Playing double bass is up this cat’s alley

Lee Rocker performs Feb. 9 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published February 1, 2024

 Lee Rocker, of Stray Cats, will perform a solo show Feb. 9 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts in Clinton Township.

Lee Rocker, of Stray Cats, will perform a solo show Feb. 9 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts in Clinton Township.

Photo provided

Photo provided


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Lee Rocker, of Stray Cats, is always ready to put on a show for his fans.

“I’m thankful people have followed me and my music and what I do,” Rocker said.

The upright bass player will “Rock This Town” when he performs a solo concert Feb. 9 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, located at 44575 Garfield Road on the Macomb Community College Center Campus. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Pompadours and leopard print lapels are optional. 

“People should come down,” Rocker said. “It’s a blast. It’s a fun show.”

The rockabilly cat will slap his bass alongside bandmates Buzz Campbell on electric guitar, drummer Larry Mitchell and Phil Parlapiano on keyboards.

“It’s an amazing four-piece band,” Rocker said, adding “it’s been a very long time” since he has been in metro Detroit.

The idea to spotlight Rocker at the Macomb Center came from William Wood, director of Macomb’s Cultural Affairs and Community Engagement.

“As a founding member of the Stray Cats I was interested in bringing him to Macomb. I remembered how awesome that group was and when I heard him play in NYC last year, it sealed the deal for me,” Wood said via email. “The musicianship was impeccable, and the energy of the performance was off the charts. That is when I knew for certain we needed that quality of a performance for our Macomb audience.”

As a solo act, the rock ‘n’ roller performs about 50 dates per year. He’s currently doing shows at performing arts centers across the country, playing his own songs plus hits from Stray Cats. Along with the music, the evening includes footage and photos that highlight Rocker’s established career.

“I’ll do some storytelling and talk about the songs and life on the road for 45 years,” the musician said. “A performing arts center is the best place for it. You can put up the video screens in the old theaters. It’s kind of more intimate, which I love.”

With albums that include “Atomic Boogie Hour,” “Blue Suede Nights,” “Night Train to Memphis” and “Gather Round,” Rocker doesn’t miss a beat. While playing live, the artist is known to stand on his upright bass and spin it around. Carrying the large instrument everywhere has never been a problem.

“It’s not that heavy,” he said. “You’ve got to have balance.”

Rocker owns about 15 stand-up basses, but just brings a few with him on tour.

“Each one has different characteristics and different tones,” he said.

The stage is home “bass” for Rocker, who grew up in a musical family in Long Island, New York. His dad, Stanley Drucker, was a clarinetist in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for 61 years. His mom, Naomi Drucker, was a music teacher.

“That’s what I want to do,” he thought after seeing the Rolling Stones perform on “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” as a kid in the 1970s. The teenager eventually hooked up with neighborhood pals Brian Setzer, on guitar, and drummer Slim Jim Phantom to become Stray Cats in 1979.

“We’d rehearse in my parent’s garage and 200 kids would be in the driveway,” the bassist recalled. “We knew we were onto something.”

With greased back hair and a retro vibe, Stray Cats were a throwback to the 1950s. In 1980, the trio moved to England and two years later released their first U.S. album, “Built for Speed.”

Belting out songs like “Runaway Boys,” “She’s Sexy & 17” and “I Won’t Stand in Your Way,” their rockabilly sound struck a chord with audiences. Videos of the band rotated on MTV, and they ended up selling more than 10 million albums. The trio eventually broke up, and Setzer formed the Brian Setzer Orchestra without Rocker and Phantom.

In the mid-1980s, the remaining two members recruited session guitarist Earl Slick to form the group Phantom, Rocker & Slick. When in the recording studio, they got Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards to play guitar on the single “My Mistake,” a moment Rocker will never forget.

“Great guy and funny as hell,” he said of Richards. “Great musical instincts. It was awesome.”

The band didn’t stay together, but Rocker continued performing and recording internationally. Because of his talent, he has had the thrill of working with many childhood music icons, including Carl “Blue Suede Shoes” Perkins, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton. While Rocker cites countless influences that helped shape his musical chops, Willie Dixon left the deepest impact.

“He was an incredible blues guy,” Rocker said. “I loved what he did. He’s the biggest influence on my playing.”

Stray Cats will “make ‘em scream and shout” again in 2024; the band is planning a summer tour to celebrate its 45 years as a band. The threesome will meow their way across 20 cities in the U.S. so get ready to prance the “Stray Cat Strut.”

“It’s like it never ended,” Rocker said of the band. “It’s a lifelong thing. It’s like having brothers.”

Rocker is a member of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. In 2013, he received a lifetime achievement award from Bass Player magazine.

For tickets to the Feb. 9 concert, visit or call the box office at (586) 286-2222.