Did You Know These 5 Fascinating Facts About the Stray Cats’ Brian Setzer?

Brian Setzer, lead singer, guitarist, and main songwriter for the popular rockabilly revival group the Stray Cats, celebrated his 65th birthday on April 10, 2024. The band, which also features bassist Lee Rocker and drummer Slim Jim Phantom, enjoyed several hits in the early ’80s before splitting up in 1984, but the trio has reunited numerous times over the ensuing years.

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Setzer also has found success with other music projects, including as a solo artist and with his rockabilly swing group the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

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In honor of Setzer’s birthday, here’s a look at five interesting facts about the accomplished musician:

Stray Cats Had Their Biggest Success with Their U.S. Debut Album

In 1982, the Stray Cats released their first U.S. album, Built for Speed. The 12-track collection features songs culled from the group’s first two U.K. albums, Stray Cats and Gonna Ball, both of which were released in 1981.

Built for Speed featured two major hits, “Rock This Town” and Stray Cat Strut,” which were both written by Setzer. The songs reached No. 9 and No. 3, respectively, on the Billboard Hot 100. Veteran British rocker Dave Edmunds produced both tracks.

[RELATED: Rockabilly Legends Stray Cats Announce US Tour in 2024]

The album, meanwhile, peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. It was certified platinum by the RIAA for sales of 1 million in the U.S. Built for Speed’s success was helped by popular music videos for “Rock This Town” and Stray Cat Strut,” which aired frequently on MTV. The record remains the group’s bestselling album to date.

Built for Speed’s follow-up, Rant n’ Rave with the Stray Cats, was released in August 1983. The album featured the hit “(She’s) Sexy + 17,” which peaked at No. 5 on the Hot 100.

The bluesy ballad “I Won’t Stand in Your Way” also was released as a single. It reached No. 35, and became the last Stray Cats song to make it into the Top 40 of the Hot 100.

Rant n’ Rave with the Stray Cats peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard 200, and was certified gold by the RIAA for sales of 500,000 in the U.S.

Setzer Portrayed a Rockabilly Legend in the Film La Bamba

The 1987 film La Bamba told the tragic story of rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Ritchie Valens, who was just 17 when he was killed in the same 1959 plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. The movie starred Lou Diamond Phillips as Valens, who was best known for the hits “La Bamba” and “Donna.”

Setzer had a cameo in the film as rockabilly great Eddie Cochran, and was featured in a scene performing Cochran’s classic song “Summertime Blues.”

Setzer’s Most Successful Album Was Recorded by His Swing Band

In the 1990s, Setzer formed the Brian Setzer Orchestra, which was at the forefront of the swing revival. The outfit mixed swing with jump blues and rockabilly.

The group’s breakthrough album, The Dirty Boogie, was released in 1998. It became the bestselling record of Setzer’s career. The album achieved double-platinum status from the RIAA for U.S. sales of more than 2 million.

Two tracks from the album also were honored with Grammy Awards in 1999. The group’s version of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” nabbed the Best Pop Instrumental Performance prize, while the orchestra’s rendition of Louis Prima’s “Jump Jive an’ Wail” took home the Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal trophy.

Setzer has contributed his guitar talents to recordings by a variety of well-known artists. He’s played on songs by Twisted Sister, Warren Zevon, Rickie Lee Jones, Paul Rodgers, Glen Campbell, Johnny Winter, and Dion DiMucci.

Stray Cats Are Touring Again in 2024

After reuniting for a 40th anniversary tour and album in 2019, the Stray Cats are teaming up again this year for a new trek.

The band’s Summer Tour ’24 features 15 dates. It’s mapped out from a July 27 concert in Woodinville, Washington, through an August 17 show in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Tickets for the dates are available now via various outlets, including StubHub.

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Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

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