Many of the Stray Cats' hits, a vast musical repertoire, will be featured when Lee Rocker performs at the MARS 3 music festival in downtown Amherst next weekend.
AMHERST – Lee Rocker can’t wait to experience his first Maritime Rockabilly Shakedown Festival.
The featured performer on the second night of the three-day festival, Rocker and his band will bring a wide catalog of music to the performance including a number of hits from his days with the Stray Cats and a number of rock and roll oldies.
“I’m looking forward to it, I can’t wait to get to Amherst,” Rocker said in an interview from his home in California. “I’ve heard about this rockabilly festival and heard how it’s been growing each year. I’m excited to be part of it.”
Rocker said members of his band have been with him for close to 20 years, saying the band is a well-oiled four-piece band.
“We do music from throughout my career, that goes back to 1978. We do a lot of Stray Cat stuff and a lot of post Stray Cats stuff and some classic rock and roll that I’ve played my entire life,” Rocker said. “I’ve also done a lot of work with Carl Perkins and I never let a concert go by without playing some of his work. There’s a handful of people who were the pioneers of rockabilly and he is definitely one of them.”
Rocker said he does between 50 and 60 concerts a year and just last week he was in Indiana and Michigan and will be in Louisiana the week after his appearance in Amherst.
Rocker was a founding member of the Stray Cats, whose first album in 1982 (Built for Speed) was one of the top records in the 1980s and held the Number 2 spot on the Billboard charts for 26 weeks – right behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
The Stray Cats also helped propel rockabilly music into the mainstream.
“Rockabilly is always alive and well in the underground. At certain times, like when Stray Cats brought it to the cover of Rolling Stone and Saturday Night Life, it’s in the mainstream, but rockabilly has always been there since the 50s,” Rocker said. “You just have the scratch the surface a bit and every town anywhere int eh world has rockabilly fans, bands and musicians from London, Paris, Tokyo, Los Angeles and Toronto. It’s a worldwide phenomenon, like punk rock, bluegrass and blues.”
While the Stray Cats still get together every so often for concerts, Rocker has toured, performed or recorded with George Harrison, Ringo Starr, the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards, Willie Nelson, Leon Russel, John Fogerty, Carl Perkins, Robert Plant, Paul Simon, Les Paul, ZZ Top, the Pretenders, Eddie Van Halen and others.
In 2011 he starred in the Broadway blockbuster Million Dollar Quartet.
Rocker himself has sold 10 million records in his career, while he and the Stray Cats have amassed 23 gold and platinum records awards worldwide and are members of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.
Earlier this year, Rocker was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by Bass Player Magazine and is considered one of the most influential bass players in the history of rock.
He was also awarded the visionary artist award by the City of Laguna Beach Art Council in 2011.
Tickets for the festival are $25 are available at the Snowhite Laundry and Convenience, Victorian Motel, JG Jewellers and Connor’s Restaurant as well as at www.rockabillyshakedown.com .