A Rocker Against Parkinson’s

Posted September 27, 2006 in
Back in the late 70s, rockabilly was all but alive. That was until three young men, Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom slapped some grease in their hair, picked up their respective instruments and formed the Stray Cats. They would go on to remind the world of the greatness that this early form of rock n' roll had to offer. Lee Rocker played a big role in that.

Rocker brought the “true” rockabilly authenticity and energy to the Stray Cats sound. The upright bass hadn’t been played in a contemporary band for nearly 20 years and Rocker was the man that brought the thumping upright bass to the masses. The Stray Cats single-handedly resurrected rockabilly with its blend of rhythm and blues, country and western swing. Though he was made to play second fiddle to Brian Setzer’s guitar during his tenure in the Stray Cats, Rocker’s talent has always shown through.

Lee found the music of the 70s lacking in spirit and sincerity. By exploring older forms of music, Rocker was lead to the form of music he'd dedicate his life to. "It was the 70s, and there was all this huge production rock stuff going on. I stumbled across rockabilly through Blues. I was into the Willie Dixon stuff. James Cotton and Junior Wells, too. I was getting into real music and I stumbled onto some Buddy Holly records and some early Elvis records. Of course, everyone knew Elvis. But he was older and playing Vegas. He just wasn't my thing. Then I heard his early records, and I was like wow, now I get it!”

Raised by classical musicians, Rocker’s dad was a member of the New York Philharmonic and his mother was a university professor of music. Rocker was looking to get closer to the sound he heard on the original rockabilly records. He began playing upright bass and over time became known as one of the world's best with moves like spinning the bass and standing on the sizeable instrument. This has led Rocker to become one of the most exciting musicians to watch. "I started playing stand-up for the love of the music. You just can't make an electric bass guitar sound like the records I was listening to. When I started playing stand-up, it wasn't around at all, and now you see a lot of people playing upright. It does my heart good!"

Lee has been one of the main proponents in keeping rockabilly relevant today. No matter what’s going on in the world, good ol’ rock n’roll will always have its place. “It’s real music. It's about passion and sweat. It's people playing real instruments. It's the same way with any roots American music. It just really has legs and is going to be there forever. Just like anything from blues to bluegrass to jazz. It's timeless stuff.”

In the span of Rocker's career, he has inspired many different people. However, with psychobilly on the rise in the United States and Europe already engrossed in it, Lee Rocker has become a hero to a whole new generation of kids looking to enjoy the splendor of rockabilly. "From what I see at my shows, it's a great time going on right now. It's a really healthy scene. There are a whole lot of new folks into the music that I’m doing. I think it's great; all this music comes from the same place, and everyone having their own stamp on it is cool. Some people are doing more punk; some are more traditional, so I think the whole psycho scene is good. This music shouldn't be a museum piece. Everyone should be able to do their own thing.”

Once the Stray Cats disbanded in the mid-80s, Rocker went on to perform on projects involving some of the original 50s rockers, artists like Carl Perkins, and Elvis's guitar slinger Scotty Moore. Rocker also formed his own solo band, and has toured the world enlisting new fans to rockabilly with every show he performs. Rocker is now bringing his rock n' roll roots live show to the "Rock Steady Charity Event Against Parkinson's Disease." "The Charity concert was something that came through my agent’s office. Once I found out that they were interested in the Parkinson's Charity, it was something that I really wanted to make sure I do. I was happy to get involved with it."

Whether it was popular or not, Lee Rocker has always played his music with passion and energy. On Oct. 4, along with The Bastard Son of Johnny Cash, Lee Rocker (a true rockabilly legend) will put that rock n' roll spirit to use against Parkinson’s Disease. Don't miss purely inventive rockabilly at its finest.