Written by Jim Bille
Oct 20, 2006 at 08:00 PM
ImageBill Kirchen jake-braked into town Saturday night with his diesel-billy twang for a show at the Continental Club.  Kirchen has been haulin’ his sound around for quite some time and is a real treat to see.  In earlier days, with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Bill supplied some of the best guitar pickin’ out there.

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were instrumental in introducing country rock-a-billy music to a new listening audience back in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  The seminal ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’ was a huge hit for the band and is still heard on a regular basis today.

The Commander and Kirchen went their separate ways back in the mid 70’s and Bill went on to play with such artists as Danny Gatton, Doug Sahm, Emmy Lou Harris, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello.

Kirchen has pursued his solo career with his own bands ‘The Twang Bangers’ and’ Too Much Fun’ to name a few. He also can be found occasionally at Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp in southeastern Ohio giving guitar lessons, or appearing on the lecture circuit as he did for The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC as part of the “Electrified, Amplified and Deified – The Electric Guitar” exhibition in 1996.

I saw Bill and his band ‘Too Much Fun’ a few years back at the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA.  I can say that he is hands down the best rock-a-billy twanger on the scene today, and he reconfirmed this on Saturday night.

His show at The Continental seemed to cover all the bases with songs that included Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan’s ‘Stay All Night’, Bill’s own ‘Mama Hated Diesels’ and Santo and Johnny’s ‘Sleep Walk’.  The final tune for the night was, of course, an extended version of ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’.  A new release is on its way and plenty from this upcoming CD was performed Saturday as well.

Kirchen has been calling Texas home for the past few years and can usually be seen around the state anywhere from Gruene Hall to Houston.  Texas fans wanting to catch Kirchen locally better hurry up, because he told me he plans to move back to the D.C. area soon……and it’s a long haul with a lot of truck stops between here and Virginia.