Neo Rockabilly is actually a British invention but the most popular band of its genre came from America: Stray Cats! Influenced by the original 1950s heroes such as Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran they soon mixed their sound with New Wave and even some Punk Rock elements.
The band was founded in the summer of 1979 by Brian Setzer (vocal, guitar - now leading The Brian Setzer Orchestra), Slim Jim Phantom (drums – real name James McDonell) and Lee Rocker (upright bass – real name Leon Drucker) under the name 'Brian Setzer & The Tomcats.
The band soon changed its name into 'Stray Cats' and strayed over to Great Britain in June 1980 due to the big European Rockabilly revival with its keystone in the UK and bands such as Matchbox, Polecats, Shakin' Stevens, Restless and many more. Some 45rpm singles and their legendary debut album were produced by the great Dave Edmunds and released by late 1980 and early 1981.
Stray Cats definetly created a new sound within the Rockabilly movement! It happened in spring 1981, I went into a scene store that sold clothes and records at a time. I was there on the upper floor to buy a pair of jeans when some unique Rockabilly sound came to my ears right out of the store's cellar. I rushed downstairs and asked for the band. It was Stray Cats and their classic tune 'Runaway Boys'. I was electrified! It's clear, I went home with the record and left the jeans...
I was never that electrified from a sound (except for Elvis Presley – which is another story)!
1982 saw the band supporting The Rolling Stones on their U.S. tour. 1983 was the touring year worldwide supporting their album 'Rant'n'Rave With The Stray Cats' and in 1984 came the first breakup. Setzer went solo and the other cats founded 'Phantom, Rocker & Slick'. But 1986 saw the first Stray Cats reunion and the album 'Rock Therapy'. They continued to issue albums and to tour around the world up till 1992 when Brian Setzer started his very successful project 'The Brian Setzer Orchestra'. Stray Cats had their next reunion during the years 2003-2004 which produced the live CD album and DVD 'Rumble In Brixton'. They had their final reunion in 2008 touring again around the world. Stray Cats are true legends in the wide world of Rock'n'Roll-Rockabilly! - Marc M/Bear Family Records