The Music

The Runaway Boy

Author: Tom Hersey

Stray Cats’ drummer Slim Jim Phantom talks with Tom Hersey about his legacy and who’s going to carry the torch for further generations.

“I think we invented it to be honest with you, ”Slim Jim Phantom says, looking back on Stray Cats’ impact on the rockabilly scene.

From any other artist this might sound like typical rockstar hubris, but with their 1981 self-titled debut, the trio set the template for the genre – everything you need to know about rockabilly can be found on that record, from Jim’s stand-up drumming to the scuzzy pompadours sported by the band members on the front cover.

According to a good-humoured Jim, his catalogue of work with Stray Cats, and groups like Phantom, Rocker & Slick, The Head Cat and Swing Cats, makes these solo tours a lot of fun.

“At this point I’ve been around for long enough, everybody’s nice to me. It’s a little bit like being Ringo but on a smaller scale. [Audiences] like it when I sing the songs, there’s not really pressure… They come because I’m a character that they’ve known along time now, and it’s a brand they can trust.”

When he gets here, Jim’s hoping to catch up with old friends, especially The Living End’s Chris Cheney.

“Fans can expect more or less what they’ve known about me and what I’ve kinda earned my stripes doing. It’ll be rockabilly music. There’ll be a couple of Strike Out songs in there, a lot of family favourites… I’m bringing Tim Polecat from the Polecats. We made a record together about ten years ago with the band 13 Cats so we’ll do some of those and some original songs… Just the same Slim Jim they’ve known and grown to love.”

So, if Stray Cats started rockabilly, who’s out there in the next generation of artists to keep it going?

“There’s a lot of good stuff. I really like Imelda May and JD McPherson.There’s a lot of people who are breaking through. And those guys are both on their way, and so all it’s going to take is for somebody to have that hit record. We did that with Stray Cats when we first formed, we got those couple of songs that are now pretty well entrenched in the public consciousness. I still play Rock This Town in the jungles of the Amazon or China or Australia and everybody knows it. It’s up to someone to do something like that. We’ve gotta get that hit record that crosses over into the mainstream but brings the rockabillies along for the ride.

“I encourage everybody to get out and make it broad appeal. It’s there to be loved by everyone; it’s not just some exclusive club. We never set out to play for an exclusive slice of the population; we just wanted to play for everybody all the time. And rockabilly, that’s my scene. I love the music and the style and the people, but I think we should expose ourselves to all sorts of stuff.”