For Bill Kirchen, returning to the AmeriServ Flood City Musical Festival is like coming home to meet up with old friends.
“It’s great to get back, and I have great affection for this festival,” he said.
“I felt like I was connecting with individuals. I got the old trombone out and marched around the crowd with the band. I had some people send me great photos of me interacting with the crowds.”
Kirchen played at the festival in 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2011.
“I’m looking forward to coming back to that nice environment, and I’m sure I’ll see a bunch of familiar faces,” he said.
A Grammy-nominated guitarist and singer/songwriter, Kirchen celebrates America’s musical traditions of rock ’n’ roll, Western swing and California honky-tonk.
“We want people to have fun; this isn’t where we sit there and bear our souls about our angst-ridden lives and make you listen and sympathize, it’s none of that,” Kirchen said. “The music is designed to be fun, and I enjoy entertaining and making it a good time.”
Kirchen co-founded the Americana band Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.
His Telecaster licks drove their version of “Hot Rod Lincoln” into the Top 10 in 1972.
Kirchen has recorded and/or played guitar with a who’s who of music, among them Hoyt Axton, Elvis Costello, Hazel Dickens, Bo Diddley, Sammy Hagar, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Dan Hicks, Nick Lowe, Maria Muldaur, Doug Sahm, Danny Gatton, Gene Vincent and Link Wray.
One of the Commander Cody albums, “Live From Deep in the Heart of Texas,” made Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Best Albums of All Time.”
Kirchen has 13 solo albums.
The most recent, “Transatlanticana,” stayed on the Americana Top 40 Radio chart for five months, cracking the Top 10 in 2016.
He recently finished a four-day reunion tour at his old stomping grounds in California with musicians from the Lost Planet Airmen.
“This was with my old pals from the ’60s and ’70s,” Kirchen said. “The great thing about music is, it creates a sense of community in various places, and to reunite that community of musicians who have played together and be out there in the various places I’ve played was fantastic.”
Kirchen is a winner of multiple Wammie Awards, which recognize musicians connected with the Washington, D.C., area.
In 2002, he was one of three artists inducted into the Washington Area Music Association Hall of Fame, along with
Dave Grohl and John Philip Sousa.
In demand on the lecture circuit, Kirchen has spoken at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., as part of the “Electrified, Amplified and Deified – The Electric Guitar” exhibition and at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.
For those who attend the show, Kirchen is hopeful they’ll walk away with a grin on their faces.
“I hope everybody has a good time, and I hope they get to hear some forms of music they don’t normally get to hear,” he said.
“It’s rock ’n’ roll before they took the roll out.”