The Stray Cats were formed in 1980 to play good old fashioned rockabilly in the Eddie Cochran style, which if you remember 1980 wasn’t exactly what everyone else was doing. They were popular in the New York City scene but weren’t able to break through to the airwaves. At the time there was a revival of the Teddy Boy scene in the UK so they decided to try their luck across the pond. Here they are in 1981 on the West German show Rockpalast:
They were a huge success in the UK and throughout Europe but still unkown in their home country. Later in 1981 they made the trip to Los Angeles to appear on ABC’s Saturday Night Live ripoff, Fridays. Despite not being punk, disco, new wave or hard rock I’d say the kids loved it:
To get an idea of how different this was from the crap on the radio at the time, take a look at the Billboard top singles of 1981:
Bette Davis Eyes
Blech. EMI finally released a Stray Cats album in the US in 1982 and they enjoyed several hit singles on the strength of heavy MTV air play. Overnight success took it’s toll and they foolishly broke up in 1984, only to reunite two years later but they never quite regained their momentum. They continued to play some great live gigs throughout the 80’s, like this one in Paris, 1989:
Unfortunately a rockabilly band, no matter how good, is never going to have wide mainstream appeal once the novelty wears off. The Cats never gave in to pressure to change their style, never added a synth player or a teamed up with a rapper or any of that nonsense. These days Brian Setzer is still rocking that Gretsch, playing swing and rockabilly standards with The Brian Setzer Orchestra. Make sure to check ’em out when they come through your town.
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