Stray Cats are a rockabilly band that was formed in 1980 by vocalist and guitarist Brian Setzer, upright bassist Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom on drums. The band came out of Massapequa, New York with a style that grew out of the sounds that came from 1950s artists such as Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent and Bill Haley & His Comets. The Stray Cats got their start playing clubs like CBGB's and building a strong local following. The band blended the 1950s Sun Studio sound with elements of punk-rock music to create their own unique sound. Despite their growing popularity, the Cats moved to England in the early 1980's where there was a thriving Teddy Boy revival subculture happening.
Stray Cats’ popularity took off in England and soon record executives from Virgin Records, Stiff Records and Arista Records began to show up at their shows, including members of The Rolling Stones, The Who and Led Zeppelin. While in London, the band met record producer Dave Edmunds who began to work with the band on their self-titled debut album, “Stray Cats,” which arrived in 1981 on Arista Records. The album spawned three hit singles, “Runaway Boys,” “Rock This Town” and “Stray Cat Strut.”
The band's second 1981 album in the U.K., “Gonna Ball” was not as successful. EMI America compiled the best tracks from their two U.K. albums and issued an album titled “Built for Speed” in the United States in 1982. The record went on to be certified double platinum in the U.S. and Canada and was the #2 record on the Billboard 200 Album chart for 26 weeks.
As the band experienced new-found success, conflicts began to emerge among the band members. 1984 saw the addition of guitarist, Tommy Byrnes for the band's upcoming European and U.S. tour, however, the band parted ways after the tour ended with Rocker and Phantom forming a new band with Earl Slick called “Phantom Rocker & Slick.”
Setzer embarked on a solo career and put out a number of solo records. In 1986 the Stray Cats reunited to record “Rock Therapy,” followed by the 1989 album, “Blast Off!,” which was accompanied by a U.S. tour. The band put out two more albums before calling it quits yet again in 1992.
Over a decade later the band reunited in 2004 for a month-long tour of Europe. 2007 kicked off a U.S. tour with ZZ Top and The Pretenders. 2009 saw the band play a show to celebrate Setzer's 50th birthday, and while Setzer is still part of his 1990s swing-revival band, The Brian Setzer Orchestra, the Stray Cats still get together for one-off shows. Rocker continues recording and tours as a solo act in addition to playing with the Stray Cats. Slim Jim Phantom plays drums in the rockabilly band, 13 Cats. Stray Cats were inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006