Saturday, December 9, 2023

Stray Cats Bassist Lee Rocker Brings Multimedia Show to Defiance

Defiance, Ohio: Get ready to rock and roll to the rhythm of Lee Rocker, the legendary bassist of The Stray Cats, as he brings his electrifying live performance to the Tinora Performing Arts Center on Saturday, November 11. This is a rare opportunity to witness one of rockabilly’s finest in an intimate setting, and fans of all ages are sure to be thrilled by the unmistakable sound that has made Lee Rocker a household name.

About Lee Rocker

Lee Rocker made his mark singing, playing, standing on, spinning and rocking his giant upright bass as a founding member of the Grammy nominated music group The Stray Cats. The Stray Cats sold over 10 million albums, garnered 23 gold and platinum certified records, and were music video pioneers of MTV. The Stray Cats’ worldwide mega hits “Stray Cat Strut,” “Sexy and Seventeen” and “Rock this Town” have become a part of the fabric of rock and roll. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has included “Rock this Town” as one of the 500 most important songs in rock.

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Lee Rocker has been consistently touring, recording, and performing around the globe since 1980 and has cultivated a fanatically loyal following of rockers, rebels and all types of music lovers. He is known for making his upright double bass appear as if it were a lightweight instrument as he spins, throws it about and stands on it during his high energy and fun concerts. In concerts Lee Rocker shares behind the scenes stories about his days and nights on the road and in the music business for the last 40 years. He rocks every town and leaves every audience cheering.

Check out Toledo City Paper’s exclusive interview with Lee Rocker, below.

You released your last solo album “Gather Round” in 2021. How has the reception been since its release?

It’s been great. My wife and I (safely) traveled across the country during the pandemic, and I wrote that record during that time. It’s a really personal record and one that I’m really proud of. 

What would you say are the pros of using a double bass versus an electric bass guitar?

What I do is rooted in (and is) Americana rockabilly music, and that really is the original rock and roll that everything else sprang forth from. The upright bass (as opposed to an electric bass guitar) is a percussive instrument with notes; and how I play is half percussion, half bass with the slap technique. It’s really the engine that drives this kind of music. 

I grew up in a very musical family where both of my parents were classical musicians. My dad was the solo clarinet with the New York Philharmonic for 61 years, my mom also a clarinetist and music professor in New York. Growing up, a rule in the house was we had to take music lessons on whatever instrument while learning how to read and write music. I first started on cello when I was 6 or 7 years old, then found my way to electric bass. When I discovered blues and rockabilly music, it made me want to get an upright bass. 

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The upright bass is totally a physical instrument, it’s like having another person with me on stage. On my last record, I wrote a song about the upright bass called “Doghouse Shuffle.” In that song, I highlighted how the bass has brought me around the world and paid my bills. It’s always by my side. 

What role does rockabilly play in today’s music, in your opinion?

Lee Rocker, Brian Setzer, and Slim Jim Phantom
Lee Rocker, Brian Setzer, and Slim Jim Phantom of The Stray Cats. Photo by Russ Harrington.

It’s truly an American artform like blues, bluegrass, etc. It’s part of the fabric and sound of America. Straight-up rock and roll is definitely the direct descendant and foundation; it has been and still is a hybrid of blues and country music. For me, it’s taken that sound that started with 50s rockabilly and doing something new with it and not trying to treat it like a “museum piece.” Always trying to keep it fresh and putting my own stamp on it. Something I’ve always tried to do with my solo career and The Stray Cats. 

For the upcoming Stray Cats reunion tour, what are you looking forward to the most?

Getting back with the guys is always super cool. We’ve known each other since we were 10 years old and we’re brothers at this point. It’s been 5 years since the last tour and we’ll be out there again Summer 2024. 

May you please tell us about your solo band?

I have a fantastic band that’s been with me for years. Buzz Campbell (electric guitar and banjo), Larry Mitchel (drums) and Phil Parlapiano (piano, accordion, acoustic guitar). It’s definitely an all star band. 

For these show you’re doing, what made you want to make it a multimedia show?

These shows have really evolved based on everything I’ve done since starting my career when I was 17 years old. I’ve released a lot of records, been on Broadway, done radio, and it was sort of a natural evolution to bring together all of these different things that I’ve done and put it into a concert that’s just a little different. I want to tell stories about life on the road and behind the scenes (think MTV’s Behind the Music). 

I also wanted to “cherry pick” what I think are the most important songs that I’ve been involved with for these concerts. I do a version of the song “City of New Orleans” that I’ve performed on stage alongside Willie Nelson. I’ve toured and worked with Carl Perkins, who was the architect of rock and roll with songs like “Blue Suede Shoes.” I get to talk about my relationship and friendship with Carl. I’ve had Keith Richards on one of my solo records and I get to talk about that as well. And of course, to play songs from and talk about my solo career and The Stray Cats.

I’m a person who’s always looking forward at what’s next down the line. However, it’s nice putting together a retrospective of my career by sharing stories, pictures, and videos from it.

Saturday, November 11. 5921 Domersville Rd, Defiance, OH 43512. 

Doors open at 6:00 PM. Music at 7pm. Ticket starting at $35.

Tanner Wertz

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