National Dieselbilly Day is celebrated on June 29 each year. It commemorates the birthday and work of musician Bill Kirchen, the self-proclaimed “King of Dieselbilly.” Kirchen is credited with being one of the founders and forerunners of the Americana genre. He was the lead guitarist of the band Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. He coined the term ‘dieselbilly,’ which refers to a tradition of truck-driving songs, songs that are “from another era when gears still jammed and no little black boxes told tales on the driver.” Kirchen’s career has spanned over five decades and he remains active today.
History of National Dieselbilly Day
Bill Kirchen was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut June 29, 1948, and grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. During his high school days, Kirchen learned how to play the trombone. He soon met folksinger David Siglin and delved into the local folk scene. As he learned the banjo and guitar, his musical interest began to diversify beyond folk music. When he enrolled at the University of Michigan, he founded a “psycho folk-rock” band that later transitioned into a country band. This formed the basis of his future band.
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen was a country-rock band that was formed in 1967 by Kirchen, George Frayne, and John Tichy. In 1969, the band moved to California, where they were deemed musical outlaws. Their music was described as “a collection of rock ‘n’ roll, hard-core country, boogie, and rockabilly sounds produced in a ‘high-octane mix.’” The band ultimately broke up in 1976. After Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Kirchen formed a swing orchestra called Moonlighters. Around 1986, Kirchen moved to D.C. and formed the band Too Much Fun. The band frequently received awards for their music, and Kirchen’s prowess as a guitarist only reached new heights.
Kirchen is credited with being one of the founders and forerunners of the Americana movement. He coined the term ‘dieselbilly,’ which refers to a tradition of truck-driving songs, songs that are “from another era when gears still jammed and no little black boxes told tales on the driver.” Kirchen’s career has spanned over five decades and remains professionally active today.
National Dieselbilly Day timeline
Bill Kirchen is born in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen is Formed.
The swing orchestra, Moonlighters, is formed.
The band, Too Much Fun, is founded.
National Dieselbilly Day FAQs
Where does Bill Kirchen live now?
Kirchen now resides in Texas.
Who is Commander Cody?
Commander Cody refers to the group’s leader and co-founder, pianist, and vocalist George Frayne IV.
Is Commander Cody still alive?
No. George Frayne passed away in September 2021.
National Dieselbilly Day Activities
Listen to Bill Kirchen’s work
What better way to celebrate National Dieselbilly Day than by listening to the legend’s work? Make your own playlist.
Go on a long drive
Even if you don’t have a truck, go on a long drive. Blast a few of Kirchen’s classics along the way.
Talk about it on social media
Kirchen’s work deserves to be celebrated. Get more people involved on the day by sharing it on social media.
5 Interesting Facts About Americana
It’s all things American
Americana is a uniquely American amalgam of folk, blues, country, Appalachian, and gospel music.
On the radio
Americana as a radio format originated in 1984.
Many people love it
The genre is practiced in countries outside the U.S.
Labels are important
Many American labels like Red House Records, Ramseur Records, and Rounder Records specialize in debuting Americana artists.
An Americana category was added to the Grammy Music awards in 2010.
Why We Love National Dieselbilly Day
It honors a legend
Bill Kirchen is a musical legend. National Dieselbilly Day celebrates him and his legacy.
It’s an excuse to listen to his music
Kirchen has a repertoire of Americana classics. National Dieselbilly Day is the perfect excuse to make your own playlist.
It’s a chance to diversify our music taste
Are you new to Americana? National Dieselbilly Day is a perfect opportunity to diversify your taste in music.
National Dieselbilly Day dates