In the early 1980s, Stray Cats frontman Brian Setzer stood up in the moshpit of the punk rock/new wave revolution and daringly waved a big, greasy flag for rockabilly. Reviving 1950s-inspired rock ‘n’ roll was far more defiant than it may seem. After all in the mainstream music world, Ozzy was biting off bat heads, The J. Giles Band was scoring with “Centerfold,” and radio was hooked on “Maneater” from Hall and Oates.
Nevertheless, Setzer captured the imagination of the freshman class of the emerging MTV generation with his peroxide pompadour, pleated baggies, patent leather Creepers, and his 1959 Gretsch guitar strapped over his leather clad shoulder. Joined by fellow bandmates Slim Jim Phantom and Lee Rocker, Setzer had hits with “Rock This Town,” “Runaway Boys,” and “Stray Cat Strut.”
Ten years later, he directed his revivalist mojo to the sounds of swing and big-band rock. When the Brian Setzer Orchestra launched in the early 1990s, the music scene was captivated by grunge acts such as Pearl Jam and the gansta rap of Dr. Dre. Undaunted, Setzer turned heads with his audaciously ambitious guitar-led 17-piece band—an idea inspired by watching Doc Severinsen’s orchestra on “The Tonight Show” hosted by Johnny Carson. Setzer’s hipster big-band sound (and his fetching back-up singers) caught on and his sold-out shows became one of the hottest tickets in town. It also garnered Setzer a handful of well-deserved Grammy Awards.
His 2002 Boogie Woogie Christmas album turned out to be a huge hit and Setzer gave Harry Connick Jr. a run for his money as the hippest holiday crooner. The album features a seven-minute swinging version of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite” and is further graced with a duet on “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with actress mcg-Margaret. In December, Setzer and his orchestra were booked for seven national TV appearances in the three weeks prior to Christmas—even performing at the tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center in New York City.
His latest release, Nitro Burnin’ Funny Daddy, returns Setzer to his stripped-down roots. The album is kicked off with the gritty roadhouse “Sixty Years,” written shortly after the death of his close friend Joe Strummer of the Clash. “Saint Peter didn’t put you here/ For no reason at all/ So when it’s time to go/ Oh brother stand tall,” Setzer sings.
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Brian Setzer's Official Discography Bloodless Pharos- Marty Thau 2 x 5 (1980) Stray Cats- Stray Cats (1981) Stray Cats- Gonna Ball (1981) Stray Cats- Built For Speed (1982) Stray Cats- Rant n' Rave with the Stray Cats (1983) Brian Setzer- The Knife Feels Like Justice (1986) Stray Cats- Rock Therapy (1986) Brian Setzer- Live Nude Guitars (1988) Stray Cats- Blast Off (1989) Stray Cats- Lets Go Faster (1990) Stray Cats- Choo Choo Hot Fish (1992) Stray Cats- Original Cool (1993) Brian Setzer- Rockin' By Myself (1993) Stray Cats- Japanese Box Set (1994) Brian Setzer Orchestra- Brian Setzer Orchestra (1994) Brian Setzer Orchestra- Guitar Slinger (1996) Brian Setzer Orchestra- The Dirty Boogie (1998) Brian Setzer Orchestra- Vavoom (2000) Brian Setzer Orchestra- Jumpin' East of Java (2001) Brian Setzer '68 Comeback Special- Ignition (2001) Brian Setzer Orchestra- Boogie Woogie Christmas (2002) Brian Setzer- Nitro Burnin' Funny Daddy (2003) Brian Setzer Orchestra- The Ultimate Collection Live (2004) Stray Cats- Live From Europe (2004) Stray Cats- Rumble in Brixton (2004) Brian Setzer Orchestra- Dig that Crazy Christmas (2005) Brian Setzer- 13 (2007)