The key group of the early-’80s rockabilly revival, the Stray Cats scored several big hits on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to a striking visual style tailor-made for the early days of MTV, as well as genuine musical chops that evoked the best players of rockabilly’s original heyday. The Stray Cats were formed by guitarist/vocalist Brian Setzer in the Long Island town of Massapequa, NY, in 1979. At first, Setzer played rockabilly covers in a band called the Tom Cats with his brother, drummer Gary, and bassist Bob Beecher; however, Setzer soon abandoned that group to join up with newly rechristened school friends Lee Rocker (born Leon Drucker) and Slim Jim Phantom (born James McDonnell). However, their retro ’50s look and sound didn’t go over well around Long Island, and in the summer of 1980, the group headed to England, where a rockabilly revival movement 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 his work with Rockpile, and as a solo artist. Edmunds offered to work with the group, and they entered the studio to record their self-titled debut album, released in England in 1981 on Arista. They were popular right out of the box, scoring three straight hits that year with “Runaway Boys,” “Rock This Town,” and “Stray Cat Strut.” The follow-up, Gonna Ball, wasn’t as well received and, stung by the negative reviews, the Stray Cats decided to return to the States and make a go of it. They signed with EMI America and in 1982 released their U.S. debut, Built for Speed, which compiled the highlights from their two British 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 a left-field smash, and the Stray Cats were seen as avatars of retro style. Their second American album, Rant n’ Rave with the Stray Cats, appeared in 1983 and produced another Top Ten hit in “(She’s) Sexy + 17,” as well as a minor Top 40 entry in the doo wop-styled ballad “I Won’t Stand in Your Way.”
Stray Cats are available for corporate events, private shows, milestone celebrations (birthday, anniversary), fundraisers, festivals, and more.