Bill Kirchen

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Bill Kirchen and Austin de Lone team up for a hands-across-the-Atlantic collection with their new studio album, Transatlanticana, out on 3rd March 2017 through Proper Records. This album unites the pioneers of two major musical movements on record for the first time after decades of playing together:

  • Bill co-founded the original “Americana” band, Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, and his trademark Telecaster licks drove their hit “Hot Rod Lincoln” into the Billboard Top 10 in 1972.
  • Austin de Lone dropped out of Harvard to start Eggs Over Easy, moving to London and recording with Jimi Hendrix’s producer/manager Chas Chandler in 1970. The Eggs are the acknowledged progenitors of British “Pub Rock”, the first link in the chain to punk rock, new wave and beyond.

Backed by both their British and American bands, Transatlanticana finds Kirchen and de Lone trading songwriting credits and lead vocals on this soulful and rocking collection.

The supporting cast includes: Gurf Morlix, Butch Hancock, Rick Richards, David Carroll, and Bobby Black (representing USA) with Paul “Bassman” Riley and Malcolm Mills (representing England).

Kirchen and de Lone cut the album on both sides of the Atlantic capturing on disc the best of their 40-year collaboration. In London they recorded at Proper’s SPECIFIC SOUND studio - with Bassman and Malcolm after a UK tour in 2015 - and in USA (Austin and San Francisco) with Rick, David, Bobby, Butch and Gurf. Kirchen is Austin, Texas - based; de Lone is in the San Francisco Bay Area, but both artists have longtime ties with the UK scene. Kirchen has toured as a guitarist with Nick Lowe and this is Bill’s fourth Proper Records album release; de Lone has toured as keyboard player for Lowe and Elvis Costello, who put out his first solo album on UK label Demon Records.

They first collaborated in the mid-1970s, writing together as The Moonlighters: “We sent Nick Lowe a bunch of songs for Rockpile, but unbeknownst to us they had decided to break up,” Kirchen says. What de Lone got back was a letter from Lowe that began, “Dear hero o’ mine. There’s not many of us left…”. Lowe then offered to produce them in London, and the resulting Moonlighters album, Rush Hour, came out in 1983 on the Edsel label. Since then, Bill and Austin have teamed up with Lowe and Costello many times: de Lone has worked with Lowe, Paul Carrack and Costello on several tours and Kirchen held the guitar chair for Lowe’s critically acclaimed Impossible Bird disc and tour.

The songs of Transatlanticana represent all the core elements of American music including R&B, country, rock, blues and gospel.

They kick off with Bill and Blackie’s tribute to the late Merle Haggard and the Bakersfield sound - “Hounds of the Bakersfield”. The song was finished shortly before Merle’s passing. The thunder and lightning ride of an album closes out less than an hour later with a barn-burning cover of “The Times They Are A-Changin’”. It’s an anthemic fresh take on a song you’ve heard a thousand times and somehow these guys infuse it with a singular power that comes from crazy talent, years spent playing together and a deep love of Dylan.

Spirited and served up with wit and humor, Transatlanticana is a ringside seat to these transatlantic sessions by a group of like-minded, top-of-their-game players enjoying each other’s musical company.


1. HOUNDS OF THE BAKERSFIELD: Blackie Farrell and I wrote this tribute song to Merle, not guessing he would be gone a month after it was cut. The very first electric country music I found in the mid-60s was by Merle, Buck and Red Simpson, all stars of the Bakersfield country scene. The sound and vibe of those Capitol records still knocks me out, and that’s exactly why I got a Telecaster. We cut this with the UK crew: Paul Bassman Riley on bass (Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers, plus we played together in Nick Lowe’s band) and Malcolm Mills on drums. Austin of course appears on all songs no matter the longitude. Love this song, but not happy about living in a world with no Merle. BK

2. WINE WINE WINE: One of my favorites from the very first Commander Cody/Billy C songwriting session in Ann Arbor, MI, 1967. Recorded this one in the UK, then out to California to get steel guitar master Bobby Black’s part. Bobby had over 20 mind-boggling years with the who’s who of country before 1972, at which time he joined Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen and became our musical adult supervisor. BK

3. LET’S ROCK: Bill and I wrote this one as a guitar boogie whilst serving under the fearless leadership of Commander Cody in 1985, and it was the title track of an album he released in 1986. AD

4. OXBLOOD: Butch Hancock is one of my favorite writers ever, period. He sang this to me while we were working at a songwriter’s camp, and I could not wait to learn it myself. Butch and I sang it nose-to-nose at the Texas sessions. For this side of the pond we have David Carroll (Ray Price, Billy Joe Shaver) on bass and Rick Richards (Joe Walsh, Ray Wylie Hubbard) on drums. Gurf Morlix was on board, and he cut the killer guitar solo, live. One take. So I guess they used to color concrete with that ox blood. And here I thought it was just an old shoe polish color. BK

5. THINK IT OVER: I got on to Swamp Pop great Jimmy Donnelly’s Think It Over many years ago, and finally got to play it with Doug Sahm in the 90s. David Carroll (bass player on the Texas sessions) and I played on Doug’s very last record, and later on his last gig on Oct 29, 1999. Doug’s a guy we should never forget. BK

6. LOSING HAND: I learned this from the great Ray Charles’ brilliant first Atlantic album. Some of the world’s finest, skankiest, most soulful playing and singing ever. My personal choice for the greatest album of all time. AD

7. WARM AND TENDER LOVE: Loved all the great Memphis soul ballads, and all the fantastic singing that Percy Sledge did, so simple and so sweet. If you ever get a chance to hear the great country album he did don’t miss it — pure soul! AD

8. ALL TORE UP: True love follows a winding, blinding and burning path, but no matter how high or low, that girl never fails to tear me up! AD

9. ALREADY WALKING: Wrote this one with the help of my daughter Caroline, in the midst of a daunting and tragic year which saw sadness and hardships coming at us from all directions. It is hard to sing all the way through, but still thrills. AD

10. BACK IN THE DAY: My wife of 40-plus years, Louise Kirchen, wrote this reflection at our home in Maryland while I was off at the memorial for Lance Dickerson. Lance was the first and so far, the only Lost Planet Airmen to fall from the sky. Louise got to Berkeley California in ’63 and knows whereof she speaks. Texas was in the house for this track. BK

11. SOMEBODY’S GOING HOME: I saw the Staple Singers for the first time in 1964 at the Newport Folk Festival, then waited 50 years ’til I saw Mavis again, when we both performed at the Salmon Arms Fest in Canada. It is a nod to that great family. This was done on both sides of the pond, with Sarah Brown on bass, Louise and Sarah on vocals. Blackie Farrell and me again with the yellow pad and #2 pencil, written as a gospel song without The Gospel. If anyone out there does get the inside memo on posthumous, don’t tell me. Somehow it would spoil everything. BK

12. THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’: Great. Now I’ve got to explain why I like Dylan so dang much. OK, saw him at my high school in Ann Arbor in ’63, Newport Folk Festival in ’64 where he debuted Mr. Effing Tambourine Man, then came to Newport the next year and saw him “go electric” (he’d already released the R’n’R single “Subterranean Homesick Blues") with Bloomfield et al. Incidentally, I heard zero booing. None. I loved it. What I saw those two years at Newport and the diverse music that came through Ann Arbor and Detroit ruined me for normal work. BK


2. SMOKE, SMOKE, SMOKE (that cigarette)

Bill Kirchen has three previous solo releases on Proper Records.

Kirchen’s Cody days began in 1967 when he co-founded 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.

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 ’60s 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.” He’d head for New York when he could, hanging out in the Village and letting the whole scene wash over him. When he went back to Newport in ’65 and saw Dylan go electric, then on to New York City to see the Lovin’ Spoonful at the Night Owl, it “ruined me for normal work.” His strikingly powerful Dylan covers are staples of the live show to this day.

After the California-based Cody band split, Kirchen started his own band, The Moonlighters with Austin de Lone, and cut two more albums before relocating to DC in the mid-’80s. There he started his Too Much Fun trio, released ten more critically-acclaimed albums and began his robust touring schedule of 200-plus dates a year around the country and as far afield as Lapland, Israel and Palestine.

In 2001, Kirchen received a Grammy nomination for his instrumental “Poultry in Motion.” The following year he was inducted into the Washington Area Music Association Hall of Fame, neatly sandwiched between John Phillip Sousa and Dave Grohl. He has played and recorded with a long list of luminaries, including Nick Lowe, Doug Sahm, Elvis Costello, Link Wray, Emmylou Harris, Hoyt Axton and Gene Vincent. Bill is pretty sure that he is the only person to have, in a single year, stood on stage and played with both Ralph Stanley and Elvis Costello.

Now living in Austin Tx., Kirchen maintains his rigorous and far-reaching tour schedule and also teaches at Augusta Heritage Center, Centrum Voiceworks and Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch.

Bill Kirchen - TransatlanticanaTransatlanticana
3 March 2017
Bill Kirchen - Seeds and StemsSeeds And Stems
24 June 2013
Buy CD iTunes
Word To The Wise
19 July 2010
Buy CD iTunes
Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods
29 January 2007
Buy CD iTunes

Upcoming Tour Dates

Date City Venue Country
Thursday, 12th April 2018 Cardiff The Earl Haig Club United Kingdom
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Saturday, 14th April 2018 London The Troubadour United Kingdom
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Thursday, 26th April 2018 London The Troubadour United Kingdom
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