombonist. That’s what he was studying as a teenager at Interlochen Center for the Arts in the early 60’s when he first fell for the guitar, in part due to the blossoming “folk scare” [his words] and in part thanks to his guitar-playing cabin counselor, Dave Siglin (founder of The Ark in Bill’s hometown Ann Arbor, Michigan). Just turned 16, Bill rescued his mom’s old banjo from the attic, got a copy of Pete Seeger’s How to Play the 5-String Banjo book and hitch-hiked to the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. Kirchen: “I witnessed stuff that knocked me out – Lightnin’ Hopkins, the Kweskin Jug Band, Son House, Johnny Cash, the Staples Singers, my original guitar hero Mississippi John Hurt. The top of my head flipped open and it’s never shut. It ruined me for normal work.” His strikingly powerful Dylan covers are staples of the live show.
Bill still keeps up an intense international touring schedule, recording and playing 200+ days a year.
His latest recording Transatlanticana, released in North America on Red House Records, went immediately onto the Americana Top 40 Radio chart and stayed for 5 months, cracking the Top 10 in 2016.