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Stray Cats Artist Profile

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Stray Cats Artist Profile Album Cover Image Courtesy of Capitol Records

Formed:

1979 in Massapequa, Long Island, New York

Band Members:

  • Brian Setzer (born April 10, 1959 in Massapequa, NY) - Lead vocals, guitar, songwriter
  • Lee Rocker (born Leon Drucker on August 3, 1961 in Massapequa) - Upright bass, slap bass, bass guitar, background vocals
  • Slim Jim Phantom (born James McDonnell on March 21, 1961 in Brooklyn, New York) - Drums, percussion

Overview:

Most fans of the Stray Cats probably grasped only marginally the retro rock and roll heritage the band was celebrating, but that didn't stop record buyers during the new wave era from going wild for the group's radio-ready brand of rockabilly. Complete with pompadours, leather jackets and a general greaser appeal, the trio cut rock music to its bare bones, contrasting frontman Setzer's fluid lead guitar style with the straightforward backbeat focus of his rhythm section. Ultimately, the band failed to carry its initial popularity deep into the decade, but Stray Cats did almost single-handedly keep old-fashioned rock and roll alive at the dawn of MTV.

Early Years & Fast-Developing Stardom:

Although the trio initially left its homeland behind for a jaunt to England, a place where pub rock and rockabilly had long been celebrated at a high level, the group returned in time to maximize the success of its early records made in the U.K. and produced by throwback roots rock favorite Dave Edmunds. This early work, which contained signature hits "Rock This Town" and "Stray Cat Strut," eventually hit American audiences in the form of a 1982 reissue, helping the trio go on to become one of the most popular and promising acts of 1982 and 1983. Soon after, "(She's) Sexy + 17" became the band's third straight Top 10 American pop hit within a one-year span.

Break-Up & Continuing Legacy:

In a way not unlike some of the '50s pop culture figures from which the band drew inspiration, Stray Cats were basically over almost as soon as they began, especially in America. Having broken up before the middle of the decade and appearing together only occasionally throughout its second half, the trio ultimately served far more as legend than working artists. Nevertheless, the Stray Cats' success helped prove that retro rock styles stood a chance in the emerging video age and generally helped expand the possibilities for popular music exhibiting appreciation for rock and roll's past.
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