Stray CatsRock | 2006
In 1979, guitarist/vocalist Brian Setzer, a Massapequa native, along with friends Lee Rocker (born Leon Drucker) and Slim Jim Phantom (born James McDonnell), formed the Stray Cats. The group’s style was based on the sounds of the mighty Sun Records artists of the 1950s—Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash—with a nod to the late swing era style of Bill Haley & His Comets. The band struggled to get a break locally and moved to England, where it took off as part of a major rockabilly revival. The legendary Dave Edmunds discovered the young band and produced their self-titled English debut album in 1981. The hits came immediately: “Runaway Boys,” “Rock This Town,” and “Stray Cat Strut.” And then it was time to return home. The band signed with EMI America and, in 1982, released Built for Speed, a combination of their first two British albums. Soon, the Stray Cats were racking up number one singles on the Billboard charts (“Rock This Town” and “Stray Cat Strut”) and bringing their exaggerated pompadours and colorful tattoos to the MTV generation. In 1983, “(She’s) Sexy + 17” and the doo wop-styled ballad “I Won’t Stand in Your Way” landed them back in the Top 40.
The Stray Cats’ first split came in 1984, but they have reformed periodically to record and tour.