What’s a bass player – without a bass?
A bass player of course. But not just any bass player. The musician in question who landed in Montreal just hours before his show at the Rialto Theater, sans bass, was former ( and current?) Stray Cat Lee Rocker …
“I am a little nervous …” Said Rocker moments before he took the stage following a great set by The Lustre Kings. ” I have misplaced my bass so I will be using the other guy’s from the Lustre Kings. I hope it will be okay …”
Judging by the way Rocker handles himself onstage, the ‘other player’s’ bass was just fine. Rocker along with band mates arrived on stage just after 11 pm. A crowd of about three hundred, rushed the stage and demonstrated their love for Rockabilly, Rocker or The Stray Cats. Maybe all three. Complete with vintage cars parked right outside – the crowd consisted of men straight from the movie Grease and a whole lot of Sandys. It was 1955.
Surprisingly, Rocker’s second song of the night was ‘Stray Cat Strut‘, the mega-hit for Lee’s first group, the Stray Cats. Musically, it could have been the ‘Cats’. Vocally – the tune seemed askew without Brian Setzer strutting his stuff and ‘no dough to pay the rent’. Once an adjustment was made by the audience, Rocker’s voice agreed with the musical pallets of everyone. Still – Stray Cat Strut’ – a strange second choice in a set-list lacking in Top 40 hits …
Rocker – fit as a fiddle for a man at his half century mark, showed his strength by picking up the double bass and playing it as a guitar would be. Rocker pummels the strings so hard – sweat was beading down his forehead after two songs.
Lee left a permanent mark on Thursday. Standing on, spinning and rocking his giant upright bass to many Stray Cats hits. “Rock this Town,” “Bring it Back Again”, “Rumble in Brighton” and “Sexy and Seventeen.” He also dipped into a long standing catalog of Rockabilly and early rock standards. Guitarist Buzz Campbell, guitarist/slide player Brophy Dale and drummer Jimmy Sage were the concrete to Rocker’s strut. Rocker delivered an excellent blend of showmanship and a hard-earned and natural talent for his instrument.
Presley’s ‘That’s Alright Mama‘ (Arthur Crudup.) opened eyes to a past that was the beginning. Feet stompin’ – eyes wide open to a song that started many boys – like Rocker, to a career of Rockabilly. Rocker’s ‘true spirit’ came through loud and clear.
‘Lost Highway’ – the Hank Williams tune, once more allowing Rocker a chance to shine attached to a star long since extinguished. Williams may be gone, yet Rocker and his boys continue the fire with a passion contained by many and carried out by few.
Rocker’s love for Scotty Moore and Carl Perkins as evident as the moon on a harvest night. ‘Honey Don’t’ ( Perkins) and the title track from his latest album ‘Night Train to Memphis‘ ( Roy Acuff), a song introduced to Rocker via Perkins – played like a pupil trying to please the teacher. No mailing in bass lines or the bloody fingers that come from it. Rocker knows where he comes from and that place is but a pebble on the ocean floor known as rock history.
What’s a bass player without that …?
- 21-month-old Ella Mae a YouTube hit after belting out Elvis Presley cover (metro.co.uk)
- Lee Rocker; A Stray Cat Through and Through … (keenemusic.wordpress.com)
- Letters: Stray cat control could be taken care of in their food (mlive.com)
- BLACK SABBATH’s GEEZER BUTLER To Be Honored At ‘Bass Player Live!’ (blabbermouth.net)
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