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Stray Cats are a rockabilly band formed in 1979 by guitarist/vocalist Brian Setzer (Bloodless Pharaohs/Brian Setzer Orchestra) with school friends Lee Rocker (bass) and Slim Jim Phantom (drums) in the Long Islandmarker town of Massapequa, New Yorkmarker. The group had several hit singles in the UKmarker, Australia and the U.S.marker during the early 1980s.


Formation and move to UK

The group, whose style was based upon the sounds of Sun Records artists from the 1950s and heavily influenced by Bill Haley & His Comets, had little initial success in the New York music scene. When Setzer heard that there was a revival of the 1950s Teddy Boy youth subculture in England, the band moved to the UK. The band found themselves in the midst of a nascent rockabilly revival, with youth wearing drape jackets, brothel creepers and updating the 1950s look by using hairspray instead of grease to style their hair and by wearing bright, "loud" colours.

After a gig in London, 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, Stray Cats, released in England in 1981 on Arista Records. They had three hits that year with "Runaway Boys", "Rock This Town," and "Stray Cat Strut." The UK follow-up to Stray Cats, Gonna Ball, was not as well-received, providing no hits. But the combined sales of their first two albums was enough to convince EMI America to compile the best tracks from the two UK albums and issue an album (Built for Speed) in the U.S. in 1982.

Breakup and reunions

Steve Huey, in an Allmusic biography of the band, describes later developments as follows:

Personality conflicts began to emerge in the ways that the individual members handled their new-found success; Phantom married actress Britt Ekland, while Setzer made guest appearances with stars like Bob Dylan and Stevie Nicks and became the concert guitarist for Robert Plant's Honeydrippers side project. In late 1984, Setzer broke up the band. Rocker and Phantom formed a trio called Phantom Rocker & Slick (the "Slick" being former David Bowie guitarist Earl Slick), while Setzer went on to a solo career, exchanging his rockabilly focus for a more wide-ranging roots rock/Americana sound on albums such as 1986's The Knife Feels Like Justice. In 1986, the Stray Cats reunited in Los Angeles, and recorded the covers-heavy Rock Therapy, which sold poorly. In 1989, they reunited once again for the album Blast Off!, which was accompanied by a tour with US blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. No longer with EMI America, they entered the studio with Nile Rodgers for the lackluster Let's Go Faster, issued by Liberation in 1990. 1992's Dave Edmunds-produced Choo Choo Hot Fish also attracted little attention, and after another covers album, Original Cool, the group called it quits again.

In 2002, the album Forever Gold was released on the St. Clair Entertainment label. It contained four direct-to-record acoustic studio takes, plus eight live recordings (including a seven minute version of "Rock This Town"), without locations or credits being provided. According to one reviewer, "The sound is a bit thin, especially since Slim Jim Phantom used a minimal drum kit of snare, cymbal, and bass drum. Listening to the performances of Fishnet Stockings, Rumble in Brighton, Double Talkin' Baby, and Rock This Town reminds you why this band, rockabilly or otherwise, was one of the most exciting of the early '80s."

In 2004, the Stray Cats reunited for a month-long tour of Europe. A live album culled from those concerts, Rumble In Brixton, included one new studio track, "Mystery Train Kept A Rollin'." In 2007, they reunited once again for a successful and long awaited US tour with ZZ Top and The Pretenders. This was their first North American tour in over 15 years. In the 2000s, the band toured Europe as part of their Farewell Tour.

In early 2009, for the first time in 18 years, the Stray Cats visited japanmarker and New Zealandmarker which included several consecutive sold out shows on their Farewell (Australia) Tour.

Band members' follow-up careers

The Stray Cats have reunited periodically for live performances. Setzer is still part of his 1990s swing-revival band The Brian Setzer Orchestra. Rocker and Phantom went on to form Swing Cats as well as releasing some solo material. Slim Jim Phantom also plays the drums in another rockabilly band 13 Cats, as well as the Rock and Roll band The Head Cat with Lemmy (Motörhead) and Danny B. Harvey (13 Cats, RocKats). The band was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on October 15, 2006.


  • European Tour 2004
  • North American Tour 2007
  • Farewell Tour 2008-2009



  • Stray Cats (1981) (UK only) - UK #6
  • Gonna Ball (1981) (UK only) - UK #48
  • Built for Speed (1982) (American debut - 11 songs extracted from first two UK albums plus the title track, which had not been available in the UK.) - US #2
  • Rant N' Rave with the Stray Cats (1983) - US # 14/ UK #51
  • Rock Therapy (1986)- US #122
  • Blast Off! (1989) - US # 111/ UK #58
  • Let's Go Faster! (1990)
  • The Best of the Stray Cats: Rock This Town (1990)
  • Choo Choo Hot Fish (1992)
  • Original Cool (1993)
  • Forever Gold (2002), St. Clair Entertainment; re-released 2007, Rock-A-Billy.
  • Rumble in Brixton (2004)

UK singles

7" vinyl singles with catalogue numbersIssued on Arista Records:
  • 1980 "Runaway Boys" / "My One Desire" - SCAT 1 - UK #9
  • 1981 "Rock This Town" / "Can't Hurry Love" - SCAT 2 - UK #9
  • 1981 "Stray Cat Strut" / "Drink That Bottle Down" (Recorded Live) SCAT 3 - UK #11
  • 1981 "You Don't Believe Me" / "Cross That Bridge" - SCAT 4 - UK #57
  • 1981 "Little Miss Prissy" / "Sweet Love On My Mind" (Live) & "Something Else" (Live) - SCAT 5
  • 1983 "(She's) Sexy + 17" / "Lookin' Better Every Beer" - SCAT 6 - UK #29
  • 1983 "Rebels Rule" / "Looking Out My Backdoor" - SCAT 7

Issued on EMI Records:
  • 1989 "Bring It Back Again" / "Runaway Boys" (Live) - MTS 62 - UK #64
  • 1989 "Gina" / "Two Of A Kind" - MTS 67

U.S. singles

Issued on EMI America Records
  • 1982 "Rock This Town" / "You Can't Hurry Love" - B-8132 - #9 US
  • 1982 "Stray Cat Strut" / "You Don't Believe Me" - B-8122 - #3 US
  • 1983 "(She's) Sexy + 17" / "Lookin' Better Every Beer" - B-8168 - #5 US
  • 1983 "I Won't Stand In Your Way" / "I Won't Stand In Your Way" (A Cappella Version) - B-8185 - #35 US
  • 1984 "Look At That Cadillac" / "Lucky Charm" - B-8194- # 68 US

French singles

Issued on Arista Records

Arabella Eurodisc Distribution.

  • 1981 "Little Miss Prissy" / "Cross That Bridge" - #103812 or AE 130

Band Members

Current Members

Former Members


  1. Steve Huey, Biography of The Stray Cats;, with minor edits.
  2. Al Campbell, Review of Forever Gold, Allmusic.

External links

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