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Stray Cats

The key group of the early-'80s rockabilly revival, the Stray Cats scored several big hits on both sides of the Atlantic thanksto a striking visual style tailor-made for the early days of MTV, as well as genuine musical chops that evoked the best playersof rockabilly's original heyday. The Stray Cats were formed by guitarist/vocalist Brian Setzer in the Long Island town ofMassapequa, NY, in 1979. At first, Setzer played rockabilly covers in a band called the Tom Cats with his drumming brotherGary and bassist Bob Beecher; however, Setzer soon abandoned that group to join up with newly rechriste ...read more

The key group of the early-'80s rockabilly revival, the Stray Cats scored several big hits on both sides of the Atlantic thanksto a striking visual style tailor-made for the early days of MTV, as well as genuine musical chops that evoked the best playersof rockabilly's original heyday. The Stray Cats were formed by guitarist/vocalist Brian Setzer in the Long Island town ofMassapequa, NY, in 1979. At first, Setzer played rockabilly covers in a band called the Tom Cats with his drumming brotherGary and bassist Bob Beecher; however, Setzer soon abandoned that group to join up with newly rechristened school friendsLee Rocker (born Leon Drucker) and Slim Jim Phantom (born James McDonnell). However, their retro '50s look and sound didn'tgo over well around Long Island, and in the summer of 1980 the group headed to England, where a rockabilly revivalmovement was just beginning to emerge.

After one of their gigs in London, the Stray Cats met producer Dave Edmunds, well known as a roots rock enthusiast for hiswork with Rockpile and as a solo artist. Edmunds offered to work with the group, and they entered the studio to record theirself-titled debut album, released in England in 1981 on Arista. They were popular right out of the box, scoring three straighthits that year with "Runaway Boys," "Rock This Town," and "Stray Cat Strut." The follow-up, Gonna Ball, wasn't as wellreceived, and stung by the negative reviews, the Stray Cats decided to return to the States and make a go of it. Theysigned with EMI America and in 1982 released their U.S. debut, Built for Speed, which compiled the highlights from their twoBritish LPs. Helped by extensive airplay on MTV at the height of the anything-goes new wave era, "Rock This Town" and"Stray Cat Strut" both hit the American Top Ten, over a year after their British chart peaks. As a result, Built for Speed was aleft-field smash, and the Stray Cats were seen as avatars of retro style. Their second American album, Rant n' Rave With theStray Cats, appeared in 1983 and produced another Top Ten hit in "(She's) Sexy + 17," as well as a minor Top 40 entry in thedoo wop-styled ballad "I Won't Stand in Your Way..

Personality conflicts began to emerge in the ways the individual members handled their newfound success; Phantom marriedactress (and former Rod Stewart paramour) Britt Ekland, while Setzer made guest appearances with stars like Bob Dylan andStevie Nicks and became the concert guitarist for Robert Plant's Honeydrippers side project. In late 1984, Setzer broke up theband amid much bad blood. Rocker and Phantom immediately teamed up with guitarist Earl Slick and recorded an album asPhantom, Rocker & Slick, while Setzer waited a couple of years before releasing his roots rock solo debut, The Knife Feels LikeJustice. By 1986, fences had apparently been mended enough for the Stray Cats to reconvene in Los Angeles and record thecovers-heavy Rock Therapy, which didn't sell that well. The trio returned to their respective post-Stray Cats projects, whichboth released albums that performed disappointingly. In 1989, they reunited once again for the album Blast Off, which wasaccompanied by a tour with Stevie Ray Vaughan. No longer with EMI, the Cats entered the studio with Nile Rodgers for thelackluster Let's Go Faster, issued by Liberation in 1990. 1992's Dave Edmunds-produced Choo Choo Hot Fish also attractedlittle attention, and after another covers album, Original Cool, the group called it quits again. They have since reunitedperiodically for live performances. Setzer, of course, went on to spearhead the '90s swing revival with his Brian SetzerOrchestra, which performed classic big band swing and jump blues tunes, as well as Setzer originals. ~ Steve Huey, All MusicGuide « hide

Similar Bands: Batmobile, Brian Setzer, Brian Setzer Orchestra, The Meteors

Blast Off!
1989

3.3
7 Votes
Rant 'N Rave
1983

3.9
15 Votes
Built For Speed
1982

3.8
9 Votes
Gonna Ball
1981

4
13 Votes
Stray Cats
1981

4.2
19 Votes

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