Time to break out the hair pomade: Lee Rocker, the man behind the giant upright bass in The Stray Cats, is back with his latest solo set, The Cover Sessions EP. It's not a rockabilly album, nor is it a country album–but Rocker says it's definitely something in between, with him covering songs he heard on AM radio while growing up. The Orange County resident is playing a solo show at the Galaxy Concert Theatre on March 5 to celebrate the album release–and if you go, you'll get to buy it 10 days before it drops on March 15. We caught up with Rocker to pick his brain about the cult of rockabilly and get some hair-styling tips.
OC Weekly:When did you start getting interested in rockabilly? Lee Rocker: I first heard rockabilly music when I was just a kid, maybe 13 or 14 years old. It was Elvis Presley's The Sun Sessions. Up until that point, I thought Elvis was an old actor and Vegas singer, but once I heard that record, I understood why he was the King.
What was the highlight of your Stray Cats career? That a hard question to answer because so many amazing things took place. I'll name two of them. First has got to be having the No. 2 record in the U.S. for six and a half months. It would have been No. 1, but that Michael Jackson guy just wouldn't budge.
Second is not a Stray Cats highlight, but from my band Phantom Rocker and Slick, and that was having Keith Richards guest on a track called “My Mistake.” He nailed the guitar part, we drank whiskey and smoked Marlboros, and then Keith stole my custom leopard jacket on his way out the door.
Are you still on good terms with everyone else? Me and one of the other Cats are fine and friendly.
What inspired you to release an album of covers? The story behind TheCover Sessions EP is that over the past few years, I became really interested in acoustic instruments. I started collecting banjos, dobros, ukeleles, an auto harp, folk guitars, harmonicas, accordions, and all kinds of percussion stuff like a washboard and spoons.
If it's got strings, there's a fairly good chance I can figure out how to play it and get a sound out of it. I went in the recording studio and just started messing around with all these instruments. It was a blast and a chance to kind of stretch out with something new and different for me.
I found myself gravitating to songs I heard on AM radio as a kid. That's what this record really is about. It's not a rockabilly record, and it's not really a country record, but it's something in between. Recording The Cover Sessions was really a thrill for me and a chance to go in a different direction. I dig it.
Do you think Long Beach is the home of rockabilly? Well, well, well, I think that it's maybe a little unfair to call Long Beach the home of rockabilly. I like to say that Rockabillyland stretches from Long Beach south across the Mexican border and from the Pacific Shore to Austin, Texas. There also pockets of 'billydom all over the world.
What kind of hair product do you use? Layrite pomade.
Which bands are you listening to now? Hayes Carl, Hank Williams III, Reverend Horton Heat.