About Lee Rocker (of Stray Cats)
Raw, frantic romps, driving blues and finger-snapping rockabilly Impressive originals Washington Post
Lee Rocker, the man whose muscular slap bass playing fueled The Stray Cats to the top of the charts, is making some of the strongest music of his career. His roots-rocking Alligator Records debut, Racin The Devil, was released on January 31, 2006, followed by a major national tour. Rocker, with The Stray Cats, helped reintroduce rockabilly to a mass audience. Now hes igniting the roots music fire. The new CD is a solid slice of Americana, filled with powerful, original songs and amazing musicianship. And when the band performs live, they leave audiences begging for more.
The Chicago Tribune describes Rockers playing as muscular and passionate. The Washington Post says his music consists of impressive, catchy, driving original songs, frantic romps, finger-snapping swing and brooding slow blues. Rolling Stone declares, Lee Rockers singing naturally captures the spirit of rock n roll. His catchy, well-written songs are very difficult to get out of your head.
With musical muscle from his road-tested band (guitarists Brophy Dale and Buzz Campbell, and drummer Jimmy Sage) Racin The Devil is Rockers most diverse album yet, and a roots music fans dream come true. The CD features twelve songs of scorching rockabilly, roadhouse romps and straight-ahead, old-school rock n roll, highlighted by nine originals that are by far the strongest of his career. And his reinventions of The Stray Cats mega-hit Rock This Town and his first post-Cats band Phantom, Rocker & Slicks Running From The Hounds are foot-stomping and ecstatic statements of pure joy.
This is the best record Ive ever made, says Rocker. I worked harder on this record than any other I have done. I took my time with it and squeezed and twisted all I could out of the band and myself. There were days of wanting to give up and quit and other days I left the studio as happy as a kid. Now that I can sit back and just listen, I can say this is the record Ive always wanted to make.
Born Leon Drucker in Massapequa, Long Island in 1961, to world-renowned classical musician parents, Rocker grew up with music all around him. His father, Stanley, is a Grammy-nominated clarinetist with the New York Philharmonic. His mother, Naomi, teaches music at Hofstra University. So coming to a career in music was an easy choice for Rocker, whose family listened to jazz, blues, and rock while he was growing up.
Rocker began taking classical cello lessons at age eight, and initially hated them, but ultimately grew to enjoy playing. As his ears widened into rock n roll, he picked up the electric bass, and quickly mastered the instrument. During grade school, his close friends included Jimmy McDonnell (later to become Slim Jim Phantom) and Brian Setzer. The three jammed together often, playing a wide variety of rock ‘n’ roll, before discovering classic blues musicians like Muddy Waters and rockabilly giants like Carl Perkins. Rocker picked up the acoustic bass to emulate the sounds he heard on those records, and the band began playing more and more roots music. By 1979, this trio, now known as The Stray Cats, began to single-handedly revive rockabilly music in the U.S. and, eventually, around the world.
Adding a contemporary punk attitude to traditional slap-bass, twangy guitar and drums, The Stray Cats headlined famous New York haunts like CBGBs and Maxs Kansas City, drawing overflow crowds every time they played. They moved to London in 1980 and became an even bigger success, even attracting The Rolling Stones to their shows. The fever-pitch excitement caused a major bidding war between record labels. The groups first American album, 1982s Built For Speed, became a huge hit, and held the #2 spot on the Billboard chart for 26 weeks, right behind Michael Jacksons Thriller.
Non-stop touring took its toll on the band. By 1984 the group was exhausted and decided to call it quits, at least for a while. But the furious touring of the early 1980s turned Rocker into one of the best showmen working in any genre, which left his career options wide open. According to the Orange County Weekly, there has never been a rock n roll bass player more fun to watch in concert than Lee Rocker.
In 1985 Rocker and Phantom hooked up with ex-David Bowie guitarist Earl Slick to form Phantom, Rocker & Slick. They had a minor hit with Men Without Shame. The Stray Cats reformed in 1986, but didnt stay together very long. Rocker, though, kept on rocking, as he befriended and collaborated with his hero Carl Perkins as well as with Dave Edmunds, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Jeff Beck and Willie Nelson.
Rockers solo career took off in 1994 with the release of Big Blue and in 1995 with Atomic Boogie Hour, both on Black Top Records. Four more releases followed, and Rocker toured relentlessly, becoming one of the premiere Americana/rockabilly/roots artists in the U.S. and Europe. In 2002, Rocker toured the U.S. with ex-Elvis Presley guitarist Scotty Moore. His 2003 CD Bulletproof found a large and appreciative audience, as he continued to perform all around the country. That same year, The Stray Cats reunited for an 18-city tour of Europe, culminating in a filmed show at Londons Brixton Academy. The show was released on DVD as Rumble In Brixton in 2004.
With Racin The Devil, Rocker has made the best solo album of his career. From garage rockers and deeply textured roots anthems to the rockabilly sounds he helped reinvent, the album is a rich piece of Americana, as timeless and unique as the music Rocker fell in love with as a youngster. The originals bite with a powerful snap, the covers become his personal statements, and the playing is first-rate, raucous, rocking and fun. Rocker spent over a year making this record, more time than hes ever devoted to any other album, and he couldnt be prouder. I like to do something different on each album I do, he says, and this is by far the most diverse CD Ive ever done. A full tour calendar will bring Rockers high-energy live shows to fans across the country. From roots rock to rockabilly to swinging blues, Racin The Devil is a sure bet to win.
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